“The megayacht industry is moving forward with huge growth,” says Mark Boxshall of Super Yacht Services, a company based in St Maarten that services the super-size sector and is organizing December’s Charter Yacht Exhibition (SCYE—December 2-6).
While the St Maarten show itself is proof of an ever-expanding market, evidence is spread across the Caribbean: 50 megayacht slips at the new Yacht Haven Grande in St Thomas, larger berths planned for Dock Maarten and Bobby’s Marina in Great Bay, and two staggering projects nearing completion in the Dominican Republic: Ocean World in Puerto Plata and CapCana in Punta Cana, which will have room for 500 yachts over 150’.
The pattern begins in the boatyard itself. According to Mark Fry, President and Founder of International Yachtmaster Training in Fort Lauderdale, over 15.5 miles of new megayachts are currently under construction in 25 countries worldwide, with the average build at 114 feet. These will join some 10,000 yachts over 80ft already in circulation, a figure that has almost doubled in the last ten years.
More boats mean more crew. Fry estimates that some 4,200 extra crew will be required for the 2006 season and even more in 2007. Far from reaching a saturation point, where an ever decreasing number of vacancies is fought over by newcomers and old-timers alike, recruitment talk is still about heading off a skilled labor crisis. As fast as academies like the IYT and the Maritime School of the West Indies can churn out STCW 95 and MCA graduates, crew placement agencies need more. The IYT and its 42 affiliated schools account for half of the world’s training for the Professional yachting industry; 97% of IYT graduates find a placement within four weeks of qualifying – a strike rate almost unrepeated elsewhere.
So is there a typical profile for a sailor hoping to work on a megayacht or in the sector? “The industry generally attracts outgoing, fun loving, outward bound, free-spirited people – educated but not necessarily to a college level,” says Fry. “They must be clean-cut with no visible tattoos, long hair, earrings or body piercings. This is very much a ‘clean cut’ industry.” High employment prospects, generous, tax-free salaries and exotic locations – surely there must be a catch?
“Be prepared to be away from home for considerable lengths of time,” says Fry. “When owners are having fun during Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and so on… you will be working. Also, it is almost impossible to get a job without having completed the 5-day STCW Basic course. We would also recommend a ‘silver service course’ for those wishing to become stewards/stewardesses.”
Boxshall, himself a former megayacht Captain adds another insider’s view: “If you don’t get on with the other crew, move on, as living in such close quarters will make it very hard.” On a more simplistic level, Fry points out a seemingly obvious consideration that has nevertheless tripped up many a prospective crewmember. “First of all, find out if you suffer from seasickness,” he warns.
Ask sailors returning to the Caribbean after ten years away what the biggest difference is and they will point out the presence of the megayachts. From the luxury, ISPS-compatible marinas to the clusters of young, pressed, and purposeful crew on the docks, these boats have shaped the islands in their image. Looking at the statistics, this is only the beginning.