YPI CREW Annual Report: How Covid-19 impacted yacht recruiting in 2020

Laurence Lewis, the director of YPI Crew, talks about the effects Covid-19 has had on yacht recruiting and what predictions can be made for this year.

We reveal 2020 yacht recruitment data and statistics to see which yachting positions experienced the biggest drops and which saw more recruitments. How did this affect yacht crew salaries? We look back on the numbers that marked 2020 yacht recruiting and discuss how they might predict the events of this year in terms of yacht crew and their work.

After a successful 2019, during which YPI CREW pursued its integration within the shipping giant Schulte Group and acquired the recruitment division of Edmiston Company, we started 2020 in a very strong position, blissfully unaware of what was to come.

Yet, a few months into 2020, the world was a different place. On March 11th 2020 the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. And even prior to that, countries around the world started to put in place an unprecedented set of containment measures in order to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections.

 

The initial impact of Covid-19 on 2020 yacht recruitment data

I remember going for a walk in the port, for a meeting in the fresh air with my Heads of departments. We were set to discuss how to fine-tune and implement new anti-COVID-19 measures in the office. A few days later, the first lockdown was in place and we closed our offices.

The yacht crew recruitment market was hit fast and violently as plans to hire crew were delayed or cancelled altogether. Overnight, many crew lost part or all of their incomes. Even if still working, many crew, from Captains down to junior ranks, had to accept salary cuts and slashed rotations.

The impact was brutal because we were hit at the beginning the Mediterranean recruitment season. March, April and May are the busiest months for crew recruiters and so, when we registered an 80% drop in turnover in April 2020 compared to April 2019, we knew it was going to be a tough ride.

Resilience, commitment, and a strong team-spirited ethos allowed us to pull through. Recruiters used this time as an opportunity to build closer relationships with clients and candidates. And, as the season progressed, captains prepared their yachts for a short, intensive cruising season. This explains how we ended up registering the best months of July, August and September ever in our 18-year history.

So all in all, our turnover “only” dropped by 18 % in 2020 and I must salute the determination and professionalism of my team who showed amazing ‘esprit de corps’.

 

YPI CREW 2020 yachting data

We cruised into 2020 after recording a 17% growth in terms of job orders between 2017 and 2019. This is very impressive for a mature company such as YPI CREW.

In 2020 we were on the path to beat our 2019 records when the number of job orders started dropping. From week 14 onwards the drop was noticeable and we ended the year with 21% fewer jobs compared to 2019.

The segments which recorded the biggest drop in new job requests were the engineering and deck officers, with a respective drop of 32% and 28%. Those departments benefit hugely from rotation and, with some losing their rotations, the need to hire was reduced.

The busiest departments in terms of job orders were interior, followed by engineering yacht jobs (despite a drop in demand, it remained an active department), and deck crew.

Parallel to the drop in job orders, we experienced an overall 13% surge in crew registrations between 2019 and 2020. In July 2020 we peaked with an additional 62% increase compared to July 2019, clearly another COVID-19 effect.

Undeniably, this represents a substantial increase for an established crew agency with already a big pool of candidates. This trend actually carries on in the new year as in January 2021 the number of new registrations increased by 34% compared to January 2020!

 

YPI CREW 2020 yacht recruitment data

 

More 2020 yacht recruitment statistics

94 % of all job orders were on motor yachts, 6% on sailing yachts. No surprises there, this remains consistent from year to year and is coherent with the world global fleet.

Another stable figure was the split between positions offered on charter and private yachts. As before, 60% of all our jobs were on private yachts. Our advice remains therefore the same as it always was. Interview for private yachts instead of waiting for more elusive charter vessels.

Having said this, with jobs more scarce in 2020, most crew did not need coaxing to interview for jobs. 39% of all our jobs were on yachts 70 meters plus. This is very similar to 2019 and represents the busiest segment for YPI CREW.  This is followed by the 51-70 meter segment where 31% of our jobs are to be found.

Did the drop of job vacancies combined with a surplus of available crew impact salaries at the point of hiring? The answer is no. The industry did not record a drop in salaries at the point of hiring. The international travel restrictions and difficulties in obtaining visas, for the USA in particular, somehow kept the recruitment market tense.

 

2020 yacht recruitment data

 

 

Yacht recruitment predictions for 2021

Looking forward, we are quietly confident that the year ahead will allow yachts to enjoy a longer Mediterranean season again. Especially as vaccines are deployed around the world; the yacht crew job market should recover. And certainly, early signs are promising.

We are also waiting to see if in 2021 a further move towards crew rotation will take place as more owners realise that with Covid-19 they can spend more time onboard their yachts and actually work on board as if at the office if necessary.

Helping people transition into new jobs and assisting new-comers entering into the industry is what recruiters do and we are passionate and confident in believing that the industry will bounce back; YPI CREW will expand further in 2021 to match this new demand.