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How many Captains are there….?

Tim Clarke
October 23, 2020

I speak to Captains and Chief Officers on a daily basis regarding their current job, their next job, how to best get a job or what their chances of getting a job are.

One thing which shone through in these conversations was no one really had a handle on what their chances of getting a job was. Of course everyone is aware there are more Captains than there are great yachts. 

But how many Captains are there and how many yachts?

I’ve been doing some research and managed to get some statistics from various sources. I got the statistics for numbers of qualified Master 3000gt via a Freedom of Information request to the MCA. I have based this article around the Master 3000gt ticket as that is most relevant to our client base. Plus introducing the Master Unlimited ticket muddies the waters a lot. 

Firstly we will look at yacht numbers. 

Since 2015 we have seen 139 yachts launched over 500gt and under 3000gt. In terms of total numbers of yachts which are out there we are looking at 706 which are over 500gt and under 3000gt.  This includes sail yachts, classic yachts, converted tugs etc. All sorts basically! Of those 706 we can discount anything from 10% to 30% of them due to being out of action, operating illegally, having a tyrant of an owner, paying peanuts or a host of other reasons why someone wouldn’t want to be a Captain on board. 

So let’s crunch some numbers. According to the Quay Crew Captain Salary Survey 2020, 58% of yachts between 50m and 99m had full rotation Captain roles. 58% of 139 yachts is 81 yachts. Using these maths that gives us 81 yachts requiring two Captain, so 162 jobs plus the other 58 yachts requiring 1 Captain. In total we can estimate there has been 220 Captains jobs created since 2015 on yachts for which a Master 3000gt ticket is applicable. However I think this is overly optimistic. Those rotation stats are taken from a survey of our clients and I know our clients aren’t necessarily a reflection of the industry as a whole. I suspect the number of yachts offering rotation is actually smaller than that. So maybe we are left with around 200 jobs created since 2015 if we operate on approx. 50% of yachts offering full rotation. Again this is assuming that every single one of those 139 yachts is a desirable working environment. As we all know a % of these yachts will have significant issues of one form or another. 

Now we have a fairly accurate idea that there are around 40 Captain roles being created each year. But how many captains of the future are getting their Master 3000gt each year….?

According to the MCA, in the financial year of 2015/16 there was 66 crew who passed their oral. 16/17 was 46, 17/18 was 88, 18/19 was 96, 19/20 was 86, and this year a paltry 14 thus far for obvious reasons. So that gives us……396 crew who have qualified since May 2015. In reality there will be a load more itching to get their ticket done too, so there will be a jump in numbers soon. The trend appears to be 80 plus people getting their Master 3000gt on a ‘normal’ year. 

Reviewing those stats it doesn’t look too amazing. To simplify it further, it means for every Captain job created there are approx. 2 newly qualified candidates for each job. For every fully rotational Captain job that ratio jumps even higher to approx. 3 newly qualified candidates for each job. 

Unfortunately the MCA doesn’t have the figures for how many Master 3000gt there are in total. A quick search of Yotspot brings up 805 candidates with their Master 3000gt. That obviously doesn’t represent the whole market by a long stretch. For example the vast majority of our employed clients aren’t on there. But we can safely assume there are huge numbers of experienced Captains who have held their Master 3000gt for over 5 years. 

There is a further spanner in the works though…. Captains with their Master Unlimited account for 23.5% of Captains on yachts between 50m and 99m according to my salary survey which was filled out by 186 Captains.  So almost a quarter of the jobs are being taken by Captains with a commercial background. 

What can we learn from all of this? Well it’s a fiercely competitive market place out there. There are far more Captains than there are jobs. As an example from earlier this month, I filled a full time Captain role on a 50m single season yacht. Good yacht but nothing out of the ordinary. I received 401 applications…..

The ultra desirable jobs on prestigious yachts offering rotation, great money, great program and a great owner aren’t being advertised on job boards and they aren’t in the public domain. The vast majority are being filled via existing relationships. Whilst upskilling and improving your CV is great, the number one, most important factor in getting your next job is being well networked and having strong relationships with influential people within yachting. These relationships need consistent nurturing over time. You can’t just rely on a few brokers and a yacht manager you knew 5 years ago when you were Captain on charter yacht xyz. 

My background after leaving yachting and before Quay Crew was high end recruitment in banking and finance. I used to spend a lot of my week coaching candidates in how to perform to the best of their ability in interview. If you are a Captain and have an interview coming up that you want to nail then drop me an email or give me a call. 

Alternatively if you are looking for a Captain and want to speak to an expert (self appointed expert haha) in the marketplace then please email me on tim@quaycrew.com to discuss the in depth service  Quay Crew can offer. 

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