Explain: Superyacht Crew Positions and Yacht Crew Job Descriptions. What Are Luxury Yacht Job Duties?Sep 13, 2022
What are the various positions aboard a Superyacht?
The superyacht industry is incredibly broad and depending on the size of the yacht, there are many positions onboard. Below you will find an inside look at most positions found below deck. Some resemble the maritime industry while others are specific to only yachts.
Smaller boats have hybrid roles in which crew share multiple responsibilities due to limited crew. They tend to have a more relaxed vibe and higher level of camaraderie. Larger yachts with more superyacht crew members are able to provide more specialized service.
The operation of the yacht relies on high standards from professional yacht crew regardless if they have 5 crew or 55, which means crew clock long hours and hard work. However, the payoff of exploring beautiful towns along the French Riviera or diving in crystalline water are well worth it. By keeping a good attitude on a daily basis crew can quickly rise within the yachting industry after acquiring a couple years of experience.
- Deck Department
- Interior Department
- Engineering Department
- Other Roles
- Quick Definitions
- Further Reading
The use of the word deck onboard vessels dates back to the mid-15th century from the Dutch word dec/decke meaning roof or covering. This evolved to the English dekke, meaning covering extending from side to side over part of a ship. This is why although the deck may seem like the floor of the level you're standing on, it is actually the roof of the level below you.
The Deck Department is in charge of maintaining the vessel to a safe and proper standard and the safe navigation to and from each port. These crew members perform the physical tasks onboard. Lastly, they are responsible for all of the water toys, water sports, and excursions provided to the guests onboard.
Deck crew are broken down into two groups, those that serve administrative roles mostly centered around the bridge, and those working on the decks.
Captain / Skipper / Master
Captain derives the Latin term caput, meaning head (see capital) and the French word capitaine, meaning leader.
The Captain is the highest ranking position onboard the yacht and are tasked with the management and safe operation of the entire yacht. Every department head reports directly to the Captain. Captains are responsible for proper management of the entire crew: ensuring they are properly certified, trained, while also serving as motivation for the whole crew. A captain's disposition and energy can completely change the atmosphere onboard. They bind the group of individuals onboard into a united and experienced team.
The Captain is the first and main point of contact for the owner of the yacht and the management company. All financial decisions, budgeting, and accounting are handled by the Captain and shoreside support. They also serve as HR onboard: approving holiday, crew placement, crew travel and dealing with disputes between crew or departments. In the event of any incident at sea the Captain is the first person at fault and serves as the responsible party for any actions of the vessel. While the Captain may delegate roles or duties it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure all of the legal responsibilities of the vessel are met.
Skipper is derived from the Dutch word scipper, meaning shipper or operator of a ship. Skipper is used formally to refer to the master of a small boat. For more information on what size constitutes a yacht versus a boat, see our previous lesson.
Master is often reserved for Captains of high merit, extensive experience, and the highest caliber. They hold the Unlimited license and certification of Master Mariner, which states they are able to command almost any size or power of vessel in the world.
Jr. Captain / Captain Select / Dock Captain
Commonly listed on vessels of 40 meters (130 feet) or greater, this role may also be posted as a First Mate/Junior Captain. A Junior Captain position is commonly listed on motor yachts planning to replace the Captain soon. They first hire a professional crew who qualifies to serve as Captain legally but lacks experience in drive time. A potential Captain will need excellent references and proven experience as a First Officer. They will have served as a Captain of a smaller yacht and/or show extensive drive time on smaller boats before looking for their first command. This role is commonly a pre-requisite for the vessel's insurance company to cover a new Captain.
Similar to Junior Captain, Captain Select (or similar) is a designation assigned to a crew by the insurance company with several limitations. These might be pending further training, the presence of a fully licensed Captain on their first voyages, or other stipulations set forth by the Company.
Dock Captain or Shipyard Captain is a role given to a Chief Officer or highest ranking deck official with the license to act as Captain while the official Captain disembarks the yacht. Yachts are legally mandated to maintain a minimal manning of licensed crew onboard at all times, so the Officer fills in the Captain's absence. They assume all the administrative responsibility of the Captain but are not tasked with any of the navigational duties. Similar to Jr. Captain, this role is seen as a stepping stone to prove a crew member is preparing themselves for their first command.
Chase Boat Captain
A Chase Boat Captain is responsible for a large tender or chase boat measuring over 15 meters (50 feet) pertaining to the larger yacht. Typically, Chase Boat crew do not live onboard the yacht. The boat may towed, driven, or moored in another location. Some Chase Boats meet the yacht at a location or serve as day boats for guest excursions.
Chief Officer / Chief Mate / First Mate
The origins of the word mate are based on the Germanic root shared in the word meat, mat meaning comrade. This led to the English messmate, a table companion or partner. Following this, the word began spreading in English as a friend or companion around the 1400s, including onboard ships. By the 1450's and later, it became established as a position of high rank following a captain.[7,8]
The Chief Officer (or Mate) is the highest ranking Deck Officer onboard. The Chief serves as second-in-command to the Captain and acts as their right hand. Although the distinction between Mate and Officer is confusing, typically yachts larger than 50 meters (165 feet) will use the Officer rating while smaller vessels will use the term of Mate. Onboard most superyachts the Chief Officer will also be the First Officer, but a First Officer ranks below the Chief, if present.
The First Officer is required to have in-depth knowledge of all bridge, navigation and deck procedures onboard the yacht as well as being able to assume command during the Captain’s absence. They oversee all deck crew and operations as the Head of Department. This includes all maintenance, repair work, and training of the deck crew from their extensive knowledge. The Chief is tasked with maintaining a Navigational Watch while underway at sea. A yacht's size determines whether they will have an administrative role or work more often with their own hands.[9,10]
Chief Officers have a list of administrative roles such as: managing all safety drills onboard, overseeing the documentation and certification of crew, regular reporting to management, filing for all necessary transit and arrival documents for the vessel, organizing the watch keeping onboard, and many other tasks. They have a thorough understanding of safety procedures as well as managerial skills, strong leadership of and communication with the crew. The Chief must ensure crew training is sufficient as per the vessel's standard operating procedures.
The First Officer supports the captain in every aspect of yacht management. Their roles are similar and share duties such as the safe navigation of the ship and managing of the crew. The Chief Officer may be designated with additional security, safety, or medical officer duties.
2nd Officer / 2nd Mate / Navigation Officer
A Second Officer is a position found aboard vessels at least 55 meters (180 feet) in length. Second Officers hold the certification of Officer of the Watch, serve as part of the Bridge Team and hold a Navigational Watch while at sea. Seconds work closely with the Chief Officer and jointly share responsibility in the navigational duties of the vessel and management of the deck team. Traditionally, they are responsible for the passage planning, chart corrections, and regular maintenance of the bridge equipment. It is also customary for them to perform the safety checks on all life-saving and fire fighting appliances onboard. The Second Officer may be designated with additional security, safety, or medical officer duties.
3rd Officer / Officer of the Watch (OOW) / Officer in Charge of a Navigation Watch (OICNW)
Yachts measuring over 90 meters (300 feet) will employ another Officer onboard. The Third Officer also holds an Officer of the Watch (or equivalent) rating. They possess a large knowledge of safety procedures and the ability to support all other officers with their administrative duties. The third officer holds a Navigational Watch while at sea. Lastly, the Third Officer is expected to manage the Deck Team directly (with or without the Bosun) in their daily duties and long-term projects. Even larger yachts can have additional officers.
Most vessels measuring over 50 meters (165 feet) and 500 GT are required to assign the position of Safety Officer in according to the Codes of Safe Working Practices. For more information on gross tonnage (GT), see our prior lesson. This position is not full-time. It is a responsibility assigned to one of the other officers in addition to their regular work. The Safety Officer has the knowledge, experience, and skills to look over the important safety issues related to the ship and its crew’s health. They regularly hold safety briefings with the crew and manage the paperwork associated with dangerous work onboard.
A Ship's Security Officer (SSO) is an important entity under the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code for all vessels fitting the same size requirements as above. The SSO is a person appointed by the company and the ship’s master for ensuring the security of the ship.
The duty of Medical Officer is assigned to either the Captain, Officers, or eligible crew holding the proper medical certificate. A Medical Officer is responsible for overseeing the storage, distribution and disposal of all medical equipment and medications onboard. They ensure the yacht holds the proper inventory of medications and replaces them upon expiry. In the event of a medical emergency the Medical Officer administers first aid, performs a medical examination and properly files the paperwork afterwards.
Another duty onboard yachts is the Garbage Officer, who manages the waste in accordance to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Depending on the size of the vessel there are different requirements that apply to the yacht. Larger yachts feature much stricter regulations on the proper handling and disposal of all waste onboard.
The word Bosun originates from boatswain. It derives from late Old English batswegen, from bat (boat) with Old Norse sveinn (swain), meaning a young man or apprentice. The derivation to bo’s’n/bo’sun/bosun began in the mid 1800s.
The Bosun is the senior-most ranked laborer of the deck department and are responsible for the yacht’s exterior. This position appears on yachts measuring 40 meters (130 feet) and above. The bosun supervises all of the deck crew. They typically do not hold a Navigational Watch while underway, except on small yachts. Additional duties vary depending upon ship, crew, and circumstances. The Bosun commonly perform the carpentry, painting, and skilled manual labor aboard. They ensure the team is on track to complete the projects planned by the officers. It is also their duty to ensure that the yacht is left in pristine condition by the end of the day.
This term originated ~1840 in America as a joining of the English term deck (explained above) with hand, another name for a sailor. This definition then came to describe a laborer on the deck of a vessel.
A Deckhand, Deckie or Decky, is the backbone of the exterior. Exterior crew are titled as Deckhand beginning on yachts over 35 meters (115 feet). They handle all of the cleaning, maintenance and set-up of the yacht, tenders, and water toys. Deckhands handle all the preparations for docking, departures, and seagoing voyages. They commonly assist the engineering department or interior with physical jobs or as extra support. A typical day for a deckhand can vary from washing the yacht to taking guests out on jet skis. Yacht deckhands must be highly flexible.
The Lead Deckhand is in charge of the deckhands onboard the yacht. This position is seen on yachts larger than 60 meters (195 feet). The amount of responsibility varies depending on the yacht's size, but they normally have more experience onboard or as a hand and are able to train or assist more junior crew.
Large yachts also differentiate a Senior Deckhand or Experienced Deckhand when there are various experience levels within the team.
A Green or Junior Deckhand is an entry-level position onboard for new crew with less than one season of experience. They are supervised more closely and receive less salary until proving themselves. The most important factors for this are showing a good attitude and hard work.
The Interior Crew is comprised of both the Galley and Stews onboard. Together they complete the hospitality services offered inside the yacht.
The galley is the maritime equivalent to a kitchen. A great yacht chef overcomes the small spaces and limited gadgets onboard to continuously produce fantastic food to the highest standards. Whether the dishes are Michelin-level tasting menus or home-cooked favorites, chefs are an essential aspect of the guests' yachting experience.
The Head Chef, or Sole Chef on smaller yachts, is in charge of cooking all guest and crew meals onboard. Typical yachts can sleep up to 12 guests with up to the same amount of crew. As such, the Chef position is highly demanding and requires long hours of standing on your feet without much rest.
Sous Chef(s) / Crew Chef
A Sous Chef is added on yachts measuring 55 meters (180 feet) and larger. Depending on the vessel, they may assist the Head Chef with guest meals or they might focus on solely cooking the crew meals. It is also common for a Crew Chef to be hired during the off-season when there are no guests onboard. Yachts larger than 100 meters (330 feet) have additional chefs.
Pursers are commonly found on yachts above 80 meters (260 feet). They are responsible for all of the financials and accounting under the captain's instruction. They belong to the interior department and work closely with the Chief to manage the team. Some yachts combine a Chief Stew/Purser role. The Purser communicates with restaurants, vendors and contractors onshore. Their knowledge of local vendors as well as food and beverage help ensure guests have the highest caliber experience while ashore.
The Chief Stewardess, found aboard yachts over 35 meters (115 feet), is fully responsible for the interior of the yacht: guest cabins, all guest spaces, and crew spaces. They anticipate requests and needs before guests ask and have extensive knowledge of food, wine, service and hospitality. All decisions regarding the interior go through the Chief. They organize the interior team and assign duties to each team member. A Chief must have excellent organizational skills to plan both the long-term and day-to-day operation of the department. Chief Stews work together closely with the Head Chef to make decisions regarding style of service, menus and overall mealtime experience. Finally, they handle the provisioning, inventories, and orchestrate guest activities.
The Second Steward is the right-hand of the Chief Stew aboard yachts over 38 meters (125 feet). Their job is to act as a second set of eyes to catch matters to assist the Chief. They delegate tasks assigned by the Chief and act as Chief in their absence. They are tasked with leading one of the other meal services since the Chief leads dinner. It is often the Second's role to train the less experienced stews so the Chief Stew can perform an administrative role.
Head of Housekeeping
Head of Housekeeping is more common aboard a yacht of 70 meters (230 feet). They are responsible for the guest cabin preparations. They oversee that the stews have the proper cleaning products and equipment required to maintain the proper standard, are responsible for flower arrangements and correspond with the Chief Stew directly.
A superyacht Stewardess works as part of the interior team under the supervision of the Chief Stew. They handle all of the housekeeping, laundry, meal services, and detailing of the yacht's interior spaces.
Service Stews are full-time positions aboard yachts measuring 60 meters (195 feet) and above. However, smaller yachts rotate the service role between their stews throughout the season. These stews assist in meal service under the Chief or Second Stew.
Green Stews or Junior Stews commonly begin as Laundry Stews for their first job. Their first season is composed of assisting in housekeeping and handling guest and crew laundry. A great way to progress is to show an aptitude for service and quick learning.
Yacht engineers are the caretakers of all the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems aboard the superyacht. They are essential to keep the vessel running and oversee all maintenance onboard.
Chief Engineers, or Sole Engineers on yachts from 35 - 60 meters (115 - 200 feet), are responsible for all of the equipment in the Engine Room. They also manage all the secondary systems such as air conditioning, electricity and plumbing. They are highly skilled in a wide range of skills in mechanics, electrics and other technical matters. Their ability to problem solve rapidly is essential to continue running the yacht during problems miles from shore. In an emergency, the Chief is second-in-command in the Captain's absence.
The Second Engineer is the Chief's right hand and is found on yachts measuring 60 meters (200 feet). They possess a strong knowledge of the yacht's machinery and systems. They're able to carry out basic maintenance and tasks for the Chief Engineer. If there are more Engineers onboard they delegate tasks and oversee their completion under the Chief's instruction.
Typically found on yachts over 75 meters (250 feet), the Third Engineer handles all of the hands-on work and supports the Chief and Second in whatever tasks are asked of them. Thirds handle many of the "dirty jobs" such as cleaning bilges and equipment.
Junior Engineers are entry-level crew with minimal or zero credentials in the Engineering department. They require more supervision and direction from their superiors.
The AV/IT Officer position onboard yachts of 100 meters (330 feet) or greater in length generally encompasses interior automation, entertainment, IT and some satellite systems. Essentially, they oversee the technology systems beyond the scope of a traditional ETO, which are mainly focused on marine electrical and electronics.
Electro-Technical Officer (ETO)
ETOs are common on yachts measuring 70 meters (230 feet) and above. They report directly to the chief engineer and are responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operation of all electronic, audio-visual and communications equipment. This can include: Radio, radar, telephones, satellite communications, internet, other communication equipment, navigation systems, personal computers, email servers, TV and sound systems and security equipment.
Hybrid / Dual Roles
The following are usually found on smaller yachts, but they may exist in large yachts.
Mate/Engineer or Captain/Engineer
Yachts under 35 meters (115 feet) do not staff a full-time Engineer and instead add the duties to the deck team.
Yachts between 35 and 50 meters (115 - 165 feet) typically have one Engineer so many of them assign a Deck/Eng role to alleviate the Chief's workload.
Many yachts use a Deck/Stew to help alleviate whichever department is busier. Deck/Stews become versatile in both departments and learn quickly.
These types of deckhands leave the yacht with guests and accompany them in shore excursions as security.
Common aboard yachts that provide charter guests with videos and media to remember their dream vacation months later.
Found on yachts that specialize in fishing. A Deck/Fisherman is responsible for all fishing equipment and planning fishing excursions.
Stew/Cooks are popular aboard smaller yachts that do not have a full-time Chef or during the off-season.
These positions are found aboard larger yachts that either have massage equipment or an active owner that regularly exercises.
Also commonly found aboard larger yachts that have the space and equipment to perform beauty services.
This role is found on larger yachts with smaller children that need consistent supervision.
Many of the crew below can be hired on a per case basis, flown in, or permanently live onboard as full-time staff. The list includes but is not limited to the following.
Luxury Yacht charters are handled by Charter Brokers. Many of these brokers also sell the yachts as Yacht Brokers. It is not uncommon for a broker to be a former yacht captain. Many of these brokers are located in Palma De Mallorca, Fort Lauderdale, Rhode Island, and other strategic locations.
Superyacht Recruitment Agents work for crew agencies that regularly post yacht crew jobs. Their crew network is extensive across countless yachts and incoming candidates register with them to view their opportunities. Most of these base themselves in Ft. Lauderdale or the Mediterranean. Some also provide additional services such as a crew house for green crew. Yachts pay them a fixed price for crew placement.
Designated Person Ashore
Typically, yachts over 50 meters (165 feet) employ a Designated Person Ashore. This person is employed by the company to work with the yacht and ensure that the crew operates safely and efficiently in accordance with the Company’s Safety Management System.
The Management Company oversees the yacht's administrative roles onshore. They work closely with the Captain and Chief Officer to handle tasks such as: accounting, crew management, scheduling, and countless others.
Owners are seen much more often aboard private yachts. Their yacht can be used as a status symbol, vacation destination, or second home. No two owners are alike and some can be much more personable and down-to-earth than you might expect.
The Charter Guests book the charter yacht for a period of time, usually 7 - 14 days. They provide the yacht with a preference sheet outlining their culinary requests as well as informing the captain of any itinerary requests.
- Boatswain - Old English. Originally Batswegen. Bat (boat) with Old Norse sveinn (swain), meaning a young man or apprentice.
- Bosun (Bo's'n/bo'sun) - English. Respelling Boatswain.
- Captain - French. Capitaine, Leader.
- Captain - French. Capitaine, Leader.
- Chase Boat - A very large luxury boat over 15 meters (50 feet) that follows or assists the large yacht. Usually staffed by its own crew. Not to be confused with a tender.
- Dec/decke - Dutch. Roof or covering.
- Dekke (later deck) - English. covering extending from side to side over part of a ship.
- Deckhand - American. Joining of English deck with hand. Laborer of the deck department.
- Deckie, Decky - Deckhand
- Galley - Kitchen onboard a ship.
- Greenie - Nickname for green or junior crew.
- Gross Tonnage (GT) - Measure of a ship's total internal volume from keel to stacks. This is a dimensionless measurement. Most importantly, this is used for safety regulations, safe manning, and other legal requirements.
- Hand - Sailor
- Master Mariner - Captains of the highest caliber holding the Unlimited license of Master Mariner, which states they are able to command almost any size or power of vessel in the world.
- Scipper (Skipper) - Dutch. Shipper or operator of a ship.
- Tender - Smaller vessels ranging from 3 - 15 meters (10 - 50 feet) that travel from a larger yacht to port or anchorage. Called "tenders" because they tend to the larger yacht's needs.
- While the Captain is head honcho onboard, they are only the middle wrung and still report to the Owner, Management Company, and DPA.
- Deck Crew are the physical laborers onboard. They move the yacht from port to port safely.
- Engineers are the backbone of ensuring the yacht runs.
- Interior Crew ensure the yacht is immaculate and the guests are pampered.
- Larger yachts allow for more specialization and roles within each department.
- Larger yachts may have very niche positions like a Personal Trainers or Yoga Instructors.
- Small yachts tend to have more hybrid roles.
- A yacht's network extends to many parties onshore which only grow as the yacht increases in size.
- Captain vs Master
- History of Mate
- Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers Amendment
- Safety Officer
- Ship's Security Officer Course
- ISPS Code
- International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
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