It is a long-standing fact that the Yachting industry adopts a work ethic based on the ‘Work hard, Play hard’ adage. During busy charter seasons, yacht crew are pushed to the limits of their physical (and mental) abilities. Long days dealing with demanding guests and busy itineraries have become the norm onboard many yachts.
However, there are some rules and regulations that have been put in place to protect Seafarers, but are they really applied onboard busy yachts? I gathered the opinions of active crew members to hear what their experience has been throughout their careers…
Hours Of Rest According To MLC Regulations
It is easy to forget that there are regulations stipulated by organisations such as the MLC (Maritime Labour Convention) that indicate the minimum ‘Hours Of Rest’ that crew should be gaining, even during operational times. These regulations are put into place for several reasons, one of which is to avoid accidents due to fatigue.
The MLC states that a ship’s working hours need to be limited to:
– 8 hours per day, with one rest day, under normal circumstances.
– 14 maximum working hours in any 24-hour timeframe.
– 72 maximum working hours in any 7-day timeframe.
– A minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour timeframe.
To delve further into the fine print, the work and rest guidelines apply to all vessels that are:
– Engaged in voyages via sea, privately or publicly owned
– Engaged in commercial operations via sea, such as the transport of passengers or cargo
– Vessels engaged in fishing operations
– Vessels that are below 500 gross register tons
– Vessels of traditional design, including dhows and junks
– Estuarial vessels.
The Benefits Of Having Well-Rested Crew Onboard
1. Less Risk Of Accidents
We are all familiar with the messaging that driving a motor vehicle when tired is incredibly dangerous – highways around the world are plastered with signs that encourage drivers to take regular breaks if tired. So why is operating a Superyacht any different? Even crew members that are not actively driving the yacht are responsible for several safety measures when docking, anchoring and cruising. Everybody has their role to play in keeping the environment safe onboard, and fatigue can lead to mistakes that could be costly and even in some cases can cause extreme injury.
2. Better Performance At Work
Most would agree that being well-rested is essential in order to perform to the best of your abilities at work. According to Harvard Business Review: “Like batteries that need to be recharged, we all have a limited pool of physical and psychological resources. When our batteries run low, we feel depleted, exhausted, and stressed out”. Having regular breaks can help to ‘reset’ your brain and body and in turn, increase your productivity at work.
3. Less Resentment
Nobody likes to feel like they are being taken advantage of or overworked. If crew members begin to feel like their rest time is being dismissed, it is inevitable that resentment will build. Resentment onboard is hard to shake off in the middle of a busy season and can lead to crew disagreements and conflict.
4. Overall, Better Guest Satisfaction
In a working environment such as Yachting, where the crew are in close proximity to guests, guests are able to pick up on the moods of crew easily. It is essential during guest trips that yacht crew put their best foot forward when interacting with guests, and are presented smartly and appear well-rested. When tired, it is much more difficult to deal with guests.
Yacht Crew Weigh In…
A recent post on a popular Facebook yachting group revealed some of the varying attitudes towards this issue after a page member asked for advice on how to report their hours of rest not being honoured onboard. Some members of the yachting community seem to believe that working over hours is simply the name of the game and even went as far as to recommend leaving the industry altogether.
Others believe that the issue comes down to adequate management onboard and that a proper rest schedule is easily achieved if crew remain organised. The Chief Officer of a 50-metre charter yacht, who has been in the industry for almost 8 years commented that:
“If a proper schedule is drawn up – HOR can and must be managed correctly. If not guests’ expectations have to be managed to fit adequate rest requirements. After you have worked on a boat that complies you will not want to work on any other boat again”.
The officer went on to state that:
“HOR are complied with on my boat as best as possible. All crew have 8 hours rest minimum a night complemented with a 2-3 hour break during the day. Yes there are exceptions but if everyone is adequately trained and responsible to the point that they can manage their jobs without the supervision of certain senior crew members, then it creates an environment where crew can take their respective rest”
Echoing that, another crew member working onboard charter yachts commented:
“With proper time management, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get your hours of rest. There’s always going to be a day here or there where it takes all hands on deck to make a charter happen, but it shouldn’t be a normal situation. Otherwise, the heads of department aren’t managing crew or time properly”
Cole Sisler, Captain of a 34-metre charter yacht, explained the importance he places on his own crew gaining adequate rest:
“I strongly believe that proper rest is required not only for safety and liability but also because proper rest will allow the crew to perform at their best and therefore provide the best service”
“When even one crew member is sleep deprived, attitudes toward other crew members become short and arguments flare up. So it’s imperative that all crew get sleep. And if guests like to stay up late, the late stew can easily set up a self-serve bar or the schedule can be adjusted to accommodate them late at night”
So what can you do if you are not getting the rest that you are legally entitled to? Firstly, raise the issue with your HOD or your captain. If the issue cannot be solved internally, it may be time to take it to your management company, or failing that, to ‘Flag State’. Read our guide on how to raise an issue onboard for more information.
Yacht crew, we would love to hear your opinion on this subject!