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New superyacht crew advice – Contracts and Seafarers Employment Agreements

As a new crew candidate, you will be likely inundated with information about what ‘normal’ is regarding salary packages and contracts. Please remember that as junior crew candidate you do not know all the the pitfalls. You don’t know what or who to avoid, and you also won’t know what is acceptable. Many of you will be drawn to social media as a forum to find work. Be careful taking a job directly from a social media post unless the post directs you to a recognised recruitment expert. There will be no support for you if you find a job this way. If you do not get paid or if you are left in a foreign country (ie not repatriated) you have no one to help you with this issue. A legitimate agency will have insurance to cover these pitfalls, hence why being MLC compliance is important both for superyacht employment agencies and for the yachts themselves.


The minimum acceptable salary for a junior crew member is 2000€, anything more is a plus, anything less is an insult – my first salary in 1995 was $2200 equivalent, keep that in mind… 1500 euro for a deck role on a 74m yacht is not OK. I believe the excuse for such a low salary was that they would train the candidate. No amount of training is worth 1000 euros per month.


Yes you should be offered one. A basic SEA – Seafarers Employment Agreement – should contain the following:

  • Who the contract is between – i.e. the yacht/owner and you.
  • Start date/finish date (if temporary or seasonal).
  • Salary – how much it is and when it is paid.
  • Leave allowance – This is often listed as how much leave you earn per month – 38 days is entry level, some yachts have a 5:1 rotation (you work five months with one-month leave).
  • Repatriation – To the point of embarkation is a minimum (where you were employed from – i.e. Antibes, or to your home port if you are permanent). You can come to an agreement if you do not wish to be repatriated home to Australia for example but want to remain in the Med to look for another position. That is your prerogative.  Some yachts will provide a set allowance for flights.
  • Trial period – This should be one to three months – not eight months, as one deck candidate told me he was offered. This is not in any way acceptable. While on trial, you don’t accrue leave. This means, that the yacht can put you off the boat with seven days’ notice and you will be owed no holiday pay. 
  • What your notice period is – 7 days’ notice when on trial period is normal. Once employed on a permanent contract, one months’ notice is the norm.
  • What constitutes ‘gross misconduct’ – i.e. sackable offences.
  • Standing orders – E.g. what the yachts expectations are for your new job role.
Recrewt image of superyacht crew working in galley
Image by Mark O’Connell

That is the minimum you should expect on a standard yacht crew contract. Many permanent contracts will also detail a flight home, any bonuses and training they provide or expect you to undertake.

You may be asked to sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) meaning you are duty bound to keep all the yacht and her owners business private. The yachting industry is exceptionally private. You should not generally discuss anything pertaining to the yacht and her owners with outside parties, especially as a new crew member.

Always read any contract carefully before you sign – it is a legal and binding document.

I have been shown some shocking ‘contracts’ over the last few years. Some have actually been illegal, so be cautious about what you sign and agree to.

For example, a contract should not say that you will be stripped of salary for damaging uniform. Even if you are – god forbid – sacked for gross misconduct, they cannot keep your salary. Nor should you be charged for your placement fee if you leave within a year or be charged for your repatriation flight. 

Lastly it is not unrealistic to expect a contract on a small private non-MLC compliant yacht. I had a contract for my first seasonal job in 1995. Ask, if you are not offered one. Without a contract, if a boat decides not to pay you, you have no proof you were ever onboard.

The following link will give you some information regarding MLC compliance and crew contracts (SEAs).

Good luck!