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Megayacht boom, but a crew shortfall

At International Yachtmaster Training, students are groomed for careers aboard luxury yachts

Almost 16 miles of megayachts are under construction worldwide, which translates to 733 new yachts and demand for 4,300 new crewmembers.

Mark Frye ought to be ecstatic about these numbers because he’s in the business of training yacht crews. Instead, he’s worried. “This thing is exploding,” says Frye, president of International Yachtmaster Training of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “People are buying yachts, but we’ve got no crew to run them.”

He says the megayacht industry is headed for crisis unless it pulls together and develops a strategy for recruiting more trained hands: captains, mates, engineers, deckhands, chefs, pursers, stewards and stewardesses.

Frye was at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show in September hosting recruitment seminars. He planned to go from there to Rotterdam, Netherlands, to promote careers in megayachts at a nautical college. And he has been on television in Norway and Australia talking up jobs in the industry.

“It’s a struggle,” he says. “It really is.”

Frye says he taps a lot of interest among the 50ish crowd — men and women whose kids are out of the house who are thinking of owning and operating a charter boat. Young people, however, are hard to find.

He says the industry needs new blood. “The biggest single problem we’re facing is letting people know the industry even exists.”

When Frye flies and sits next to parents of prospective trainees, they ask his line of work and he tells them he trains megayacht crews, hoping to spark some interest. Many who hail from states far from the sea ask, “What’s a megayacht?” When he shows them a photo, they are impressed but skeptical. “They think it’s fantasy land. It’s too good to be true,” says Frye.

Frye says he gives recruits a five-day seafarer’s certification course in firefighting, first-aid, personal survival, safety and social responsibility, as well as a five-day introduction to yachting. “And that gets them in the door,” he says. They are employable as entry-level deckhands.

The seafarer’s course satisfies Coast Guard requirements, and the yachting course teaches such basic skills as knot-tying, deploying fenders and operating a hand-held VHF radio. Frye runs about 1,600 trainees a year through courses of study for different crew positions. That isn’t enough to keep up with demand for trained luxury yacht crews.

Frye says Yachtmaster has developed a standardized certification program recognized by 24 governments for crews of vessels 200 tons or less. (It also offers personalized instruction for recreational yachtsmen aboard a 44-foot Beneteau sailboat and a 42-foot custom Newton power cruiser.)

The training is available, and the demand for crews continues to grow. Frye estimates some 17 million baby boomers will retire over the next decade, and many will want to buy a big yacht that requires professional crew. Unless something changes, there won’t be enough crewmembers to go around. “We’re not getting nearly enough,” Frye says.

For more information, contact International Yachtmaster Training at (954) 779-7764 or visit