The Superyacht Industry, Courses and Visas

Most yacht-crew use of offshore banking facilities, with a debit/ ATM card attached to the account for easy access to their money all over the world. Their salary is paid directly into this account. You will need to provide your account details and SWIFT code to your employer as soon as you find employment on a yacht. Once you are employed in a permanent position on board, you will be paid once a month and this will be paid directly into your bank account. SYSA can assist you with the application for an offshore bank account and most of this can be done before you leave South Africa. You will need the following documents for your appointment with the bank representative.

  • Application Form – we will forward this to you once you decide to apply for the offshore account
  • Certified copy of your passport (please ensure it is signed)
  • Proof of physical address in South Africa (bank statement in your name or letter from your bank confirming your physical address)
  • Letter from employer confirming employment (you can send this to the bank once you find employment on a yacht)

Without this you won’t get a job – not a legitimate one at least. This is a Basic Safety Course that anyone who wishes to work on a sea-going vessel has to complete. It is a legislated requirement by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and you need it whether you are going to work on an oil rig, cruise ship or the fanciest mega-yacht in St Tropez. We will never suggest any kind of training package without including this course as part of your essential training. Due to the strong competition for jobs on super yachts, it is highly advised to complete more courses than just the STCW Basic Training Certificate and PDSD.

This will depend on what courses you are planning on completing, as well as your schedule. The Steward/ess Course takes place twice a month, each month (sometimes more frequently). The SYT Deck Hand Course takes place several times a month and is booked to suit your entire Deck Hand Training Package. The 2 Day Yacht Chef Course takes place once a month – depending on number of requests. The Power Boat Level II Course is normally over a weekend, twice a month. The PW (Jetski) Course is a 1 day course, normally booked to suit your training schedule. STCW 95 courses start every Thursday of each month. Please contact our Course Administrators regarding upcoming training dates. Remember that certain months are very busy training months and you must book long in advance for certain courses.

Apart from the obvious theoretical and practical qualifications, our courses at SYSA are also designed to prepare you for life on board, as well as the transition from land-life to yacht-life. Teamwork, interpersonal skills, diplomacy, professional attitude, self-confidence and presentation, perseverance, confidentiality, discipline, safety, interaction with other crew in small spaces, good work ethic are only a few characteristics a successful crew member should possess. Our courses prepare you for the work environment specifically for the superyacht industry overseas. We evaluate and assess these skills during your training and can provide a complete course assessment report to future employers as an added bonus to ensure that you find employment as quickly as possible. Remember that we will not promote average crew and if you did not show any potential during training, we cannot provide a positive recommendation to crew agents and Captains.

It is essential to equip yourself properly for your new career. Our courses are designed to give you the correct qualifications, theoretical and practical knowledge expected of entry-level crew in the superyacht industry. SYSA’s instructors have all worked in the superyacht industry for many years and use the most up-to-date information to prepare you for your future career. It is highly unlikely that you will find permanent employment on board yachts without the correct training and qualifications as suggested by our SYSA experts. Being industry experts ourselves and keeping up to date with all the recent developments in the industry, we suggest courses to ensure that you invest your money wisely in the right career path and to finding permanent employment as quickly as possible. Remember that after completion of the correct courses, your own positive and professional attitude and work ethic is also extremely important in the success of your placement on board.

For a career as a steward or stewardess, background training and experience in any leg of the Hospitality Industry is extremely beneficial, but not essential. The SYSA Steward/ess Course applies the hospitality experience you already possess specifically to a Steward/ess’ duties on board. Being a qualified or experienced waiter/bar tender/events planner does not make you ready and qualified to be a Steward/ess on board as there are specific duties that you have not been assigned as a “land-based” hospitality expert. Our Steward/ess Course focuses specifically on safety at sea, yacht terminology, silver service techniques as used on yachts, etc. This course is essential for finding a job on board and has been compiled to advance your skills as a hospitality expert, or equipping novices with the necessary skills to be prepared for life as a Yacht Steward/ess.

Training requirements for an entry-level Steward/ess are as follows:
– SYSA Steward/ess Course – 5 days
– STCW 95 Basic Training Certificate + PDSD – 11 days
– MCA/Highfield Health Safety for Catering Level II – 2 days

Additionally, the following course options can also be considered:
– Additional Bar Tender Course – 4 days
– Additional Flower Arranging Course – varies
– Additional Coffee/Barista Course – 3 days

Our Superyacht Career Experts at SYSA can compile a complete training package for you, sourcing the best competitive prices, suitable for your pocket and schedule. To download a SYSA Registration form, please CLICK HERE.

Captains demand a crew member who, after a short induction period on board, can do the job they are being paid very well to do (with limited supervision and guidance). Therefore, obtaining the maximum qualifications before you go, is essential. In the case of deck-crew, your responsibilities/duties are split between guest related duties such as tender driving, deck work, anchoring and water sports, or the maintenance – painting, filling and fairing as well as 1- and 2-part varnishing jobs, plus all other cleaning, polishing and scrubbing duties. We have recognised and researched this standard and have in turn, raised the bar. Our industry experts have taken great lengths to compose specialist training courses to provide the “experience factor” of working on Superyachts. Deckhand and stewardess duties have been broken down and carefully formatted into practical training simulations in order to produce professional, intuitive, multi-tasking, career orientated Superyacht crew. It is beneficial, but not essential, to have background training/experience in some of the following: Diving instructor qualifications, any previous maritime experience or training, lifesaving experience, handyman/construction experience, bar and hospitality background as well as experience in guest relations and interaction. Due to the extremely tough competition amongst Deck Crew, the suggested basic training certificates for successful employment on board, are the following:

  • STCW 95 Basic Training Certificate + PDSD
  • RYA Yachtmaster/Coastal Skipper Theory
  • RYA Yachtmaster/Coastal Practical
  • Specialist Super Yacht Training Course (Deck Hand Training Course)
  • RYA Power Boat Level II
  • RYA Personal Watercraft Course
  • RYA Competent Crew Certificate
  • RYA Day Skipper Theory and Practical Certificates
  • RYA Radar
  • RYA VHF Radio Operator’s License

Our Superyacht Career Experts at SYSA can compile a complete training package for you, sourcing the best competitive prices, suitable for your pocket and schedule. To read more about our Deck Hand Training, click here.

Each applicant’s individual training needs are considered before we make any recommendations. We will gladly meet with our applicants in person, or discuss their training options/suggestions via email or telephone. Please contact us for a personal appointment or to arrange for a phone consultation.

The yachting industry is like no other industry, it is not just about having a job, it is a lifestyle which you will lead twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; it is not for everyone. As entry-level crew member you will be expected to work hard, be a team player, have a global vision and do what it takes, together with the rest of the crew, to provide a special holiday to the guests on board the yacht. You must be able to live communally, share a cabin with another crew member, get used to having little privacy and little time on your own. You must be resilient and be service-orientated. If you have what it takes, the sky is the limit and you will be able to have a long and successful career in the industry in whichever field you choose.

Any skills or training in the following are beneficial:

  • Watersports: scuba diving, wakeboarding, wave-skiing, sailboarding, water-skiing
  • Construction: varnishing, carpentry, building, tiling, metalwork, engineering, plumbing
  • Therapies: such as manicures, pedicures, massage, aromatherapies, hairstyling
  • Au Pair and Nanny experience: teaching, entertaining children
  • Any hospitality experience/training: Bar Tender, waitering, events, promotional work, florist, hotel school, butler, cruise ship experience
  • Chef Work: A natural ability and training/experience in restaurants, catering, hotels
  • Personality traits: social skills, cultured, good manners, well presented, self-confident, a positive attitude

Remember that the above skills/attributes/experience is not enough to prepare you for a job on board, you still need to complete the correct Maritime Training to be fully equipped for a job as a Super Yacht Crew member.

Finding Work Abroad

Charter yachts are privately owned yachts rented (chartered) out to guests. The norm is to leave behind a tip/gratuity after a charter. This is normally split equally between all the crew members and is paid either in cash after the guests depart, or paid directly into your bank account. Tips are not to be expected, it is up to the discretion of the guests chartering the yacht.

This will depend on the position in which you are employed. If you are hired as a dayworker on board, you will be paid in cash, either daily or weekly. If you find a permanent position on board, you will generally be paid once a month and the money will be paid directly into your bank account.

Hard work and extremely long hours. It is not a holiday and it is a very disciplined industry. Your time is not your own, and your days evolve around the guests’ needs. Yachts expect a level of service, hard work and professionalism higher than anything you have ever encountered. You will start at the bottom of the career ladder. Extremely high maintenance and demanding guests (but some are wonderful and down to earth!). Lots of personal sacrifice. Flexibility. Meeting great people and celebrities. Great traveling and lots of cash!

As with all careers, everyone starts at the bottom of the ladder. The typical first job is to do the menial physical cleaning tasks. Walking the docks in search of that all-important first chance is frustrating, hard work in itself but tenacity and the ability to handle disappointment will be rewarded. This experience alone is a great eye-opener for young South Africans. They can expect to be recommended for other work, which will lead to the ultimate of being signed on as a crew member. In other words, the way you handle your first job will get you the next one. It is important to remember that the Super Yacht industry is a relatively small industry, and a good reputation is extremely important. Word-of-mouth can help or destroy you, and only you are responsible for that! Once you have found a permanent job on board, you will be hired as an entry-level Deck Hand or Steward/ess. Your expected salary as a permanent crew member is normally within vicinity of $/€ 2000 per month, with living expenses, normally toiletries, medical insurance, accommodation, food, uniforms included. If employed on a charter vessel, tips could double or triple your basic monthly salary. Many yachts even provide their crew with a plane ticket home once a year! However, none of this happens without determined effort, a great attitude and work ethic, tenacity, networking and the ability to live up to the very high social standards required in one of the most status conscious industries in the world. South Africans are generally very popular crew members, due to the fact that they have a “can-do” attitude, good manners and never says: “it is not my job”. Captains look for a qualified self-starter and someone with the necessary common sense, initiative and responsibility to be left alone to complete the job at hand.

  • Your valid and applicable Training Certificates
  • Up to date and concise CV
  • Written Reference Letters from previous employers
  • Your SYT or Steward/ess Training Manual (this is an excellent self-promotion tool!)
  • For Chefs: Photos of your food presentation, sample menus
  • A great attitude, professionalism, neatly dressed and a big smile on your face

The best way to support yourself whilst looking for a job, is through dayworking and dockwalking. This means you promote yourself at different yachts by doing temporary work on board. They employ you in a temporary capacity, doing anything from sanding, varnishing, painting the engine room, detailing cabins, assisting as a waitress/dishwasher at large cocktail parties, detailing the galley after a busy season, etc. Daywork often leads to permanent employment, or leads to other yachts looking for crew. No need to mention that you must be the ultimate professional whilst doing daywork, because the crew will be watching you and judging your performance and people skills. Most crew in the industry find their permanent employment through networking themselves by doing daywork. The average dayworker salary is $10 – $15 an hour and you can sustain yourself this way whilst looking for permanent employment. If you impress the yachts where you do daywork, the word will get out and you will quickly find yourself being hired as a permanent crew member, either on that yacht, or on their friend’s yacht. Captains are understandably reluctant to take on anyone until they have had a chance to assess them and every aspirant crewmember starts by doing shore-based hourly paid daywork. After a week or two, a sound work ethic and good networking skills will ensure that one becomes known as a desirable candidate and a position as a signed-on crewmember is the result. Networking, dayworking and dockwalking also develops a global perspective, improves your experience, self-confidence and a network of friends and contacts which will stand you in good stead for future international job opportunities.

Having invested in the required training expected of Super Yacht crew, you have already shown your commitment to your new career. The right training is essential. This industry is no longer the Hidden Gem it was 10 years ago. Crew members from all over the world are now trying to get hired on these amazing vessels and regardless of whether they are interior, exterior or in the engine room, competition is fierce. This means the best man or woman will always get the job. The bar of professionalism and training is constantly being raised and crew need to know that unless they give 100%, they will not succeed in getting employment. Training, presentation, professionalism, a positive attitude and hard work will see you get on board, anything less will not. The other important factor is networking! One needs to get out there and meet other crew and Captains, as always, we at SYSA will be on hand to assist our crew as much as we can. We have a vast number of crew on board yachts at this time, and with many more to come in the future; as a result we too will be networking our top candidates, in other words: our crew that excelled during their training. We are often contacted by crew and captains overseas, asking for possible candidates to fill positions on board – and we only provide them the CVs of candidates who excelled during training.

Most “Yacht Meccas” like Fort Lauderdale, Palma de Mallorca and Antibes have crew houses. These are similar to Backpackers, and provide crew with affordable accommodation until they find a job. This is extremely handy, because a lot of crew hear of daywork or permanent job opportunities whilst staying in crew houses. Many captains post positions on notice boards at the crew houses – so be sure to check the boards every day. Most crew houses have Internet facilities, kitchenettes, etc. and are located centrally and provide a cheap, safe and affordable option to crew whilst looking for a job. Our students are provided with a list of crew houses over the world during their SYT (Deck Hand), Steward/ess and 2 Day Chef courses.

Yachts normally work in seasons. The best time to find employment is between busy seasons, as many crew change jobs during this time and many other positions open on board. The best time to be in the Mediterranean is March/April/May/June. The reason for this: there are plenty of ports that are extremely accessible. Trains run the entire length of the French and the Italian Riviera, so crew simply need to go from port to port meeting captains and crew. The end of the Northern Hemisphere summer season, September, is also good to find employment as an entry-level crew member. During this time, our suggestion would be to go to Antibes in the south of France, Mediterranean or Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA (however, USA has become very difficult to find work, as USA visas have become very difficult to attain). Some yachts will also be looking for crew to complete the Atlantic crossing from the Med to USA or the Caribbean. SYSA’s training courses advise you on the correct visa requirements for working on board yachts. Most yachts will go into a Shipyard period once or twice a year for maintenance, and this is also a great time to look for daywork. This varies, but many yachts will complete their maintenance periods from February – April, normally in the USA or even some Caribbean Shipyards. Another important factor to remember, is that yachts are often registered Offshore, therefore, working on board a Cayman Islands registered yacht in the USA, is not considered illegal by Maritime Law. You cannot, however, work on USA flagged vessels without a legal US Passport, US Working Visa or Green Card.

Crew Agents are placed throughout the world to assist crew in finding employment. Crew members join their agency, sometimes paying a registration fee, and they assist you in finding a job on board. Yachts will pay them a fee to provide them with suitable crew members for positions on board. It is important to note that Crew Agents can assist you, but they are not the only way to find employment on board. Many yachts do not use Crew Agents, because they have to pay them a substantial placement fee. For this reason, your most important way of finding a job, is going out there and promoting yourself and your qualifications to yachts by dayworking, dockwalking and networking.

It is crucial to have the correct visas for the countries that you will visit. We can advise you on the visas and application requirements to prepare you for your trip and employment on yachts. This information is discussed in detail in our Deck Hand (SYT), Steward/ess and 2 Day Chef courses. Having the correct visa also serves as a selling tool when you go for interviews with Captains. They will not employ you if you do not have the correct visas. SYSA is a training facility, not a placement or travel agency. We discuss visas in depth in all our training courses. We advise you on all the requirements, correct documents, applying for the correct visas, where to go, how to go about getting visas once employed on yachts, we put you in touch with visa experts, but remember: NO MATTER how well you prepare yourself for a visa application or a visa appointment, THERE IS NEVER a guarantee that you will get a visa. This is solely up to the Consulate you are applying at.

Let’s be straight: This is something very difficult to do. The reason for this: Regardless of how much money invested into starting this career, you need to look at it from a Captain’s perspective. In France, and USA to a degree, each year, at the beginning of each new season, crew flock in their droves to find employment on yachts. Most of them are inexperienced, but have the minimum qualifications needed to join a yacht. This means that the Captains have the opportunity to meet the crew face to face and even give them a short probation burst on board. Hiring a novice (even if you have the correct Maritime Training Certificates) who is still in South Africa just makes no sense, when compared to the other alternative – it is that simple. This is where daywork and networking comes in. It is a fact that the crew on the “Stink Pots”, as they are referred to by the sailing community, can be quite uptight, but once you are on board, it is a good idea to meet the crew on other yachts and get friendly with them. The idea behind this: should a position open up on another yacht, you would be in a great position to put yourself forward for that position, or if you had a friend, family member or girlfriend looking for work, you could pass the yacht’s details and job description onto him/her. THIS is networking. It is also essential that you behave and act as a professional deck hand or steward/ess. The yachting community is tiny and word spreads like wild fire.


It is very difficult to do. Most yachts will have only one entry-level position open on board and therefore will be looking for only one of you. Many yachts are careful to employ a couple, due to various factors, such as cabin arrangements on board, crew rules, owner preferences, if one leaves the other one normally leaves, etc. It is crucial to understand this, because many couples are told that they will easily find a job together and they are sorely disappointed once they arrive there and find it impossible to do so. Many couples start on separate yachts and after each one has proven themselves on their separate yacht and gained some valuable experience and a good CV, they start looking for a couple’s job after a few seasons of working separately. Sometimes yachts are willing to make an exception if both members of the team (as the couple is known) have progressed to higher yacht positions and are responsible, disciplined, hard working and professional crew members.

Let’s look at the positive your child can gain from this exciting career: A crew member is employed in a highly respectable and regarded industry, they will earn great money, travel to amazing destinations, meet, entertain and work for the top 1% richest people in the world, become independent, save remarkable amounts of money (if they responsibly save this and not blow it in every port they visit!), broaden their horizons, develop people skills, learn discipline and responsibility, and build character.

Like with any other training, whether University or Technical College, there is no guarantee for placement afterwards. Also, like with most other professional careers, you need to financially invest in training. But, what other career/training guarantees so many advantages directly after completion of courses? Being able to walk into a job with a great starting salary (in $ or €!), plus not having any living expenses or monthly bills, crew can repay the cost of training within a month or three!

One of our main goals at SYSA is to instill a focus on saving and investing their hard-earned cash right from the start, we have involved Offshore Bankers and Financial Investors in this process to ensure that they do this properly, right from the start, whether they are going to work on yachts for one year or for ten years.

Imagine a 6 Star Hotel – the best in the World – and you still have not even come close to the level of service expected on a luxury Super Yacht. It is a very serious offence to be involved in any form of drugs or contraband or bring any of these illegal substances on board. Regular, random drug testing of the crew is quite common, because the yacht can be seized by custom officials if anything is found on board.

Captains and crew are regarded as professionals and no captain will ever willingly allow his crew to be put in a dangerous situation, whether is be drugs, prostitution, human trafficking, sinking or piracy. These occurrences are extremely rare (almost non-existent) in the Super Yacht Industry. However, it is assumed that all yacht crew possess the maturity, responsibility and normal “streetsmarts”, especially when they go out for a drink during off-season.

Isobel and Jason, the Directors at SYSA, both worked in the Super Yacht Industry for over 10 years, and are more than happy to address any concerns regarding safety with parents or future crew members. They realize that as a parent, it could be overwhelming to send your child overseas into a world unknown. Between them, they know thousands of current and retired yacht crew and will gladly provide you with a database of people to contact regarding how safe this industry is. Always remember that most of these exquisite yachts belong to very high profile members of society and their own, their crew and their yacht’s safety is always their number one concern.

The Northern Hemisphere has the vast majority of the large private yachts and charter boats. About 80% of these are concentrated in the Caribbean, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale area. In recent years, however, there has been a boom in yachts visiting Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Russia, Alaska, even Antarctica! Another popular destination from April – September, is the Rhode Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Massachusetts area in the USA. The destinations visited by yachts will depend on factors like yacht size and design, guest preference, summer and winter seasons, hurricane seasons, and weather in general. Many yacht crew often move between the Mediterranean and Caribbean according to the season, or work on off-season maintenance tasks or simply go on holiday and tour a little. It is extremely beneficial to speak a foreign language, like French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and sometimes this is a requirement to be hired on board a specific yacht.

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