Noticing a trend in increased applications to be Pursers we thought we would provide some input into what it takes to be one, including the relative duties, career paths to qualifying and what the job market currently looks like.
Purser positions generally exist on larger yachts and their work is responsible for the effective and smooth running of the yacht, similar to the work of a Chief Stewardess who would look after the interior including provisions, concierge duties and accounts etc. on smaller yachts.
Pursers generally have multiple responsibilities to carry out on the yacht. It is heavily administrative including crew HR, visa applications and immigration, to booking flights and checking crew certifications. It is therefore important to understand the international regulations and daily management of crew certificates and contracts. Understanding the flag state and management company of the vessel is equally important.
Another important aspect of being a Purser is to understand the safety and muster duties on board, which comes from knowledge of yacht operations, crew activities and safety inductions. In addition knowing the maritime laws will be advantageous for ensuring the yacht adheres to ISM and ISPS codes. Port disembarkation and clearance is another area Pursers’ need to be competent in. Understanding the documentation process and urgency of time keeping throughout, whilst knowing the ships’ certification, immigration regulations in different countries and general customs regulations.
They are also responsible for completing the accounts, payroll and other financial matters such as budgeting and financial planning. Yachts tend to use a software package which makes it easier to record information and present accurate accounts, there are a few different ones around and are becoming very efficient, however some yachts still use good old Excel!
Concierge duties can sometimes be the responsibility of the Purser, although quite often it will be the Chief Stewardess who does this. Either way having the ability to research and present itineraries to yacht’s Owners / Guests is a skill a Purser must have. Quite often there will be all sorts of facets to consider such as security, transport, restaurants and attractions to organise. Then there is the behind the scenes aspect of charter management, structuring cost, suppliers, guest complaints etc.
It is an extremely responsible role with a demanding workload and the need for adept computer skills, excellent communication and the confidence to manage people. The Purser is often seen as a senior within the structure of a yacht and quite often referred to as an ‘Agony Aunt’ for the crew! Captains need to rely on their Pursers for various reasons, candidates therefore usually need to have previous yachting (or cruise) experience, and have a level of maturity about them with excellent leadership styles.
I fit the bill, how do I get this job?
At present we primarily recruit Pursers with two main types of backgrounds, those that have been Chief Stewardess’s and those that come from a cruise ship Purser background. This difference arises due to the specifications requested from Captains and management companies, and their knowledge of what work needs to be done on board.
Chief Stewardess’s / Head of departments that have worked on yachts 60m up to 100m+ and have excellent experience (4yrs+), longevity and references, are generally a favourite and certainly dominating the Purser market at present. On the flip side since the yachts are getting bigger, many Captains are choosing Pursers that have come from cruise ships, whom are therefore accustomed to the large volume of crew, accounts and general ship management. Again typically this type of candidate would have been a Chief Purser on board with excellent financial skills, at least four years’ experience and glowing references.
Certainly having completed a degree in Business, Finance, Accounts etc. will largely help a candidate with the workload and type of work experienced as a Purser, whilst having yacht experience generally fills in the gaps with regards to the maritime industry, legislations and life on board. There are even a couple of Purser courses that exist, plus other maritime training schools that can offer certain modules relating to the job that will help you be more prepared to perform the tasks required.
A Final Note
Pursers must have excellent attention to detail, a strong knowledge of the yachting industry and experience living on board. Their administration and accounting must be efficient and accurate, whilst communication skills at the highest level. All in all it is a very competitive position with few jobs out there to compete for. ‘Who you know’ will often work in your favour, so ensure your references are good! It is not an easy option but a different career path to follow within yachting as opposed to the Chief Stewardess, Captain routes. Packages are usually very good with time for time rotation and high salaries for the best candidates.