BACKGROUND CHECKS: What you should know

By October 20, 2016 security

Superyacht crew recruitment brings with it a burden of duty far greater than placement of land-based roles. Yacht crew of all levels are responsible for looking after young children, valuable items belonging to the owner placed on board and – to some extent for all the crew on board – the responsibility for safety of life at sea. Mark Barker, Edge Yachts’ in-house expert on background checks, shares some insight into the process.

As captains, owners, managers and yacht crew, it is something of which we are all acutely aware. Background checks are increasingly being requested by superyacht owners and management companies – and rightly so. As captains and owners, it is something that will provide reassurance; it is also something that crew probably welcome when it comes to the hiring of their future cabin-mates.

But what does a thorough background check entail and how is it different from a reference check? What standards should you expect to be met as a captain or owner requesting these checks are carried out? And if you are a candidate, what does it mean when a yacht says it will be doing background check on you before hiring?


A background check is not a reference check

It may seem obvious, but a background check and a reference check are very different things. Reference checks are used to verify a candidate’s work habits, reliability and social skills. Background checks look into everything they have done in their past. They include, but are not restricted to, any court record and may bring up records of law enforcement arrest, not just charges or convictions.

Should it be relevant to the candidate’s future work, perhaps for a captain or crewmember handling a great deal of money, financial records may also be investigated. Medical records are not usually checked at Edge Yachts.


Geographical scope

At Edge Yachts, we consider a full background check should pay particular attention to the areas where the subject has lived, as well as typically a full global search, since crew travel around the world.

If a company carrying out a ‘comprehensive’ background check for you is able to do this very quickly and for just a few hundred dollars or euros, this could be a red flag that the checks are not as thorough as they might suggest.

It is not easy to cut corners and costs while still doing this properly. Although costs and times will vary depending on how many countries a subject has lived in, you can expect the results to take anywhere up to two weeks or more, and cost between $500-700. The cost per subject is not likely to decrease by ‘bulk buying’ your background checks. If the company suggests this is the case, they may not be as diligent as they could be.


The basic protocols

If you are planning on having a background check carried out on a candidate or existing crew member, you will need to provide them with a basic information form that also outlines their rights as a person being investigated. It is usually a good idea to ask if the check is likely to bring up anything before the process even starts, too.


Employers: It’s never too late

As someone responsible for recruitment crew on board, occasionally there can be pressure to make fast hiring decisions. For larger superyachts with more crew members, this challenge is multiplied. Detailed background checks can be carried out after the hiring has taken place. It is good practice to ensure the newly hired crew member understands that their employment is contingent on passing the background check and that concerning results will provide grounds for dismissal, should it be deemed necessary.

Even if a candidate seems like a decent person, that is not to say that they are not good at hiding their past activities or that they may even believe their own stories. The aim is not to vilify the crew as a whole, but to mitigate potential safety and/ or criminal risk to the yacht and all those on board. This is simply due diligence.


Candidates: Be open from outset

Honesty is always the best policy if a background check is being carried out on you; particularly for any past criminal activity, even if it did not lead to a conviction or it was a juvenile offence.

Everyone makes mistakes but trying to hide them typically ends up in a bad situation. If a subject says they have a clean record and then the background check finds something, I typically recommend disqualification for not being truthful up front.

Your honesty will be much more important than trying to hide something that will very likely be discovered. Yacht owners vary on what past history they are willing to accept. For instance, a crewmember who received a charge for a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) when they were 18 may be a problem for some owners, while others may be willing to accept it.

As the subject of an investigation, all completed records are kept strictly confidential within the private crew file; they will never be divulged to any other sources.


Edge Yachts offers global background checks of superyacht crew within its full services yacht management package. If you have any questions about carrying out background checks or would like to know more about Edge Yachts’ global background checks services, contact us at