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The Purser’s Role

What does a purser on a superyacht do?

Only larger yachts tend to have a purser – 60 Metres and over unless the yacht is exceptionally busy. Under that, the purser’s role is shared between the captain, first officer, chief stew and offshore management.  It is rare for a person to obtain a purser’s role without prior experience on a large yacht as the requirements of the position demand specific knowledge learned on the job and a feel for the superyacht industry.

The purser plays a significant role in managing crew and vessel logistics.  For crew aspiring to rise to a purser’s position, it is important to understand how the purser fits into the yacht’s hierarchy and reporting structures. The purser offers inter-departmental support and links in with shore-based management, suppliers, agents and other stakeholders.

The purser will also be expected to undertake crew and guests familiarisations,  muster duties, clerical work, and team motivation. Leadership qualities are vital. In addition a purser must have a broad awareness of all the issues that impact a yacht: international and maritime/admiralty law, the role of the ILO  (the International Labour Organisation ) and IMO (International Maritime Organisation), Flag States and the role of Classification, maritime treaties, conventions and codes, Family Trusts and SPVs.

Good knowledge of Port State Control and the differences between private vs commercial registration is a must. In addition, the purser must be familiar with the industry associations and bodies that support crew

A purser will oversee crew embarkation and disembarkation procedures, crew onboarding and management as well as certificate management: Certificates of Competencies: Flag State Endorsements and Equivalence. The purser will also monitor crew leave and training tracking, payroll processing and crew insurance.

There are many technicalities that the purser will need to be familair with: Port Clearances and the  FAL convention (Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic), customs procedures relating to the importation of the vessel and ships stores, immigration​ procedures, agricultural and health requirements. The purser has to be prepared for customs inspections.

Understanding the various aspects of charter operations on a commercial yacht requires business acumen especially when dealing with charter brokers and marketing and managing charter costs. Although the VAT management will be usually be taken care of by the management agency or broker according to the MYBA charter contract, the purser needs to be aware that this is a significant issue.

It doesn’t stop there: a purser often oversees guest management and allocating daily duties on charter, as well as destination itineraries, and increasingly, visas and vaccinations for crew and guests.

Knowledge of Excel and accounting basics is fundamental, such as managing budgets and variances, cost code allocation, invoice and supplier management, audits, VAT and the vessel.

These various aspects of a purser’s role are usually shared between the captain, first officer and management company but a good purser will be able to take on any of these tasks in case of leave or during exceptionally busy times. For this reason, a purser is a senior operational position, often senior to, or at the very least equivalent to the Heads of Department.

Land baser pursers are becoming commonplace. Many of the purser’s duties do not require a presence on board and can be carried out remotely. Many pursers with years of experience can still offer invaluable support to a yacht owner, who can retain the expertise of a valued member who has chosen to leave the life on board for a shore-based role. This is often to start a family. With space on a yacht for the crew at a premium, a land-based role is a great way for a purser to continue to work in the industry, using their many years of experience. The industry as a whole retains knowledge and expertise which may otherwise be dissipated.


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