The Triton


Levels of security awareness mean training, certificates for some crew


Despite our efforts, the world is seemingly less safe, less secure. Hence, our land- and sea-based careers all mandate ever-increasing security training and awareness. This affects the maritime industry in general and specifically the superyacht community.

With the advent of the new STCW Manila amendments, crew are now required to have security training and certification onboard any vessel subject to the ISPS (International Ship and Port Security) code. This code applies to all yachts over 500gt that charter or are used for commercial purposes. If you are on a private vessel that does not charter then most likely this will not apply to your yacht.

There are the few usual exceptions to this generalization. These regulations were to be enforced and subjected to Port State Control inspections starting Jan. 1, 2014. However, the IMO recognized delays in the setting up of “approved” training, so it issued circular STCW.7/Circ.21 basically recommending to Port State Control authorities to hold off until July 1, 2015. This, in theory, gave all vessels and crew 18 more months to get the training and certification completed.

Commencing July 1, however, all vessels subject to the ISPS code are required to have the appropriate security training and certificates for all crew.

In general, most yacht crew will need one of three security certificates: Proficiency in Security Awareness (PSA), Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD) or Ship Security Officer (SSO). I will not cover SSO, as this requirement has been around since January 2008 and is usually a duty reserved for the chief mate or higher ranking officer. Those operating on U.S. flagged vessels will hear terms similar to these: Security Awareness (SA), Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties (VPDSD) and Vessel Security Officer (VSO). The U.S. designations mean the same thing, so do not be confused by the subtle changes in terminology or acronyms.

PSA, in the simplest terms, is for crew that do not have designated security duties onboard the vessel. These crew are simply aware that a ship security plan is in place. Every crew without security-related duties, at a minimum, must have this certification. PSA is informational and helps educate crew about security functions in the following areas:

  • Recognizing security threats,
  • Understanding the need and methods for maintaining security awareness and vigilance, and
  • Contributing to the enhancement of maritime security through heightened awareness.
  • PDSD is for any crew member who has designated security duties under the ship security plan. A course in PDSD will help educate a seafarer in:
  • How to maintain the conditions set out in the ship security plan,
  • How to recognize security risks and threats,
  • How to undertake regular security inspections, and
  • Proper use of security equipment and systems.

Many superyacht crew don’t understand what training they really need. As an example, PSA is intended for entertainers on cruise ships or those who work in cruise ship stores. These are crew who have no designated security function, according to the ship security plan.

Yacht crew will almost always have a designated security function or duty according to the ship security plan. It doesn’t matter if you are a stew or deckhand, you will most likely be assigned some sort of security duty onboard. A few examples would be standing watch or conducting searches of the vessel.

During the recent Palm Beach boat show, a captain asked “Why are so many new and seasoned crew coming to me with only PSA certification? Crew are of no use to us without PDSD certification.” My response was that certain segments of our industry are advising crew they only need to have the minimum certification, PSA.

PSA was never intended for superyacht crews. Cruise ships have the luxury of a large number of employees and only need to have a certain percentage certified at the PDSD level. In contrast, almost all superyacht crew will have designated security duties due to the relatively low number of crew on board, and therefore <bold>all<bold> need PDSD. The boat show captain understood this and corroborated that he will not hire crew with only PSA.

Since crew need PDSD and not PSA, why do the training twice and pay for both courses? Sure, the PDSD training is more expensive, but it is the proper training crew need, saving them both money and time, and in the long run keeping their career on course.

Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. He is an airline captain and holds a USCG 1600/3000-ton master’s ticket. ICT trains crew for entry-level through 3000 ITC Master licenses, engineering and interior operations. Comments on this column are welcome at

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