The Triton


Education, training, service are the foundation of every seafarer


The road to success in the superyacht industry is not always an easy one to navigate. Becoming an officer with navigational and management responsibilities is both challenging and rewarding.

To become one of these professionals requires numerous courses of study, followed by exams and a significant amount of practical experience, while signed on as a crewmember for a minimum of three years. This is culminated by a final Officer of the Watch (OOW) oral exam administered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Let’s look at the MCA’s system and the requirements to become an Officer of the Watch for yachts (Y).

At the OOW (Y) level, the MCA requires three basic components: education and training, sea time (experience) and a final oral exam.

  1. Education and training: The MCA requires each candidate for an OOW Yachts Certificate of Competency (CoC) to have taken the following nine courses and hold certificates for each one:   STCW Basic Safety Week, RYA Yachtmaster Offshore or Yachtmaster Coastal CoC commercially endorsed, CPSC&RB/Advanced Sea Survival, GMDSS GOC, OOW Navigation & Radar (NARAS), General Ship’s Knowledge (GSK), Efficient Deck Hand (EDH), Human Element and Leadership Management HELM (Operational), and Electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS.) This requires a significant amount of formal education and training.
  2. Sea service and yacht service: The MCA differentiates between yacht service and sea service. “Yacht service” is simply the number of days which you have been signed on as a crewmember, regardless of whether the boat is at sea or docked. “Actual sea service” is considered the actual days at sea, such as when on a voyage, whether at anchor or not. “Standby service” is that service in between the voyages used for provisioning and resupplying the vessel. The MCA allows up to 14 days of standby service in between voyages, but at no time may standby service exceed the number of days on the previous voyage. “Yard service” is for that period of time you are in the yard for build, refit or repair. The MCA further explains that actual sea service, yard service and standby service are all forms of “sea service.” Therefore the time requirements to become an OOW breaks down to 36 months of yacht service and 365 days of sea service. Of the 365 days of sea service, the MCA breaks it down further and requires 250 days of actual sea service and the balance of 115 days can be up to 90 days of yard service with the remaining days as standby service.
  3. Oral exam: The final step before receiving your OOW (Y) Certificate of Competency is to pass an oral exam given by an MCA examiner. It is highly recommended that you find an oral preparation program with a reputable training provider. Keep in mind that a good oral prep program is not designed to take you from zero to hero. It requires that a candidate seriously pre-study prior to arrival. The instructors help fill in the knowledge gaps that may exist, help organize and refine that knowledge, practice the delivery of that knowledge in rigorous mock oral examinations, and get you in a testing mindset. That cannot happen if you don’t come to the prep program prepared.Today’s officer on the deck of a superyacht has changed significantly from the past. Although there are those who believe the average officer has less experience, the truth is he/she is far more educated and trained. Education and training are the foundation of every seafarer operating the complex equipment and vessels plying the waters around the world today. Comparing our crew today with those of the past must be done so in proper context. Crew from the past operated relatively less complex equipment but required vast amounts of hands-on practical sea going experience.

Crew today operate relatively highly complex equipment and vessels that require a significant level of education and training even before they begin to advance their levels of hands on practical experience.


Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact him through and


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