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On Course: by Capt. Brian Luke
Gaining and verifying sea time/service in the yachting industry is essential to all crew who are in yachting as a profession and working toward gaining a Certificate of Competency.
Unfortunately, the process to date has been unnecessarily confusing for some and virtually non-existent for others. The culture for recording sea service for many crew is to panic at the last moment when they realize they needed to record their sea time all along but didn’t. This panic usually occurs when they are preparing to apply for an MCA or flag state Notice of Eligibility (NoE), then they have to chase down their former captains (Responsible Person) to gain the all-important testimonial of proof of time spent onboard as a crew member.
It is the responsibility of the captain and crew member alike to ensure that a testimonial has been issued when a crew member leaves a yacht, or to do so periodically while employed. By neglecting to formally record their sea time/service while signed on to a yacht, crew have historically faced losing either time while tracking down the captain or losing the sea service altogether if unsuccessful.
Up to now, the MCA and flag states have asked for two forms of proof of service when applying for an NoE: formally recorded in a testimonial and backed up in a flag-issued Discharge Book or PYA Service Record Book, discharge paper or recognized logbook.
This also added to the confusion with what is accepted and what is not, and resulted in taking the MCA and flag states prolonged periods of time verifying sea time during the application process.
The recent good news to assist in the “best practices” of recording sea service is the MCA’s recently published Marine Information Notice (MIN) 543. The MCA states that “This notice describes revised arrangements for verification of sea service testimonials (SST) of seafarers working in the large yacht sector.”
Whenever a yacht crew member applies for an NoE or when renewing a CoC, evidence of their “qualifying” sea service is required to support the application. This qualifying sea service must be in the form of a correctly completed SST, signed by a Responsible Person and then verified by the Professional Yachting Association (PYA) or Nautilus International.
MIN 543 formalizes the arrangement between the MCA and PYA/Nautilus, giving authorization to these two organizations for the official verification of qualified sea service. Starting May 24, MIN 543 became effective and henceforth all yacht crew now applying for their NoE or renewal of their CoC are strongly encouraged to have their sea service verified by either the PYA or Nautilus.
It’s worth noting that if a crew member does not use one of these routes to sea service verification, the MCA has stated that “failure to do this will cause severe processing delays of approximately 160 days.”
“For over 25 years, the Professional Yachting Association has been advising entry-level crew on best practices with recording sea service as well as verifying sea service under the approval of the MCA in the form of the PYA service record book,” said Joey Meen, director of training and certification for the PYA. “The PYA has often had to spend time tracking back sea service for their members. However, as PYA has grown up with the yachting sector and most captains are known to it, this has been successful on the whole.”
More recently, Nautilus has also been approved by the MCA to facilitate a service record book, based on the PYA’s format and criteria.
It’s also worth noting that interior crew applying for the GUEST program CoC (since January) must also have their sea service and guest days formally verified in a service record book.
So the message is clear: With the introduction of this formal arrangement to verifying sea service in our sector, it’s hoped that old habits will be replaced by better practices, such as never leaving a yacht without a signed testimonial from the captain.
Set sail, and remember to record all sea service for smooth sailing in your career.
Capt. Brian Luke is president of Bluewater Crew Training USA (formerly ICT) in Ft. Lauderdale. Comments are welcome below.