Now more than ever, you must plan ahead if your goal is to become an Officer of the Watch (OOW). Because of recent regulatory changes, Efficient Deck Hand (EDH) and operational Human Elements of Leadership and Management (HELM) certificates are now a requirement to become an OOW.
And not far off, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will require you hold that EDH certificate for at least 18 months prior to being issued your OOW Notice of Examination (NOE). If you are already an OOW, you are good to go; you have no EDH requirement.
Since Dec. 31, 2013, the MCA now requires all candidates working toward their OOW less than 3000 gross tons Certificate of Competency (CoC) to obtain and hold both EDH and operational HELM certificates from an MCA-approved training center. You should anticipate that there will be many such changes in regulations governing the issuance of CoCs over the course of your career.
What regulations exist today will not necessarily be a requirement tomorrow. Keep this in mind and your stress levels should be substantially lower as you plan and manage your career.
EDH was formulated by the MCA as an ongoing attempt to improve upon the basic seamanship skills of today’s crew members. Excerpted from Marine Information Notice (MIN) 473, the basic requirements to obtain an EDH certificate follows. Refer to MIN 473 for the exact details.
EDH covers a variety of topics important to those working on board the deck of a complex superyacht operating in international waters. Some of the topics include general nautical knowledge, Code of Safe Working Practices (COSWP), shipboard duties and responsibilities, shipboard maintenance, MARPOL, rope work and rigging, knots, bends and hitches, anchoring, cargo work and boarding pilots.
One of the controversies concerning EDH is about when you are required to take this course, which is any time prior to your OOW oral exam. Many feel that mandating the EDH course at this point in one’s career is a little late. As a contributing member of the (Large) Yacht Qualification Panel, I was part of a discussion in September about when the most logical time to take the EDH course might be.
At that time, the MCA officials decided that as of Jan. 1, 2017, an EDH certificate must be issued 18 calendar months prior to applying for your OOW Notice of Examination (NOE). This would encourage candidates to complete the course earlier in their career.
My recommendation, therefore, is that mariners take the EDH course before completing their other OOW course requirements. Since the EDH certificate has no expiration date, you can subsequently take all other OOW courses, thus ensuring that you have fulfilled the 18-month requirement prior to submitting paperwork for your NOE.
Any training one might obtain at a maritime training center is not intended to give you complete knowledge about any given subject. The real purpose behind training is two-fold. First, it is to help you build a solid foundation upon which all learning and experience can take place. And second, it provides a checking system for flag states.
As an example, the MCA requires that you test prior to receiving certain certifications. These tests are often taken at a training center to determine if you possess the knowledge required to obtain the certificate. You must have a certain level of requisite knowledge to progress within the industry. The knowledge required to be awarded the EDH and operational HELM certificates are now felt to be an essential part of the OOW career path.
Clearly, in our ever-changing regulatory environment, you can’t just plan your career, you have to manage it well to keep “your 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.