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New deck crew build future course by course

Jun 29, 2015 by Capt. Brian Luke

The question we most often hear from people new to yachting is, “What training do I need?” The answer is rarely a simple one.

Welcome to the yachting industry, where trying to navigate the maze of courses and the regulatory structure can be daunting. For deck crew with little or no exposure to the yachting world, it is critical to understand what is beneficial to accomplish during training.

First and foremost is safety. New crew need to understand how to work and live safely in the new environment. Second, they need to build a solid foundation for future training, experience, work and career. No training course can be designed to teach everything; each is a building block to the next. It is up to crew to build on this foundation.

Finally, from a practical standpoint, crew need the certificates required to work on most yachts. Crew need to be safe and readily employable.

With these points in mind, crew should ask, “Do I want access to all the yachts in our industry or just some of them?” Part of the secret of success is to have qualifications that allow work on as many yachts as possible. The more qualifications crew have, the higher the likelihood that they will be hired. If crew limit their qualifications, they will inadvertently limit the number of yachts available on which to work. For example, many yachts now require all deckhands to have a Powerboat Level II certificate. If crew don’t have it, they have just eliminated themselves from the possibility of being hired on that particular yacht.

Where do new crew start? Training centers should help guide crew to the right training and give appropriate career advice to be safe and marketable. Step one is to complete STCW basic training. This includes PSSR (Personal Safety & Social Responsibility), BST (Basic Survival Techniques), Basic Fire Fighting, and First Aid/CPR.

Crew should also take a security course right away. In a previous Triton article [“Increase in security awareness means training for some crew”, page B4, June issue] I wrote about Security Awareness, and Security Awareness with Designated Security Duties. Many in our industry are pushing security awareness. In my opinion, and the opinion of many captains who are looking to hire crew, this is the wrong qualification for most crew in the yachting industry. We work on yachts and, generally speaking, we will all have a designated duty according to the vessels’ ship security plan. I recommend that crew forget taking security awareness and take the yachting-appropriate Security Awareness with Designated Duties course. Security Awareness is less expensive and just a bit less time consuming, but in the long run, crew will just have to go back to class and take Security Awareness with Designated Duties, thereby unnecessarily spending more money and time.

Next, crew should get Powerboat Level II (PB II), AEC (Approved Engineering Course) and ENG1 medical exam. Yes, I am aware that these courses, and the medical certificate, are not regulatory requirements, but remember that our goal here is to increase the odds of getting hired, and sooner rather than later. Statistics show that as a newbie with low to no experience, crew will increase their odds of getting picked up by a yacht when they have invested in themselves. If a yacht has an open position and two otherwise equally personable deckhands present themselves, one with PBII, AEC and ENG1 and the other without, which one would you choose?

These courses are not required to get hired in yachting and I know a few crew that didn’t have STCW when they were hired. This is the exception. I also know hundreds who took four or five entry-level courses at the outset and were hired quickly. Instead of spending three to five months looking for a position, by setting themselves apart with the extra qualifications and willingness to invest in themselves and their job or career, the went to work relatively quickly and earned good salaries for those three to five months, more than offsetting the additional time and expense of that extra training. These crew increased their odds of getting hired early on and it paid off well.

If new crew are serious about a deck job on a yacht, or even a lifetime of opportunity in the yachting industry, no matter how much or little experience they have, it’s always important for crew to build their resume in order to help keep 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