The Triton


Climbing the ladder and flying through the ranks


What a great time to be in the yachting industry! Never before have there been this many megayachts plying the waterways of the world. As a result, there is a need for crewmembers to man them, and never before in the history of yachting has there been as much opportunity to license and certify yourself for one of these positions.

Which leads me to a question often asked in our industry: “How quickly should one rise to achieve the rank of captain?”

Over the years, I have had a number of discussions with various captains of my generation referencing this very topic. There seems to be a prevailing attitude among the 20 to 30 year veterans of yachting that: “The new generation is licensing and certifying too quickly,” or “They haven’t had enough years to see everything they need to see in order to be a complete captain.” My responding question to them is: “How many years is enough to see all that you need to see and experience in order to be prepared for a captain’s position onboard a 40, 50 or 60-meter yacht?”

This question is not isolated to the yachting industry. I have been fortunate to have fostered careers in both the megayacht and airline industries. As a current airline captain and former yacht captain, I believe I have a unique perspective into the question of upgrading to a captain’s position. In the airlines, every individual comes in with different levels of experience yet we all basically have the same license. So we are all screened-based on meeting a minimum amount of experience (flight time). No one discredits a young pilot with 1,500 hours of flight time for having earned his/her Airline Pilot Transport Rating even if they did it in less than two years. This same individual may work on a variety of aircraft as the “captain,” but the size of the aircraft which they command will be commensurate with the level of experience he/she has attained at that point. In other words, a 1,500-hour pilot will not be commanding an Airbus 320.

Our industry in yachting is really no different. The regulatory bodies set a minimum standard for licensing and certification. When a young candidate achieves the set standard, then they are awarded the appropriate Certificate of Competency. If one moves as quickly as possible through the ranks as a crewmember, then it is quite possible to hold a Master CoC <500GT for yachts and become a paper captain in less than five years. But just like in aviation, how many of these fast trackers are captains of a 490 GT yacht? I’m sure one exists but you would be hard-pressed to find one.

So why is this issue important? In business there is an old adage that states if your business is not growing, then it’s dying. All business attempts to receive a return on investment (ROI) for the money invested in it. You as a crewmember need to adopt the same attitude. Your licenses and certificates are your business. If you are not growing as a crewmember in both experience and licensing, then you potentially could be derailing your career. Likewise, you need to invest in yourself by licensing and certifying as quickly and efficiently as you can in order to maximize your personal ROI. Every additional year you spend without a rating for which you could otherwise qualify is lost revenue that will never be made up during the course of your career.

In many cases, this equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars by the end of a career.

Individuals do not determine the requirements for licensing and certification, governments do. Your individual responsibility is to license and certify yourself according to these requirements. You need to receive a positive ROI for your investment in your future. This is accomplished by completing the training you need in order to continue to rise as efficiently as possible within the ranks. This is how you keep your career on course.

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


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