Route allows crew to swap certifications

Apr 2, 2016 by Capt. Brian Luke

This year’s annual Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Instructor/Examiner conference, just held at Alexandra House in Swindon, UK from Jan. 29-31, ushers in a new era for deck crew desiring to scale the ladder through the ranks from Deckhand to Officer of the Watch, Chief Mate and Master.

Though the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competency remains the standard qualification for deck crew wishing to ascend this ladder, the RYA and Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have announced that a new alternative route is in the works which will allow the lower level Yachtmaster Coastal Certificate to be used in lieu of the Offshore Certification.

Most megayacht crew members who have worked one to two years in the deck department should have accumulated the prequisite experience to enable them to earn his/her 200 GT Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence.

This Yachtmaster Offshore CoC, along with other short courses and sea time, has been the standard required to continue up the ranks to OOW, Chief Mate and Master.

Here is why this is such an important issue for crew members today. Entry prerequisites  for Yachtmaster Offshore Certification are 50 days at sea to include 2,500 miles, of which 1,250 miles must have been on vessels under 24 meters.

You must also have five passages over 60 miles by rhumb line from port of departure to destination and on two of those five passages you must have been the master of the vessel.

And two passages must have been overnight. Additionally, you must have a total of five days as master of the vessel. This may be insurmountable for a relatively new deckhand who has only worked on vessels well in excess of 24 meters. Because of lack of opportunity, even after 3-plus years, many crew members on these large vessels have not achieved these basic qualifying requirements.

Additionally, the RYA does not allow time on tenders towards this qualification. For many of today’s young megayacht crew members, the only experience on vessels under 24 meters is on their yacht’s tenders. So you can imagine how these same crew members may find it difficult to accumulate the “appropriate” sea time and experience for the Offshore Certificate.

The good news is that at the conference the RYA announced that in the future, the Yachtmaster Coastal Skipper Certificate would become an alternate route for one to proceed to OOW and Master. The MCA, along with the RYA, have not yet set a time frame for this to happen.

Currently, Yachtmaster Offshore candidates are not required to hold a Yachtmaster Practical Course Certificate (although it is highly recommended). When the Yachtmaster Coastal alternative goes into effect, then all candidates will be required to take and pass a Yachtmaster Coastal practical course. Upon doing so, the mileage requirements will be reduced from 2,500 to 400 miles and the 1,250 miles on vessels less than 24 meters will be reduced to 200 miles under certain conditions (must be on vessels less than 500 GT).  The 50 days at sea will be reduced to 20 days and the five days as skipper will further be reduced to two days and 12 night hours. All these reductions will make it easier for large vessel crew to meet the perquisite experience in order to continue up the ladder to OOW and beyond.

This new alternative route will have certain restrictions. As an example, the Yachtmaster Oceans Certificate required for those seeking to advance past the Officer of the Watch to Chief Mate will not be available to those holding a Yachtmaster Coastal Certificate but only to those candidates holding a Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate.

Instead, the RYA will require crew members possessing a Yachtmaster Coastal to hold their OOW certificate for an as of yet undetermined period of time, after which they will be allowed to take the Oceans Theory course, along with the appropriate sights, and sit the Yachtmaster Oceans exam. If successful they will NOT be awarded a Yachtmaster Oceans Certificate but instead receive a document attesting to the fact that they have passed this exam.

The MCA will then accept this document as entry to Chief Mate and Master. If a crewmember wishes to achieve the current Yachtmaster Oceans Certificate, he/she must first still qualify for and pass a Yachtmaster Offshore examination.

Overall this is great news for the yachting industry. The industry has changed drastically over the years. Training and certification needs to change with the industry. The current scheme made better sense when deck crew commonly started aboard smaller vessels and “worked their way up”, eventually skippering ever larger boats. Today crew often immediately begin their careers on very large vessels. The industry needs to change to reflect the experience our crew are getting on these much larger yachts.

Though some may think that the criteria is being devalued in this process, this is not the case. Training that reflects what is taking place in the real yacht world will serve us all well and help you keep “YOUR CAREER ON COURSE”®.

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