There has been much debate about the quality of education and training for superyacht crew and, of course, the 3000gt limit. On the latter point, not only does this prevent you from working on the largest superyachts, but also restricts career opportunities.

Yes, but the commercial CoC is not practical for yacht crew, it is expensive and time consuming!

As I previously wrote here for those wishing to serve as Master on Yachts >3000gt there is a difference in cost and time due to the breadth and depth of education and training, though when all factors are taken into account and weighed against the benefits, not as much as you might imagine.

Now the option of ‘blended learning’ makes an OOW Unlimited a more attractive, practical and cost effective proposition. In the following piece I take look at this pathway and compare against the traditional Yachting route.

Note: This is based on the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) who developed Yachting training and certification, now MSN 1858, as an equivalent allowed under Article IX of STCW and their requirements for Merchant Navy Deck Officers under MSN 1856.

Education Evolves

The last 18 months has seen an evolution in the way education is delivered; I suspect accelerated by COVD-19. There are now many more education and training establishments that are offering courses online or as ‘blended learning’ where there is a combination of self-study and classroom time; this is also true of maritime education.

One such establishment is Warsash Maritime College who offer OOW Unlimited and Chief Mate/Master Unlimited as ‘blended learning’ following the HNC/HND experienced seafarer route under Merchant Navy Board (MNTB) guidance and MSN 1856.

One of the major benefits of self-study is that you no longer need to spend months at college which, can be expensive due to loss of earnings and expenses – I know what it cost for my Chief Mate/Master Unlimited! You can now study for your CoC whilst still working – Warsash suggest 20 – 24 hours per week.

The Two Main Pathways

The table below summarises the two main pathways – there is also cadetship, but this is not currently widely used in the superyacht industry.

Note: table best view in landscape on mobile phone.

YACHT – MSN 1858
MERCHANT NAVY – MSN 1856
OOW CoC
OOW (Yacht) <3000gt
OOW Unlimited
Academic qualification
NIL
HNC Nautical Science
Training Record Book required
YES NO
RYA Qualifications required
YES NO
Sea Service 36 months sea service – see MSN 1858

Plus required RYA sea service if YM on vessel <15m

36 months sea service –inclusive of 6
months  engaged in bridge watchkeeping duties
Yacht Sea Service Verification
PYA or Nautilus
PYA or Nautilus
Other requirements RYA/IYT YM Offshore.

As an example, the UKSA Professional YM Offshore is 16 weeks and GBP 9,900 all inclusive.

NIL
Duration
4 weeks

OOW Genral ship knowledge

OOW Nav and Radar

Excluding RYA/IYT YM Offshore

4.5 months

HNC Nautical Science blended learning – see breakdown below

SQA Exams

Orals Exam
YES YES
Fees without RYA/IYT and short courses
*Correct 20/21 intake
GBP 4,150.00*
GBP 5,995.00*
Funding available
Slater Scholarship
Slater Scholarship

Student Loan

Short Courses required
STCW Basic Safety

EDH

Helm (O)

ECDIS

GMDSS GOC

PSCRB

STCW Basic Safety

EDH

Helm (O)

ECDIS

GMDSS GOC

PSCRB

Medical First Aid

Advanced FF

Progression to Chief Mate Yachts <3000gt
RYA YM Ocean – time and cost

Medical First Aid

Advanced FF

Helm (M)

Helm (M)
Progression to Master Yachts <3000gt
24 months onboard yacht service, inclusive of 240 days wathckeeping whilst holding OOW (Y) <3000gt

NASRAS (Master Y)

Business and Law

Celestial Nav

24 months onboard yacht service, inclusive of 240 days wathckeeping whilst holding OOW (Y) <3000gt

NASRAS (Master Y)

Business and Law

Celestial Nav

Progression to Chief Mate Unlimited
NO
12 months wathckeeping service while holding OOW Unlimited

HND Nautical Science (9 months blended learning)

SQA Exams

NAEST (M)

Proficiency in Medical Care

Orals exam

Progression to Master Unlimited
NO 36 months watchkeeping service whilst holding OOW Unlimited.  Can be reduced to 24 if at least 12 months served as Chief Mate whilst holding Chief Mate Unlimited

Orals exam

OOW Unlimited via HNC

This includes online studying for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Nautical Science that provides the underpinning knowledge for OOW Unlimited. A HNC is a recognised UK academic qualification at level 4 which can then be topped up to level 5 with HND or, even Degree level 6 (BSc). Subjects include:

  • Bridge watchkeeping
  • Chartwork, Tides, Sailings and Celestial Navigation
  • Cargo work
  • Meteorology
  • Ship Stability
  • Ship Construction
  • Law and Management

In addition, there are several required courses, some on campus, some online.

  • Navigation Equipment Theory and Practice NASET (O)
  • HELM (O)
  • EDH
  • Signals
  • Preparation for SQA exams
  • Preparation for MCA Signals exam
  • Preparation for MCA Oral exam

There are 3 written assessments mid-course, and final SQA exams in Navigation, Stability and Operations.

The total time for the above is around 27 weeks, approx. 20 weeks online and 7 weeks at Southampton Campus and Simulator Centre.

On top of this you would require the STCW short courses, which are the same as for OOW (Y) plus the addition of Advanced Firefighting and Medical First Aid, which make a lot of sense to have anyway.

Some Pros and Cons

Once you add the time and cost for RYA qualifications on top of the OOW Yacht 30000gt sea service and courses, there is really very little difference compared to the OOW Unlimited. And, unlike a OOW Yacht <3000gt, an OOW Unlimited allows you to progress to Chief Mate Unlimited following similar ‘blended learning’ (HND) and then onto Master Unlimited.

You can also apply for funding to help pay for the qualification.

Apart from the higher standard of education, academic recognition and training provided, there are other significant benefits. You could serve on the largest superyachts, career prospects are improved and not just commercial shipping, but also land-based occupations such as with Flag, Class Societies, insurance, ship management and operations, etc.

It is important to note that currently a Master (Yachts) <3000gt who wants to obtain a Master Unlimited will have to first start with OOW Unlimited and then progress as per MSN 1856 – I have heard that there may be some dispensation following OOW Unlimited for past sea service as Master on a yacht, but this would need to be clarified with the MCA.

For those wanting to serve on Yachts >3000gt, there is also the Marshall Islands (Yacht) Unlimited, but you need to hold a Master Yacht <3000gt and fulfil certain criteria. It is currently only recognised by the Marshall Islands and Cayman Islands registries and restricted to Yachts. This may make sense for those who already have Master Yachts <3000gt, less so for junior officers who have the opportunity earlier in their career to opt for Unlimited certification.

The main challenges I see with the OOW Unlimited pathway are:-

  • Self-study – this requires commitment and dedication and may not suit everyone.
  • Watchkeeping service for OOW and Chief Mate/Master may be a little more challenging to obtain on some yachts.

Conclusion

For those who want to work on the larger superyachts e.g. 500gt and above, there is no doubt the option of ‘blended learning’ for the OOW Unlimited and Chief Mate Unlimited that allows you to study whilst still working, is a positive development.

With its clear advantages, this pathway is now definitely worth considering by those newly entering the superyacht industry, and by those who may be looking to attain Unlimited certification to further expand their knowledge and career opportunities.

If this is of interest my advice is to do your own research, read the MSN’s, contact the various maritime colleges, obtain the very latest information, weigh up the pros and cons, and then decide which pathway best suits your current and future career goals.