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Sea Time: A Small Remark With Big Consequences

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At the Monaco Yacht Show 2011 the MCA announced that they had removed the ‘glass-ceiling' and would now accept sea time gained on yachts towards unlimited certification. What at the time might have seemed just a rather insignificant note on the side has, in fact, a big impact. Not only does it show that the regulatory body (finally) accepted yachting as a 'grown-up'maritime sector, more importantly it also opened up entirely new options to yacht crew.

So what had has changed? Yacht crew who have 36 months’ sea time on a yacht over 24 metres (load line) qualify for a Notice of Eligibility (NoE) for an Officer of the Watch (OOW) Unlimited oral exam, something that was never possible before. Sea time is counted as per MSN1802, but let’s take look at this later.

Why unlimited certification?

Why would someone working on a yacht want to obtain an OOW Unlimited? There are a multitude of reasons. On the one hand, demand is fuelled by the growing number of yachts above the threshold of 3,000GT, as well as yachts that apply the Passenger Yacht Code (which allows them to carry more than 12 guests); both need to be manned by officers with unlimited certification. On the other hand, training for the unlimited certification is simply more rigorous and to a higher level, which is also reflected in a more difficult MCA oral exam.

The industry needs officers with experience, working to a very high standard and trained with the right level of quality. Simply transferring merchant navy officers will, in many cases, not work; a tanker captain will almost certainly be misplaced on a yacht. And that is where the significance of the announcement really lies. It allows those with the so-important yacht experience to gain a higher certificate. Candidates who qualify are not zero-to-heroes, they come with plenty of experience as it takes a long time to obtain three years' sea time on a large yacht (and longer than being eligible for the Yacht 3,000GT OOW which “only” requires one year on a large yacht). It allows yachting to produce its own unlimited officers.

Obtaining an NoE

So, how does the programme work? Firstly, every candidate is encouraged to obtain their NoE before attending the course. Not necessarily a prerequisite, but it doesn’t make sense to attend a course if you can’t sit the oral exam at the end, right? However, it’s fairly simple.

The main requirement is 36 months' sea time on a yacht over 24 metres. Sea time is counted as per MSN1802 ('Certificates of Competency: Yacht Deck Officers Training and Certification Guidance') which means a minimum of 750 days Actual Sea Service is required with the remaining balance of 345 days being any combination of the following: Stand-by Service (to a maximum of 14 consecutive days in one period), Yard Service (to a maximum of 90 days continuously) and further Actual Sea Service. Documentary proof of the qualifying sea service can be proofed given in the form of any of the below:

  • Certificates of Discharge
  • MN Discharge Book
  • Any other MCA approved service record book (e.g,. Nautilus, PYA)

All sea service must be further supported by Sea Service Testimonials, as can be found in MSN1802, Annex C.

The details of the progamme

Those for whom this is their first deck officer CoC, will also need to prove that they have been ‘involved in watchkeeping activities’ (this is not the same as watch keeping service) for at least 6 six months. This can be done by a letter from the Captain or the company. Those already holding a Yacht OfficerCoC (OOW Yachts 3,000GT and above) will be waived entirely from this requirement.

The programme itself has a total duration of 27 weeks. 23 weeks thereof are for the so called HNC (Higher National Certificate) tuition (Higher National Certificate) which includes subjects such as bridge watchkeeping, navigation, chartwork, tides, emergency response and communications, cargo work, meteorology, ship stability, ship construction, and law and management. At the end of the course students sit two written exams in Navigation and in Stability and Operations. Upon successful completion students are awarded a Higher National Certificate (HNC) Nautical Science.

During the entire time you are studying with us at Warsash Superyacht Academy, students will not only benefit from an extensive VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), an incredible extensive library and study areas, but most importantly you will have direct access to the tutors who can provide that an extra helping hand in one of the subjects to ensure there is a successful outcome.

The remaining 4 four weeks are for a series of short courses and exam prep for the two written SQA exams and the MCA oral examination. Short courses include NAEST(O), HELM(O), EDH and MCA Signals. As an added benefit NAEST(O) will also meet the requirement of ECDIS generic training.

27 weeks later and a OOW Unlimited can be yours. The price for the whole programme is surprisingly low- in fact very similar to the cost of the Chief Mates (Yachts less Than 3,000GT) once all the courses are added together-and even more so when taking into consideration that you do need to do your RYA Yachtmaster Offshore.

Your OOW Unlimited can be endorsed straight away with a Chief Mates (Yachts less Than 3,000GT), giving you a dual CoC and will allow you serve as a Chief Officer on a yacht whilst you miles will be both counting towards a Master (Yachts less Than 500 or 3,000GT) and Chief Mates Unlimited, whatever you should choose.

Additional career opportunities

Apart from the higher level of tuition an OOW Unlimited has also has additional benefits. Not everyone wishes to stay in yachting in forever, and a career as a merchant officer (usually on rotation and with a work schedule that is unlikely to change) might suit the lifestyle better when one is considering a family, for example. For those who wish to further their academic career, an HNC is an academic qualification which can be further extended. And then, obviously, an OOW Unlimited allows you to progress to Chief Mate Unlimited and Master Mariner; the latter is the highest qualification a deck officer can achieve. Again, sea time to progress can be gained on yachts over 24 metres. An unlimited certification will also help in finding a position when coming ashore or could even be turned into an MSc by distance learning.

So all in all, that small remark at the Monaco Yacht Show 2011 opened up a range of entirely new career opportunities within yachting. It might not be the correct choice for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with the yacht OOW courses, but it certainly enhances the quality and also new opportunities for yachting professionals to make it a successful and long-lasting career. And that is what it should be all about.


Where to find us at the Monaco Yacht Show:

-In the Superyacht UK Pavillion at Darse Sud QS102, Monaco Yacht Show;

-Captains Hideout (Stars 'n' Bars).

Further information about WSA can be found at
Or Telephone: Tel: +44(0) 1489 556222


resizedimage30785 Warsashresizedimage23094 Southampton Solet Uni

Warsash Superyacht Academy

Warsash Superyacht Academy (WSA) is a flagship initiative from Warsash Maritime Academy, part of Southampton Solent University, and was launched at Monaco Yacht Show in September 2012. WSA is the world leader in superyacht training and education. In collaboration with its reputable training and business service partners, WSA offers more than 138 accredited deck, engineering and interior courses, and other bespoke services to the yachting industry. As part of the world renowned Warsash Maritime Academy, the teaching faculty includes over 100 expert maritime lecturers. The scale and range of training facilities is unmatched worldwide. Clear progression routes are available for crew who are looking to further their careers, starting with basic STCW safety training and ending in both yacht and unlimited officer programmes.

Southampton Solent University

Southampton Solent University offers more than 19,000 students over 200 qualifications ranging from HND to PhD, in subjects such as maritime education and training, fashion and design, media and television, music, sport and leisure, business, IT and technology.

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