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Continuous Professional Development for Yacht Captains

Ian Bone2

A reasonable amount of information and discussion is beginning to emerge in the yachting media concerning the development of an unlimited yacht specific Masters certificate of competency.

Many captains will be thinking about whether or not to progress towards this next career milestone. Each captain will have to make their own decision about whether or not the unlimited CoC is for them. Each individual will be considering their current circumstances in life, their families, relationships and whether they are prepared to commit the time, energy and resources to undertake the program.

Some captains will see the opportunities for seeking the unlimited yachting CoC as an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the arguably “crowded” market of current 3000gt CoC holders. They will have a clear understanding of their career pathway and move toward this goal.

Other captains may not be so sure???

Here are some of the questions that they could be asking:

•    Do I need to progress to the unlimited CoC to achieve my career goals and ambitions or is my current CoC sufficient to achieve my career goals?
•    Is the unlimited CoC qualification going to be worth the time and expense and provide me with the opportunities I seek?
•    What is my likely career time-frame for being in a command position?
•    What are my plans for beyond the yachting industry and where does the unlimited CoC fit into that plan?
•    What are my career or business options after yachting?

These questions (and others) are surely going through the minds of many captains, particularly those captains that are approaching their mid or later term of their careers.

Captain picCareer development for captains in yachting has traditionally been tied to the maritime framework. Understandably so, but yachting is more than just maritime and requires additional skill sets such as service and management, so it may be that other professional development alternatives could be appropriate for captains to consider.

Why would I be making this assertion? Simply put, the world of work is rapidly changing; it is not uncommon for people to have a number of different careers throughout their life, and the distinction between work and life is also fast disappearing as well as the concept of retirement.


Pick up any future trends article or read any article about the changing nature of work and it becomes plain to see that the traditional model of working in one career until retirement is fast fading. Even the concept of retirement is becoming fuzzy and undefined.

Economic, demographic and social changes are occurring unrelentingly. I contend that many captains are ill prepared for their futures have not considered their careers in the context of these changes. Many captains fail to consider their life planning goals and are not prepared for their future beyond yachting.

Captains thinking of “retiring” are facing some real challenges. With life expectancy continually increasing the prospect of spending a lifetime career in a command is possible however I would think undesirable by most captains (and their spouses!). There comes a time when most captains, either male or female, seek to be land based. Many captains by the time they are in their mid 50’s are looking to “swallow the anchor” and seek other opportunities. Unfortunately many captains have not adequately prepared for this likelihood.

To date, there has been little thought, conversation or discussion about other education and development alternatives for yacht captains. However, it is now appropriate and timely for captains to consider alternative career development options before they move somewhat “automatically” down the pathway of further maritime technical studies.

I want to be clear that my ideas in this article about professional development alternatives for yacht captains may not sit well with many in the industry who have interests in the established training pathways. I understand this, however this article is not intended to do anything but raise the discussion about an alternative way of thinking about career development and proposing a range of alternatives for individuals to consider. I hope this article will provoke this discussion.

I feel that in some ways captains have been somewhat conditioned to think that they have limited choices in their career development options. This is far from the case as most captains have a strong operational skill set and diverse experiences that can be drawn on that are rarely found in one person. The limiting factor for most captains seeking to transition into another career is generally a formal tertiary qualification (that piece of paper).

I believe that this can and will change going forward with more younger captains realizing the importance of gaining tertiary qualifications in the business/commerce/management space to assist them in both their yachting and post yachting careers.

Undertaking career development initiatives in leadership/management could well be an attractive option for some captains to consider in lieu higher level maritime certification.

One could argue that additional studies in business/leadership and management would better serve the captains skill development, create a degree of differentiation within the wider market of 3000gt CoC holders and be beneficial in the non-maritime employment market beyond yachting. The benefits of formal tertiary qualifications in the business/management/leadership space are undeniable and highly desirable across the upper management spectrum of most industries.

Moreover, It is not only the acquisition of the qualifications but the opportunities for expanding ones professional network out of the yachting sphere that comes with further tertiary study.

Planning ones future career is never easy nor is there any guarantee that the decisions made now will result in a clear straightforward pathway for the future. However the proof is undeniable that education is a legitimate and proven pathway for career success no matter what the circumstances are.

Having choices and being aware that choices do exist is at least a first step in opening up that planning process and encouraging captains to think some more about their careers both in the yachting space and beyond.

*Image credits: Flickr


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