On Wednesday 24th September, 2014, the Professional Yachting Association (PYA) held the first of its three Sea Changes forums taking place throughout the Monaco Yacht Show. In previous years the PYA has hosted a single Sea Changes forum at the show, so with three separate seminars this year, each with their own individual focus, the PYA is demonstrating just how much progress has been made in 12 months.

This first seminar focused on engineering and included speakers Tim Moss, part of the PYA engineering workgroup, fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and head of engineering at Bluewater, Paula-Marie Brown and Annmarie Dann of the IET and Captain Roger Towner of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), as well as chairman John Wyborn of Bluewater.

The focus of the seminar was twofold: first, to show how the IET and PYA engineering workgroup (the latter of which is newly headed up by M/Y Petra chief engineer John Percival-Harris, also of JPMA/Hoylake Sailing School) and collaborating to highlight individual engineering competency and professional recognition of the industry's engineers; second, to name the MCA's proposed changes for the superyacht engineer certification process. In his introduction, Wyborn explained, "It has offended me that we've been cramming [for exams] ... I've been motivated to do something about it."

"People will always need us. We are in demand and there aren't enough of us who are suitably trained and recognised," explained Moss, to an audience largely comprising superyacht engineers. Moss then outlined the new four-tier structure being put forward by the MCA, adding, "Joey Meen and the PYA have driven this from day one and should be congratulated." The structure, if accepted, will include four types of certification: Engine Room Rating, Engineer OOW (Y4), Chief Engineer < 500gt (Y3) and Chief Engineer < 3,000gt (Y2/Y1 combination). Moss added, "There will be a transition period and that will be the hardest part."

John Wyborn

One facet that raised the eyebrows of a number of engineers attending the seminar was what is known as the 'glass ceiling', or the new proposed 3,000gt limitation; making it challenging for superyacht engineers to step into the commercial sector to gain their Unlimited ticket. Towner did justify this by explaining that the Unlimited engineering ticket requires extended thermo-dynamic training (like the Master Unlimited requires extended stability training).

Moss also outlined changes to the qualification route itself, announcing that sea time required for superyacht engineers would count for 1.5 times the days actually at sea, namely down to the fact that the engineer's job an anchor or in port is equally important (and is the catalyst for the suggestion that 25 per cent of sea time can be undertaken at anchor, in the shipyard or in port). Also suggested were the use of MSQ (Marine Skills Qualifications) in order to build up an engineer's own personal development record.

Towner concluded by explaining the MCA's thought process behind these proposed amendments which have progressed surprisingly quickly, reaching this stage after just four months. This, Percival-Harris explained to me, was down to the MCA and PYA engineering workgroup, quite simply, agreeing. "What we want to have is a single suite of qualifications ... [So] you can go on any of those vessels [tugboats, work boats, fishing vessels and yachts]." Towner concluded by stating, "The MCA, I believe, is really leading on the yacht qualification front."

While in the past some seminars surrounding yacht qualifications can centre on reminding crew of existing changes underway, this seminar proved different and exciting for all those in attendance, finding themselves part of a deciding moment for the superyacht engineer sector.