“Crew are conditioned at entry level to have qualifications, which is good, but they are also pushed early on by peers to get the MCA yacht qualifications,” begins Meen. This starts with a number of crew agents, managers and captains themselves, who require a higher level of qualification than necessary for particular on-board positions. “Many agents in the last five years have increasingly been asking for Yacht Master CoC for entry-level deckhands, where it is wholly inappropriate. Crew are being forced to push themselves from the outset, when a recipe of EDF, PBL2, VHF and STCW basic would have been perfect.”
This, of course, has a knock-on effect, so those already with the Yacht Master Offshore are pushing to get their OOW and their associated sea-time requirements. “This is where the problem lies. They try to get the 365 days as soon as possible within the 36 months of yacht service – and they move from yacht to yacht over three years to get the sea time. If they had come in at junior level with the ingredients listed above, they could then spend some quality years working towards the Yacht Master and leading up to OOW in say four to five years, rather than the rushed three years.”
But if no one is taking the lead, no one can follow, and in the culture of this industry this is a problem, explains Meen. “I try very hard to get crew to slow down and enjoy the experience of being a deck crewmember and learning more, however peer pressure has a lot to answer to. Most of these guys admit they are nowhere near ready to take on the OOW responsibilities and often have not spent any time in the bridge during the 36 months’ service, which is what the OOW CoC will allow them to do – and not as a trainee but as an officer!”
"Most of these guys admit they are nowhere near ready to take on the OOW responsibilities and often have not spent any time in the bridge during the 36 months’ service."
However, the nature of the wider industry also has its role to play – in particular, the normality of yachts sitting in one marina for most of the year. “Some yachts might only to 20 or 30 days a year, for example. So a crewmember heading for OOW would take 12 years before they could able for the OOW! Some of course are being rushed by the company who is building a larger new boat and want the crew to stay – obviously this would mean they would need the right qualification to meet the manning requirements for a larger vessel.”
It’s a topic with many branches and there is definitely a way to go before this problem can be seriously tackled by the industry – but acknowledgement of the problems and how they can be solved is the first step.
Look out for our extended feature in issue 67 of The Crew Report.