More and more do we see the electro-technical officer (ETO) as a permanent role on board superyachts, yet as a relatively new position there has been, until now, little in the industry to formally recognise this role. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has recently introduced a Certificate of Competency (CoC) for ETOs, to strengthen the role of the ETO in the commercial maritime industry. In a preview to issue 69, superyacht ETO Simon Hodkinson and new-build engineer David Carlisle, both co-chairs of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) ETO Expert Working Group, look into the ETO CoC and ask what, if anything, it will do for the superyacht industry.

The ETO role has been ever changing and demanding due to the rapid progression of technological innovations on yachts. It is now quite common to see an ETO on board yachts of 70m and over, and on yachts of more than 100m you can sometimes find a sub-team under the chief engineer, combining electrical engineers and AV and IT officers under a senior ETO.

A typical engineering Certificate of Competency will take three years of training split between college time and several sea phases, as well as a considerable financial cost, but the outcome is engineers with a good base standard of knowledge and experience. In the past there was no such training for ETOs so captains and chief engineers had to employ ETOs based on their previous qualifications, experience and reputation, without being able to rely on any standard marine qualification. The ETO CoC was introduced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to give those working in these capacities formal recognition of their technical abilities and to provide an international standard, which would enhance employment opportunities.

Currently it is not compulsory for a ship to carry an ETO unless it has been mandated in the ship’s Safe Manning Document (SMD) issued by the flag state authority. However, there are indications that large yachts with diesel and/or electric propulsion will have an ETO as a minimum on its SMD and thus will require someone on board to carry an ETO CoC.

Although having a CoC is not mandatory for the industry’s ETOs, should a crewmember officially sign on a vessel as an ETO he or she must hold an STCW ETO CoC, whether or not an ETO is listed on the SMD. Consequently, the term ‘electro-technical officer’ can now be now be considered protected in the same manner as the deck and engineering officer positions. However, paragraph 5 of STCW regulation III/6 states that you are permitted to carry out certain functions of an ETO for which you are qualified, even if you do not hold a STCW ETO CoC. This means you may be employed on a ship in a position such as electrician or systems engineer who will carry out the role of an ETO. It’s worth mentioning that in order to work on high-voltage equipment, navigational systems or radio equipment you have to have completed an MCA-approved training course for that type of equipment.

This is a big step forward for the recognition of the role that ETOs play in the world of commercial shipping, however it does complicate things in the world of private yachts, where ETOs are required to have knowledge of complex AV and IT systems far exceeding that of their commercial counterparts. On larger modern yachts, due to the complexity of the AV and IT equipment, there is already a separation of the role of ETO and AV/IT officer. Yacht owners typically put a very large premium on having up-to-date and comprehensive AV/IT systems, meaning the AV/IT officer is normally seen as a critical role for the owner’s on-board experience. This means that, while the MCA would only recognise an ETO with a CoC as an officer, the AV/IT role would also benefit from officer status.

Information about the MCA’s interim arrangements for ETOs can be downloaded at

Find the full article in issue 69 of The Crew Report - out 24 June, 2014.