The Marshall Islands has recently announced its offering of superyacht-specific course for captains wishing to gain their Unlimited license, in collaboration with Fort Lauderdale-based crew training provider Maritime Professional Training (MPT). The Crew Report catches up with John Hafner, vice president of seafarer manning and training at the Marshall Islands registry and IRI, to look at exactly what captains are being offered.

The course and ticket, which is limited to superyachts, is an answer to what so many label ‘the glass ceiling’ for superyacht captains, something that more are facing as superyachts get bigger. “For a yacht captain to get a Master Unlimited ticket he would have to get off yachts completely, go out and start working his way up the ladder on a container ship, a ro-ro or a tanker. Six years later when he decides he wants to come back to yachts, he’s lost all of his connections with the yachting industry, all the people he knew, and the owner’s moved on. This addresses that specific problem,” Hafner explains.

There have been lots of discussions about this course since its announcement, and Hafner hopes to set the record straight. “One of this miconceptions about this, and I hear it all the time, is how can you take a one-week course and all of a sudden you’re a Master Unlimited? Well, the way it’s set up is that you have 13 prerequisites, [so] unless you’re an experienced 3,000gt Master with a lot of sea time under your belt, you’re not even considered,” he explains, adding that he was skeptical of the course when he first heard about it. “All three of [the Marshall Islands registry’s vice presidents] are experienced ship captains. We were probably more skeptical of this than anybody in the yachting industry’s ever going to be, so when I say this programme is bullet proof, I’m saying it from a real captain’s perspective.”

The prerequistes for taking the course are based on existing STCW requirements, and Hafner believes this means any country with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Marshall Islands will accept the ticket. “From the get go we wanted to make sure it was bullet proof. All of the requirements are based on STCW requirements; the sea time, the ticket you need to be able to get onto the course. Theoretically [it] should be accepted by anybody that’s got an understand with the Marshall Islands.”

The fact that the entry requirements are based on existing STCW legislation means that this course will only be available to a select few. “Truth be told, there’s not going to be a lot of people qualified to get this license; only a handful of them exist. The important thing to remember is this is an upgrade to the 3,000gt.”

"All this does is qualify them to sit your standard STCW Master Unlimited examination. And if they pass it, then yes, we will give them the Master Unlimited."

The course itself focuses on the legal aspects of the maritime sector under the Marshall Islands flag. “It is literally just covering the material that’s not covered by these prerequisites and most of that involves maritime law with regards to the Marshall Islands. So to look at this and think, ‘It’s a one-week course and you get a Master Unlimited ticket’; that’s not how to look at it. All this does is qualify them to sit your standard STCW Master Unlimited examination. And if they pass it, then yes, we will give them the Master Unlimited, which is restricted to yachts.”

The six-day course, which includes five days of instruction followed by a day of assessment, which includes a six-part written assessment and a simulator assessment, will be held at MPT in Fort Lauderdale. Speaking to The Crew Report, Lisa Morley, vice president of sales and marketing at MPT, added, “Maritime Professional Training is honored to have been chosen by the Marshall Islands to be their partner in this exciting new opportunity.”

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