One of the biggest problems crew can face while trying to obtain or revalidate a Certificate of Competency (CoC) is accurately proving sea time spent at sea. Difficulties within the MCA's administration processes means having a verified log of sea service is essential to progressing a yachting career.
From 1 January, 2017, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has introduced new arrangements regarding the verification of Sea Service Testimonials (SSTs) under UK flag jurisdiction, which promise to help speed up the certification process.
The MCA is now shifting the responsibility for verifying SSTs issued to all relevant seafarers in the superyacht sector away from the MCA’s staff, and expanding further the delegation of sea service verification services to suitably qualified organisations. This includes the PYA and Nautilus through the use of their respective Service Record Books, which have previously been approved by the MCA.
These documents are accepted by the MCA, usually without any further checking, and provide a fast and efficient way to apply for an application for a Notice of Eligibility (NoE) or for a CoC revalidation.
The MCA has confirmed that if individual seafarers continue to submit unverified SSTs directly to them, it will significantly delay the issue of either a NoE or CoC due to other priorities in the administration processes. Therefore, the MCA strongly recommends that SSTs from the superyacht sector should be verified by one of the acknowledged organisations.
Both Nautilus and the PYA both offer this service free of charge to their full-time members. However, the PYA is now offering SST verification for non-members on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. Nautilus have also launched the ‘Friend of Nautilus’ scheme, whereby the union’s Service Record Book and verification service is available for superyacht crew if they become a member for a year.
The Service Record Book essentially helps crew to record and calculate qualified sea service for the purpose of certification, and is used by examiners when evaluating sea service. Yacht crew can still present their proof of sea time using ordinary testimonials, but taking advantage of the recognised Service Record Books will ensure their application for a NoE will be dealt with quickly. Those crew using individual testimonials are likely to experience delays as the MCA will need to verify these in detail, hence the MCA’s new arrangement.