The engineering department is one subject to much discussion in the superyacht industry, whether it is their pay packet, rotation, their quantity or their quality. In the first of a number of interviews with the Professional Yachting Association (PYA) about the crew sector, The Crew Report speaks to the PYA engineering workgroup, made up of current and ex-superyacht engineers and trainers, to get a better idea of what’s happening in today’s complex engineering departments.


The engine room on Loretta Anne

TCR: Why is there a shortage of skilled superyacht engineers?

PYA: It’s thought that, in fact, a shortage of engineers is common in many sectors and not just yachting, and that the focus on careers through media and the like is more targeted at deck than engineers, which has not helped engage the outside world to an engineering career option.

However, we think much of the reason for a shortage of “skilled” engineers could be another matter. Certainly in yachting, it is noted that there are fewer and fewer engineers coming from apprenticeships or further education backgrounds, as [has been the case] historically in our sector, resulting in many engineers entering the industry with little or no back ground experience. Once in ‘yachting, the current yacht’ engineering qualifications are not filling the gaps and meeting the needs of the crew of today; not helped by the fact that our sector does not often have the capacity for on-board apprentices and historically lacks mentoring, which means that unless a crewmember has come in with a good solid background, it will be a harder learning curve to keep up with the current available training.

Good engineers tend to have a natural aptitude rather than the ‘anyone can do it if they work hard enough’ approach. Engineering is not easy and is often underestimated.

 
TCR: How can we increase the number of skilled superyacht engineers in the industry?

We know we need more engineers coming in with engineering backgrounds and experience; however, the increased numbers will only come from positive PR and increased awareness coupled with modernisation of the training structure and incentivisation to make engineering a more attractive career.


There are also initiatives to change ‘sea time’ for yachts to 1.5 x days at sea, with the possibility for up to 25 per cent of the sea service required made up with anchor, port and yard time.



TCR: How is the landscape of superyacht-specific engineering training changing?

The PYA’s engineering workgroup is working with Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in an ongoing ‘syllabus review’ study group; we are looking at ‘educating’ engineers rather than teaching them how to pass exams. This may well include blended learning, online, by correspondence and classroom time. There has been good progress today in London at the Chamber of Shipping to change the syllabi and exams to make them relevant and interchangeable across the sectors of yachts, fishing vessels, tugs and workboats, so that yacht engineers get a better education that leads to transferability and recognition throughout sectors as well as a more structured training and certification system. Also, pass rates will improve. This has evolved in response to the needs of the yacht engineers themselves.

There are also initiatives to change ‘sea time’ for yachts to 1.5 x days at sea, with the possibility for up to 25 per cent of the sea service required made up with anchor, port and yard time. A lot of good work by the PYA is going on behind the scenes to improve the situation for yacht engineering qualifications.

This workgroup has also seen promising responses to proposals to reduce the burden of the Y4 auxiliary equipment syllabus and spread some of it to other subjects such as marine diesels and move more complex parts to higher level syllabi such as chief engineer. There is a plan to strip out irrelevant topics while remaining mindful of the underpinning engineering knowledge needed to be safe, effective and achieve UK standards. AEC is hopefully going to be longer and mandatory leading towards the first certificate.


TCR: Engineers are known for having high pay and good rotation packages – is this affecting the industry in a positive or negative way and why?

Greed will always draw criticism and the rotational posts should be necessary, earned and fairly rewarded. Rotation is too commonly expected considering the full-time vocation of the job; however it should be balanced against the operating profile of the vessel, as with any rotation position.

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