Captain Salvador Villerias, MY Azteca
Finally an official body has raised this situation that I have been writing about now and then in [The Superyacht Report] and [The Crew Report]. Most of the time crew agencies and training centres tell the new guys, ‘You have to have this and this course as soon as possible’, when the truth is that you don’t have to have the Yachtmaster Offshore if you only have 50 days of experience. A 200gt yacht is bigger than 30 metres and is worth more than USD 10 million. So for the sake of common sense let’s do these courses when you have at least two or three years experience. The name is ‘Yachtmaster’; can a deckie with 2500nm be a yacht master?
Fundamentally the problem stems from several angles; one is that those examining have a duty to intensely check that the candidates meet the required standard. My examiner 17 years ago said he had to be happy that I would be able to take a member of his family to sea and bring them back safely. I am not certain that some people with the Yachtmaster meet this requirement. It is not a new issue though.
Another issue is the desire by people to create spurious sea time and for schools to gear their students to passing the exam rather than making sure they are fully capable. This is understandable commercially and is again not a new problem. Perhaps the answer is for candidates to hold a Day Skipper qualification for 12 months before they are allowed to sit a Yachtmaster exam. You can't sit a Master's oral without holding an OOW for 12 months, so why not the same stringency? Really though I think the answer lies with the RYA examiners to be more discerning.
"Another issue is the desire by people to create spurious sea time and for schools to gear their students to passing the exam rather than making sure they are fully capable."
At the end of the day it is the examiners responsibility. Candidates can write whatever they like in their Logbooks and even though exams are booked through training centres now it is difficult for them to verify if the information is correct. I make it clear to all candidates at the commencement of a Yachtmaster exam that this is as much a management qualification as a maritime one. The candidate needs to make as many decisions as possible during their assessment. No system is perfect but the RYA is constantly looking for ways to improve this process. I think us RYA examiners get it right most of the time.
Since a responsible captain of any yacht is never going to give command and all its attendant responsibilities (who don't forget will lose their job, or licence, in the event of an accident) to an unqualified member of the deck crew for the entirety of a voyage – no matter how short – then it becomes impossible for a captain to sign the applicant’s form to say that the person has command experience sufficient to take the course. This in turn means that the number of people working in the large yacht industry taking their Yachtmaster will virtually cease.
In 10 years from now there should be far fewer captains chasing jobs. Remember that the RYA Yachtmaster qualification was designed to train people – predominantly for small sailing yachts around the coasts of Britain with the occasional trip across the channel – to handle their vessels safely and responsibly. The Yachtmaster as it is currently used as an entry into the MCA ladder is unfit for purpose, hence the ‘catch 2’2 comments outlined in the article and other comments. MCA, wake up!
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