“I wanted something more tangible for the future than yacht-restricted tickets,” says Andrew Freeman, now chief officer of a 70m motoryacht and holder of an Officer of the Watch (OOW) Unlimited certificate, gained with sea time logged on board yachts. “The Unlimited ticket allows me to consider later becoming a pilotage, surveyor, flag auditor or take a Masters in naval architecture. Yachting does have a shelf life so options are good.”
It isn’t due to lack of desire that only a small minority of yacht crew hold Unlimited Certificates of Competency; it is due to the historic lack of a path to do so. Aside from setting out on a merchant cadetship or coming up through the merchant stream – a route few mapped as a method on to the gleaming white boats – before 2011 yacht deck crew with sea time gained on board yachts under 3,000gt had only one choice: begin again at day one on merchant ships. Understandably, few took this option; it meant a dissuasive demotion in salary, position, and lifestyle. That has all changed.
In 2011 the MCA amended its policy to allow sea time gained on board yachts larger than 24m to be applied towards merchant qualifications. From a yacht crewmember’s perspective, this has effectively created a bridge across the qualification divide. But while this opens up a host of new options, setting foot on this ‘bridge’ comes with stringent requirements, a significant degree of difficulty to make it across, and a substantial toll of time and money. Is it worth it? While plans and priorities will vary widely, if you are climbing the ‘yacht’ side of ‘Qualification Canyon’ this is an alternate route that you will want to take a very close look at – one that offers access to a section of terrain at the top that you otherwise may only be able to look at from a distance.
Upfront the biggest hurdles are: a required 1,080 days of service on yachts over 24m (or over 80gt); a minimum of seven months of intensive studying; and a minimum investment in the region of 10,000 euros in course and exam fees alone.
Upfront the biggest hurdles are: a required 1,080 days of service on yachts over 24m (or over 80gt); a minimum of seven months of intensive studying; and a minimum investment in the region of 10,000 euros in course and exam fees alone. In the case of Freeman, it took him five years of working on very busy boats, studying “in the library until midnight, seven days a week” for the 27-week course period and an amount of money he categorised as “huge”.
Find the full article in issue 72 of The Crew Report – download now.