Not everyone is cut out to be a yacht captain. So first ask yourself whether you have the right personality to take on the challenge. There are many ways to define requirements of jobs for boat captains. The captain is the ultimate responsible person on board any vessel. That includes guests, crew and the vessel in general.
From a small yacht to a cruise liner, the captain is the leader on board. Therefore becoming a captain requires a certain level of education, experience out at sea and specific personality traits.
What are the considerations to make when foreseeing a career as a yacht captain?
1. Training is certified and accredited by a recognised international flag registry.
When seeking education make sure that training is STCW certified. Avoid training programs that are recognised only at a local level. You don’t want to limit yourself to working onboard yachts only in your local territorial waters. STCW stands for ‘Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping’. The STCW convention came into force in 1978 as different jurisdictions wanted to create a standard level of training around the world that stipulates a minimum level of training. For example, doing STCW training in Malta and in the United Kingdom should have the same standard levels.
2. Be careful which flag registry to choose.
As in any industry, political challenges play an important role when it comes to acquiring your captain license. Make sure you choose the “right” ticket to be able to work on most yachts. Challenges such as Brexit and other political events are creating difficulties for seafarers when boarding yachts and entering different ports. Hence, it is important to assess which flag state poses the least threat when it comes to its acceptance. The Transport Malta yachting register is now the biggest flag in the world with respect to superyachts greater than 24 meters. This means that the Transport Malta ticket would be acceptable by most of the superyachts, which will minimize the risk of your ticket being rejected.
3. Start as a deckhand and test the waters.
Since this career is not for everyone and requires extensive commitment to reach the top; it is recommended to start as a deckhand and see how it goes. Generally, the entry level courses would be the STCW Basic Safety Training and a small craft license (not necessarily commercial). This basic seamanship course is the bare minimum required. Anything over and above this will give you a better head start in this industry.
Starting on local charters is a good opportunity like any other. Many local jobs for boat captains offer opportunities even for the less experienced. Then, if you like the experience and want to venture further, you can continue investing in other STCW courses. Which will increase the likelihood of you getting a higher position on deck. Courses such as Efficient Deckhand, Navigational Watch Rating and radio communications will definitely give you more insight on whether this career is for you or not.
4. Always log your seagoing service.
Start logging your sea time experience as early as possible and the more structured it is the better. To meet all prerequisites when enrolling on a course, it is important to have specific experience in your pocket. This can be done by acquiring a training record book.
Whenever you master a technique out at sea, make sure to record it and get it signed by your captain. Moreover, if not currently in training, the sea time has to be recorded and also signed by the respective captain. Some yachties take this for granted and are often faced with different challenges in getting this sorted; So, start logging your experience early to avoid issues down the line.
5. Always consider the size of the yacht you aspire to work on.
For most yachts and superyachts, acquiring a Master certificate up to 200GT leading to 3000GT is more than enough. The route for this is more attainable because you can do this during the “off season”. Therefore not compromising any employment opportunities. However, if you plan on working on large mega yachts (greater than 100 meters), then the unlimited certificate would be required. This is a bit more challenging to acquire since this would require you to study full time.
Therefore, the study route available for someone aspiring for the Master of Yachts ticket for less than 3000GT unlimited area is the following:
The above training and certification route is as approved and accredited by the Malta Flag Authority
6. Never stop learning.
Although sea time experience is of utmost importance in reaching the top; In yachting, the more courses you do, the more chances you get at progressing fast. For example, acquiring the Accredited Engine Course (AEC) increases your chances of progression.
So don’t waste time, up your game and start learning now.
Article was written by Pauline Micallef, CEO MaritimeMT Malta