Previously, we saw how one could be a captain on a superyacht. While we covered everything there, we believe that there is one part that should be covered in greater detail. That’s right, it’s the certification part. Hence, as a sequel to that article, we will see the required qualifications to be a captain on a superyacht. And yes, it is indeed a complicated process, but not as hard to understand.

Qualifications to be a Captain on a Superyacht

Phase 1: Become a Deckhand

Of course, even with the right qualifications (hypothetically speaking), nobody gets to be in the top position without good experience. And superyacht industry, especially, is no exception to that. Becoming a deckhand is the most reliable path to begin your journey towards the captain position. You can accumulate experience and qualifications along the promotion ladder and eventually, with enough dedication and hard work, you will be able to captain a superyacht someday!

We would recommend the following courses and certifications prior to deckhand.

  1. STCW 2010 Course which is mandatory for all commercial and recreational marine workers.
  2. RYA Powerboat Level 2 course.
  3. ENG1 Medical Certificate.
  4. The VHF Course – GMDSS compliant marine radio certificate or RYA SRC Certificate.
  5. The Deckhand Course in South Africa. This is optional but it will definitely help you kickstart your journey in the superyacht industry.

After this, you are basically set. Just find a deckhand job and start working, learn the ropes, understand how things work on a superyacht and accumulate experience.

If you show enough dedication and quality in your work, you may be promoted to Lead Deckhand/Bosun as well.

Phase 2: Officer of the Watch

For Officer of the Watch, you have to:

  1. Take and pass the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore course first. You can do it during your deckhand days as well. Please check the exam prerequisite before you appear for it though.
  2. You have to present the records of 36 months of sea service (mandatory: sea service must be done on a vessel of 50m length and above).
  3. You have to present a completed Training Record Book. You can download a free copy of it here.

If you meet the above requirements, then you are eligible to take this next step.

  1. General Ship Knowledge Course and Examination.
  2. Navigation Radar and ARPA Operations.
  3. GMDSS General Operator Certificate (GOC).
  4. Human Elements of Leadership and Management (HELM) – Operational Level.
  5. Proficiency in Survival Crafts and Rescue Boats.
  6. ECDIS – Electronic Chart Display and Information System.
  7. Efficient Deck Hand (EDH); you must hold this certificate for at least 18 months before you can appear for the OOW exam.

If you take and pass the courses mentioned above, then you will be eligible for the written test for OOW, which would make you eligible for the oral test. After passing that, you will receive your OOW Certificate of Competence.

Many institutions would recommend you take the oral examination prep class, which is actually helpful. If you are feeling too nervous, we would highly recommend taking a class. However, this is optional.

Phase 2.1: Chief Mate – Captain’s Second-in-Command.

If you do not want to be an Officer of the Watch, you can consider skipping the written and oral examination and continue onwards with your goal as a chief mate. Except for the oral and written exams for the OOW, all the previously mentioned courses and the sea time are mandatory, so do not think about skipping them.

As you walk towards the Chief Mate path, you should take the following courses:

  1. RYA Yachtmaster Ocean, which requires either the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore CoC or the OOW CoC for vessels less than 3000 Tonnage.
  2. Proficiency in Medical First Aid
  3. Advanced Fire Fighting
  4. HELM Course on the management level.

Once you complete these courses, you are eligible for the MCA Endorsement to be a First Mate. Post-endorsement, you are ready to serve as the First Mate on a superyacht.

Phase 3: Path to Captain!

After the OOW CoC for vessels less than 3000GT or becoming a chief mate, you are to serve at least 12 months of sea time before you can begin moving towards securing that sweet Captain spot in your career.

Once you are eligible to take the master module courses, you should start as immediately as possible. In this section, there will be two steps. You will first have to study for the Master 500GT vessel before you start moving towards the Master 3000GT.

You will be learning the following modules.

  • Ship Stability
  • Business Law
  • Navigation and ARPA Simulation (Master level)
  • Seamanship and Meteorology
  • Proficiency for Persons in Charge of Medical Care
  • Celestial Navigation
  • HELM Management Level; optional if you already have done this course during your path to Chief Mate.
  • ECDIS (Optional as well if done already).

Once you successfully complete all these courses and respective oral or practical exams, you have to appear for the MCA Oral examination. To do so, you have to send all your relevant documents (certificates, sea time records, previous CoCs), upon which the MCA will issue an NoE. This makes you eligible to appear for the MCA Oral Exam.

If you successfully pass it, you have to send all your paperwork to the MCA again and you will get your Master 500GT CoC. Congratulations!

Now you can decide to stop here or you can aim for the Master 3000GT CoC. For this, you have to get additional 12 months of sea time in total with a minimum of 120 days of sea service. There are no additional modules here but an oral exam. Same procedure as Master 500GT. Pass it, send your documents, and receive your Master 3000GT CoC.

For extensive knowledge on this section, we highly recommend checking UKSA’s website.

Final Words.

Becoming a captain of a superyacht is not only about getting all the sea time and these qualifications. It is important to understand whether you actually fit in the field—whether this is something you really want. For a successful career, we would advise you the following,

  • Get as much sea time as possible and keep a log of it.
  • Get some bridge navigation and watch time experience whenever you can.
  • Learn from your fellow deckhands and your superiors onboard.
  • Always practice collision regulations and other safety regulations.
  • Learn to use bridge equipment as much as you can.

Remember, getting qualifications alone does not ensure you a place amongst higher ranks on a vessel. Your experience and actual practical knowledge also have to shine along with it. It is indeed a long passage of dedication and hard work. And trust us when we say this, this industry will literally test your patience and endurance on this path.

If you are someone who is ready to embark on this adventure, we would highly advise you to contact us. We will be happy to help you carve this path in South Africa. Happy Sailing!

Qualifications to be a Captain on a Superyacht