Officer of the Watch - Unlimited from Yacht Certification

How to get to unlimited certification from yacht certification

HNC Exam Route for Experienced Seafarers

"How do I get my Officer of the Watch (Unlimited)?" is a popular question within the yacht sector. Now that sea time gained on board yachts counts towards OOW (Unlimited) certification, continuing a career along the unlimited route is easier than ever.

EclipseThere are many reasons to consider getting your OOW (Unlimited) certificate of competency (CoC):

  • Work as a deck officer on any vessel, including yachts above 3,000GT (which will be classed as passenger yachts or passenger ships)
  • Work on yachts where the yacht asks for officers with unlimited certification (even if less than 3,000GT)
  • Optimise chances for career success and gaining an advantage when applying for top positions in the yacht sector
  • Increase knowledge base, as well as gaining an academic qualification
  • Open up additional maritime career options outside the yacht sector.

The ability to progress to Master Mariner (Unlimited) is the pinnacle of maritime education and training. Many recruitment agencies are reporting that deck officers with unlimited certification AND yacht experience are in very high demand.

How does it work?

Achievement of unlimited certification is less daunting than it might initially seem. In 2011, the rules with regard to sea time changed, and sea service gained on yachts over 24 metres does now count towards unlimited certification.

A crew member with 36 months' (1,080 days) qualifying sea service on a yacht over 24 metres and 80GT, who has been involved in bridge watchkeeping duties for at least six months, will be able to apply for a Notice of Eligibility to take a course leading to an OOW (Unlimited) CoC.

Sea service is counted in the following way:

  • All actual sea service plus stand-by service (to a maximum of 14 consecutive days in one period, regardless of any further time spent standing by) plus yard time (to a maximum of 90 days). The total must equal or exceed 1,080 days.
  • Further periods of stand-by may be counted, but only when the vessel returns after proceeding to sea on passage.

Candidates should ensure that they apply using the MCA form MSF 4274 but submit yacht sea service testimonials in accordance with MSN 1858, section 4.

NOTE: You do not need to hold an RYA/IYT yacht master or Officer of the Watch (Yachts less than 3,000GT) to be eligible to attend this programme.

IMPORTANT: we strongly recommend that you apply for your Notice of Eligibility (NoE) before applying for this programme. This confirms that the MCA will accept your qualifying sea service.

How long does it take?

The overall duration of the programme is 27 weeks. HNC tuition and assessment lasts for 23 weeks and includes bridge watchkeeping, navigation, chartwork, tides, emergency response and communications, cargo work, meteorology, ship stability, ship construction, and law and management.

At the end of the course you will also sit two SQA written exams (Navigation and Stability and Operations). On successful completion a Higher National Certificate (HNC) Nautical Science will be awarded.

Read more about the course content 

What is included in the programme?

You will undertake a two-term course of study with continuous assessment and end of course tests in most subjects, plus the two written SQA exams mentioned above. The programme also includes: Efficient Deck Hand (EDH), NAEST(O), HELM(O), MCA Signals, SQA exam preparation and MCA oral exam preparation.  

NOTE: by completing NAEST(O) you will also be issued with an MCA-approved generic ECDIS certificate. The OOW (Unlimited) CoC can be endorsed to also serve as a chief mate (yachts less than 3,000GT) by additionally completing the five-day Human Element, Leadership and Management (Management Level) course.

You must also hold STCW certificates in: Medical First Aid, Advanced Fire Fighting, Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSCRB) and GMDSS GOC before taking your MCA oral exam. These courses can be taken at Warsash.

What our students say

Over the years we have had many candidates coming through with a yacht background. They tend to excel on this programme and regularly achieve outstanding results.

"I loved the course and felt I learnt an incredible amount. It was far tougher than I expected but I have an incredible feeling of achievement. I thank all the lecturers for so willingly sharing their knowledge, and I speak for all the students with me on this course when I say that we had a very challenging but enjoyable and rewarding seven months. We look forward to seeing you soon for the mates and masters course." 
Joe Arch, second officer and OOW unlimited graduate.

Read our full "How to" guide for further information:

How to Gain OOW Unlimited Certification When Working in Yachting

Other progression routes

Other progression route options include a deck cadet foundation degree route and a deck cadet HND route. 

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