Starting a career on superyachts

I am leaving school with good exam grades.

If you have good GCSE or A level grades, the most cost- and time-effective method of getting onto a superyacht is to enrol in the Merchant Navy as an engineer officer cadet. You'll be paid a wage by a sponsoring company and they will also pay your course fees. At the end of a three year period of study (depending upon starting qualifications) you should be awarded a Merchant Navy Officer of the Watch certificate. This is much quicker than the specialist yacht route and is a far superior qualification, with fewer limitations on the size and power of yacht you'll be able to work on. It will also speed up your career progression towards chief engineer. Find out more about officer cadet training programmes on the Warsash Maritime Academy website.

I am leaving school and have not achieved the exam grades I expected.

Your best way forward is to get practical experience on yachts and learn on the job. Ideally you'll have transferable skills from school (woodwork, metalwork or similar). Your first step is to get a position on a yacht to achieve a minimum of one month’s service as a yacht engineer. This will qualify you to attend a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) recognised training provider and obtain Approved Engine Course 1 and 2 certificates. We are in partnership with yacht recruitment agencies that can assist in this process.

What are the Approved Engine Courses?

These are elementary engineering courses designed for masters and chief mates who don’t have an engineer on board, and candidates starting their career as an engineer on yachts. They are week-long combined classroom and workshop based courses and will teach you the fundamental skills and knowledge required to start you on your career. It is not a requirement to have completed these courses, but if you are just starting out it shows commitment, willingness to progress and will increase your employability. To be accepted on these courses you have to be over 18 years of age, be in possession of a valid ENG1 and have completed the four basic STCW safety training courses.  Find out more about the course.

What is an ENG1 and how do I obtain one?

An ENG1 is a seafarers' medical fitness certificate which must be renewed every two years. You must have a valid certificate to work at sea. Find out more about seafarer medical certificates and approved doctors.

What are the four basic STCW safety training courses?

There are four basic training modules that every person working at sea is required to complete before they can be employed on a UK-registered vessel (Personal Survival Techniques, Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities, Elementary First Aid, Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting). This is a mandatory safety requirement and more advanced versions of these modules will have to be completed as your career progresses.  We offer the mandatory basic STCW safety training courses as a Basic Safety Training Week.

I have a degree, HND or apprenticeship in a technical subject and/or have been working ashore in an engineering based industry.

The small vessel engineering alternative route you must follow is well mapped out, however your previous experience and qualifications may give you exemptions from some or all of the modules. You must apply for a Letter of Initial Assessment, which will describe which elements you do need to do to gain your CoC. See our progression chart for further guidance.

I am a serving Merchant Navy engineer with a current CoC and want to transfer to superyachts.

It is highly recommended that you do not leave the Merchant Navy until you have obtained your Class 2 CoC, as this will allow you to reassess your career choice at any point from position of strength.  Please refer to MIN 524, which explains the conversion routes available to the small vessel engineering CoCs.

Many owners are beginning to recognise that Merchant Navy officers have undergone a much more robust training regime than yacht engineers and are prepared to pay a premium for this. The large yachts, because of their tonnage and engine size, can only employ engineers with a full Merchant Navy CoC, however not all Merchant Navy personnel are considered suitable for superyachts: they generally prefer to recruit staff with the social skills obtained from serving on cruise ships.

NOTE: do not fall foul of the difference between sea time and yacht service when going for a superior qualification (described later on).

Progressing your career on superyachts

What is involved in the engineering skills test?

The engineering skills test is carried out in our engineering workshop and is normally completed in less than five days. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your fitting skills.  There will be instructors in the workshop to give you guidance; they are not supposed to give you any tuition.

Before attempting the test you should be able to complete the following tasks:

  • Be able to mark out, drill, hacksaw and file some test pieces from a drawing to a reasonable tolerance, finishing off with 90 degree edges
  • Manufacture from a blank a drive key for a shaft and coupling
  • Dismantle and overhaul; the SDNR valve, Centrifugal pump and Squirrel cage motor.

I have been working on a yacht and need to get a certificate of competency.

Assuming you already have your Letter of Initial Assessment, you should be looking towards gaining your qualifying sea time before attending your certification courses.

Before you are permitted to sit a yacht engineering examination you must have attended an MCA recognised training course and gained a course completion certificate.

Do I have to pass my exams in any particular order?

You can sit your exams in any order that suits your personal circumstances. However, you should bear in mind that you have only three years to obtain your CoC after you have sat an exam.

Why should I study with Warsash rather than another approved training establishment?

Our students enjoy well above industry standard exam pass rates.

Can I buy a set of course notes?

They are only available when booking a course. 

Can I use Enhanced Learning Credits (ELC) at Warsash?

We are an ELCAS approved training provider. If you have ELCAS funding available to you, you can use it to pay for your training.  All you need to do is let us know that you will be accessing your ELCAS funding, and provide us with the relevant forms to complete on your behalf when making a booking with us. Search for Solent on the ELCAS website to see a list of our approved courses.

What happens in exams if I am dyslexic?

Candidates undertaking an MCA written exam conducted by SQA/IAMI who have been diagnosed as dyslexic by either an educational psychologist or a specialist dyslexia teacher may be allowed an extra 15 minutes for each hour of normal examination time. Please note that the request for the extra time must be made at least two weeks prior to the exam date and must be accompanied by the relevant paperwork.

The MCA will not allow the use of readers, scribes or computers; however, other aides, such as tinted film, are permitted. If you have been assessed, and an increased exam time has been agreed, it will remain valid for all future exams, until the tenth anniversary of the assessors report. MIN 435 explains the MCA dyslexia policy in detail.

How do I get my exam results?

We are an exam centre for Scottish Qualification Association (SQA) exams. The student is a client of the SQA therefore we are not the point of contact for your results. They are usually sent out within eight weeks of sitting the exam. It is recommended that you have your results sent to a UK address.

I have passed an engineering module, what is the 'three year rule'?

Modules are valid for three years from the date of issue of the pass certificate. If you have not passed your oral exam and all modules within a three-year period, your modules will expire and you will have to take them again. Gaining your MN CoC removes this requirement for the modules appertaining to that certificate.

I have failed an engineering module, what now?

You can resit the examination at a licensed SQA examination centre anywhere in the world. They will require you to produce the relevant course completion certificate and pay the SQA exam fee plus their administration costs. The SQA  have now published a fixed timetable for yacht exams. In addition to these dates, an exam centre can request additional dates as long as they have five or more candidates for that paper. This means that, in practice, you will only be able to resit if an exam centre is advertising the particular module you need.

We are committed to our students’ success and will therefore allow a student who has one of our course completion certificates to attend the entire module again, as a revision course, prior to resitting the exam. This is offered at the reduced fee, under the condition that you are not displacing a student who would be paying the full fee. The fee includes the SQA exam and an up-to-date study guide. Contact admissions for up-to-date information on the fee.

How long is a course completion certificate valid for?

Your course completion certificate is valid for three years. If you haven't passed the exam within a three year period you must attend the course again before being allowed to resit the exam.

I have passed my entire written exams and skills test, what’s next?

Provided that you have accrued sufficient sea time and yacht service you can apply for a Notice of Eligibility; this will allow you to sit an oral exam at the MCA

What is the difference between sea time and yacht service?

Please note, these requirements have changed on several occasions recently and it is important you carefully study the MCA M Notices.

What is a Notice of Eligibility (NOE)?

When you have accrued sufficient sea time to sit an oral exam with the MCA, you are required to apply for an NOE. This form can be downloaded from the MCA website and must be returned with ORIGINAL COPIES all of your supporting documentation (sea service testimonials, STCW certificates, exam pass certificates and ENG1) to prove that you are eligible for an oral examination.

Isn’t it a bit risky sending all this important documentation in the post?

You can take your documents to the MCA in Southampton and they will take photocopies of the originals. If you are not able to do this, sending by courier or Royal Mail recorded delivery is the next best thing. 

How long is an NOE valid for?

An NOE is valid for five years from date of issue, and for three years after a successful oral exam. You must apply for your NOE well in advance of your anticipated exam date as they can take up to six weeks to be processed.

Where can I take my oral exam?

Once you have your NOE you can book your oral exam at any of the MCA offices throughout the UK. The MCA you have chosen will not confirm your booking until you have received your NOE. Be aware that they do have busy periods so it is best to book your oral well in advance to ensure you get your preferred date. See the list of MCA offices.

What if I fail my oral exam?

It depends upon how badly you fail. If you didn't come up to the required standard, the examiner will advise you of what you failed on and suggest a suitable strategy. However if you made a fundamental error with respect to safety then a sea time penalty may be imposed. MIN 451 has further information about time required between re-sits of oral exams.

I have a yacht CoC, can I convert this to a full Merchant Navy (Unlimited) CoC to enable me to work on the larger yachts?

This is possible but will not be easy! It will involve you spending 540 hours in an engineering workshop to complete the tasks in the MNTB training record book. You will probably need to gain sea service on a Merchant Navy vessel and in addition you may have to pass the six academic modules plus the senior management engineeering knowledge and motor exams. Full details of this process are laid out in MSN 1857.

Do I need to attend a high voltage course?

You will not be required to have a high voltage operational or management certificate if you do not intend to work on vessels with high voltage systems. If you do not submit a course completion certificate your CoC will not be valid for service on vessels fitted with high voltage (over 1,000V) systems.

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