How much sea service do I need to be eligible for an Officer of the Watch Unlimited?

How much sea service do I need to be eligible for an Officer of the Watch Unlimited?

In order to obtain your OOW Unlimited through the HNC Exam Route for Experienced Seafarers you will need either 36 months' sea service on a merchant ship of at least 24 metres in length of not less than 80GT, or 36 months' sea service on a yacht over 24 metres.

The 36 months' sea service on a yacht will follow the service definitions in  MSN 1858 (M+F):

Sea Service = Actual Sea Service + Standby Service (max 14 days between voyages) + Yard Service (max 90 days in total).

You will need a total combined figure of 1,080 days. There can be multiple periods of stand-by service as along as the yacht proceeded to sea in between. 

At least six months of the qualifying sea service must have been performed within the five years preceding the application for a Notice of Eligibility (NoE).

Make sure you apply using MSF 4274 but submit Sea Service Testimonials in accordance with MSN 1858, section 4.

You will also need a letter from the captain or the management company confirming 'that the candidate has been involved in navigational watchkeeping duties under the supervision of a certificated officer duties for at least 6 months'. Anyone holding a OOW (Yachts, less than 3,000GT) is exempt from having to provide evidence of watchkeeping activities.

Note also, that we are talking about being 'involved in watchkeeping duties' and not about 'watchkeeping service'. The MCA wants to see that you have been involved with some bridge operations and not exclusively been working on deck. 'Watchkeeping service' is only for officers who are in charge of navigational watch and want to move up the career ladder from OOW/Chief Mate to Master.


Service may be performed on vessels of any flag. Candidates who are serving in a dual engine and deck capacity will have their service counted at the rate of 50%.

See also the OOW Unlimited section.

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