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If you’re planning to get a job as crew on board a yacht, you’ll need to get an ENG1 Seafarer Medical Certificate (or equivalent) before you can begin working. Here’s a look into what the ENG1 is, why you need it and how you can set about obtaining yours.
The ENG1 is a medical examination set by the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) to assess whether individuals are fit to work on a seagoing vessel and perform duties at sea. You’ll need an ENG1 if you’re in charge of a ship (a captain), serving on a merchant ship, or a seafarer. You’ll also need an ENG1 for any UK Certificate of Competency (CoC).
The MLC (Maritime Labour Convention) states that every seafarer must have a valid medical certificate recognised by the administration before they can start work at sea - the ENG1 certificate being the one you need in order to work on a yacht or ship.
[Note: To become a crew member on board a domestic passenger ship that goes to sea, you’ll need an ML5 medical certificate.]
The only exception in regards the ENG1 is if you are going to work aboard a small commercial vessel for Area Category 2 to 6 (essentially one that doesn't venture more than 60 miles from a safe haven). In this case your would only require an ML5 medical certificate.
The ENG1 certificate is awarded upon completion of a basic medical examination, carried out by an MCA-Approved Doctor (AD). If you’re over 18, pass the examination and are considered to be in good health, your ENG1 certificate can be valid for up to two years (your doctor will clarify terms upon completion).
The purpose of the ENG1 examination is to establish whether you have any medical conditions that might prevent you from performing your duties on board. It ensures that you’re suitably fit and don’t suffer from a medical condition that could be worsened by time at sea, or endanger the health and safety of those around you.
Insurance companies require yachts to comply with safe-manning requirements in order for the yacht to be covered. This means that all crew must be fully STCW compliant (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) – and to obtain an STCW Basic Safety Certificate you need to have passed an ENG1 medical exam first.
Simply put, you’ll need to have passed your ENG1 to be able to work on a yacht, or gain any UK CoC. Some countries have their own equivalent seafarer medical certificates, with many of them accepted by the MCA for positions on board. Find a comprehensive list of the accepted certificates.
Seeing as you need an ENG1 certificate before you can start working on a yacht, it’s a good idea to undertake the medical examination as soon as you decide to embark on a career as yacht crew. It will then need to be renewed every two years.
Not only can the ENG1 be a prerequisite of any STCW mandatory training course, but it’s also beneficial for you to find out if there are any medical reasons that will prevent you from working in the yachting industry, or restrict which roles you can perform.
Only MCA-approved doctors can perform an ENG1 medical exam, so it’s not always as straightforward as visiting your local GP.
Fortunately there are numerous MCA-approved doctors around the UK that can carry out your ENG1 medical. You can also find a handful of approved doctors in most of the countries you would likely be seeking crew work (France, Spain, USA, etc.), giving you greater choice and flexibility.
The maximum fee for an ENG1 medical examination in the UK is £115. Outside the UK it's up to doctors to decide the fee as there are no government subsidies to support this practice. If you’re employed in the UK, your employer will cover the cost. If you need extra tests, you may be charged more. This must be agreed beforehand with whomever is paying for the ENG1.
Once you’ve booked an ENG1 medical examination with a certified doctor, it's worth noting what you need to take with you. This includes:
There's no need to be nervous ahead of your medical. An ENG1 examination is painless, non-invasive and easily carried out by a medical professional.
A standard ENG1 examination will include:
The speed of the exam can depend on the doctor and location, but everything should be completed within 30 to 40 minutes. If you pass, you should be issued with your ENG1 certificate straight away.
Drug screening is not a requirement during statutory seafarer medicals such as the ENG1 examination. However, because it will almost certainly be a condition of employment, it can be included in the ENG1 if there is a genuine clinical suspicion of adverse effects from drug use.
The use of stimulants and/or cannabis during periods of leave may not necessarily have an impact on the user's fitness when back at work, but the commonly used drug tests on board can detect substances up to several weeks after use and the user could find themselves embroiled in a serious contractual issue. Thus, if there is any doubt about a person's relationship with drugs, a test can be included in the ENG1 examination.
There are three possible outcomes for the ENG1 seafarer medical examination:
You may be awarded a ‘temporarily unfit certificate’ if the doctor has any concerns about your fitness. They may need to gain additional medical information from your doctor, or advice from an MCA chief medical advisor.
If you are found ‘permanently unfit’ for the ENG1, this result stands for at least five years. You’ll need to show clinical evidence proving the condition that caused this result has been reversed to be able to progress in your application. The examiner will issue an ENG3 Notice of Failure/Restriction if you’re found unfit or your ENG1 is restricted.
If you want to have an independent medical review, you must contact the MCA Seafarer Health and Safety Branch within one month of the ENG3 being issued. Find a list of MCA medical referees.
If you’ve failed based on the Ishihara Plate Screening which tests colour vision, you'll be able to undertake the Colour Assessment Diagnosis (CAD) test, which measures the severity and type of colour-vision loss and congenital deficiency, costing between £100 and £150. If this is failed, a restricted ENG1 may be issued. However, deck officers who have failed the Ishihara and CAD tests will be classed as ENG3 Cat 4 ‘Permanently Unfit’.
Once you've been awarded your certificate, you can proceed with your journey to launch a career as yacht crew!
Here are a few articles you may find helpful in getting on board:
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