What crew training do I need to work on a superyacht?

Offered By JPMA - John Percival Marine Associates (Hoylake Sailing School)

With thanks to IMSA and JPMA - John Percival Marine Associates (Hoylake Sailing School)

The superyacht industry is an exciting and rewarding choice of employment, and quality crew-training courses are essential, and often required, for life on board.

Desk Training

Whether it’s your first job in the maritime industry or you’re looking to progress in your yachting career, the right training ensures crew members hold the essential skills that may be needed in an emergency at sea.

Understanding the different yachting qualifications that are required for any given role on board a superyacht can be a daunting task. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of qualifications and specialist courses to help you gauge what training is needed for different roles on a yacht.

Required crew training and certificates

If you plan to work as a crew member on a superyacht there are two mandatory certificates needed to get on board:

1. ENG1 Seafarer Medical Certificate

ENG1 Seafarer Medical Certificate is a UK medical examination to prove you are fit to work at sea. An MCA-approved doctor must issue all applicants with an ENG1 Medical Certificate or equivalent.

Learn more about the ENG1 here, or find an MCA-approved doctor in your area.

2. STCW Basic Safety Training

STCW Basic Safety Training is a mandatory qualification required by all crew hoping to work on a commercial or charter yacht larger than 24 metres (78 feet).

Learn more about the STCW here, or find an STCW crew-training provider here.

Superyacht job roles: What am I qualified for?

Yacht deckhands

A deckhand is an entry-level role for employment aboard a superyacht. A sailing qualification is not essential, but will always be preferred, helping you to stand out among the competition./p>

The minimum requirements for a job as a deckhand are the STCW Basic Safety Training and ENG1, however a solid deckhand will also be armed with the following skills and certificates:

  • VHF Radio
  • RYA Radar
  • RYA Competent Crew
  • MCA Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)
  • RYA Powerboat Level 2
  • RYA Tender Operator or IYT tender driving license
  • PWC Personal Watercraft Proficiency
  • General GRP and carpentry repairs

Yacht stewards/stewardesses

A steward or stewardess’s priority is to look after the guests and the interior of the yacht. In most cases, there will be a chief stew who will lead a number of assistant and junior stews – a great entry-level pathway into the industry.

The minimum requirements needed to work as a stew are the STCW Basic Safety Training qualification and an ENG1 Medical Certificate, however a good stew will be keen to progress and could therefore potentially be trained with the following certificates:

  • An interior crew-training course or courses, such as the PYA GUEST Program
  • STCW Proficiency in Medical First Aid
  • STCW Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats
  • VHF Radio Short Range Certificate (GMDSS/DSC)
  • RYA Powerboat Level 2
  • PWC Personal Watercraft Proficiency
  • MCA Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)
  • MCA Human Element, Leadership and Management (HELM) at Operational Level

Learn more about yacht stewardess training courses and progression.

Yacht chefs

Yacht chefs are responsible for purchasing and preparing high-quality food for both the crew and guests. In terms of qualifications, experience is key – having a good history of creating wonderful dishes is essential, whether it’s gained from working in a hotel or on board a previous vessel.

Alongside STCW Basic Safety Training and ENG1, yacht chefs are required to have completed the Ships Cook Assessment if cooking for 10 or more crew members. Most chefs will also be required to have the relevant health and hygiene certificates, such as a Level Three Diploma in Professional Cookery, and the HABC Level Two and Three.

First mates/chief officers

The first mate/chief officer is the captain's right-hand man or woman, in charge of the deckhands and other exterior crew members. Mandatory requirements include an Officer of the Watch certificate for yachts less than 3000GT.

An extensive background on deck will be necessary, and a number of qualifications would be beneficial for this role, including:

  • RYA Yachtmaster Offshore or IYT Master of Yachts <200gt
  • RYA Yachtmaster Ocean or IYT Master of Yachts <200gt Unltd
  • Master (code vessels) <200gt CoC
  • OOW (Yachts) <3000gt CoC 
  • Chief Mate (Yachts) <3000gt CoC

Yacht engineers

The role of the yacht engineer is well-rewarded and highly sought after. The engineer will manage the inner workings of the boat, ensuring all systems are running smoothly and carrying out maintenance and repairs when needed.

Yacht engineers usually begin their career by obtaining their STCW Basic Safety Course and ENG1 Medical Certificate. Experience can be gained or taught on the job whilst working towards their first CoC of Y4 or Small Vessel 2nd Engineer after around three years on board.

Find out more about training and progression for yacht engineers.

Captains or masters

The yacht captain is the leader of the vessel. To become a captain, you must possess extensive experience working on board boats, considerable training and a number of qualifications.

However, it’s not uncommon for a captain to have the majority of the following:

  • Master (code vessels) <200gt CoC
  • Master (Yachts) <500gt CoC
  • Master (Yachts) <3000gt CoC

A substantial background as a first mate/chief officer is typically expected, along with budgeting, navigation and insurance experience, and some knowledge of engineering.

The captain must also be very skilled and comfortable leading a team and should be very personable, as he or she will have to deal with the crew and the guests of the boat on a daily basis, who, in the majority of cases, will be very influential people who are used to exceptional levels of service. It's also important to have a basic understanding of the legal aspects of working on a yacht.

What to look for in your crew-training provider

Crew trainers should be approved and accredited, abiding by the strict guidelines in the industry, and Certificate of Competency’s (CoC’s) from all over the world are accepted on many yachts. However, although they are not the only ones used in yachting, UK MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency) CoC’s are regarded as more superior.

Your crew-training centre should be able to demonstrate to the MCA that training will be delivered under the supervision of personnel who have a thorough knowledge of the practical application of modern methods, systems and procedures.

IMSA, a specialist in worldwide ISPS Code maritime training, sheds some light from their perspective, “The most important aspect of the trainer is that he/she must be able to demonstrate total knowledge of the subject matter, and have the relevant practical and commercial experience in the subject and operations of vessels to impart that experience to the delegates so that they benefit from both the theory and the experience". 

The information above should be helpful as you set about embarking on a career in yachting, or if you're looking to advance your career on board. Remember, there's no such thing as too much training, so if you regularly look to add a new skill or qualification to your crew CV it will stand you in good stead in the long run.

Search for certified crew training providers before you embark on your crew career. You can find more invaluable information and advice in our crew articles. 

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