Certification versus qualification

Recently we have seen an increase in yachts registered under Belgian flag. Especially for commercial yachts the lenient coding process seems to be the selling point for flying the beautiful (not) black, yellow and red colours of my home country.

The issue however lies with the safe manning rules. Irrelevant of the yacht’s size, the captain must be a holder of an MCA Master 200 license, accepted under the STCW-95_II 2 convention. This is different from the Yachtmaster 200 Ton license which falls under the STCW-95_IV 4 convention.

The exams for the MCA license seem to be considerably more challenging than the RYA or IYT Yachtmaster exams. It’s safe to say that it’s a higher, more serious certificate.

Once again, none of this is relevant to Pocket Superyachts, in fact, this safe manning rule has an adverse effect.
The captains who have have studied for the MCA 200 (and it’s actually more common to find Master 500’s) usually aspire to command +100ft yacht. So when we have a client with a 60ft Belgian flagged commercial yacht we have to refuse perfectly qualified captains because they don’t hold the correct license. They usually hold the more popular Yachtmaster license.

Additionally the MCA studies don’t improve one’s skills relevant to -100ft yachts, at all…

While on the subject of certification versus qualification I will revisit my previous rants on the general lack of skills relevant to running -100ft yachts that we experience during our searches for quality crew.

Generally not being one to sit back and complain while looking at something that is wrong, I started developing an online course for Pocket Superyacht crew about 1,5 years ago.

Containing minimal overlap with the Yachtmaster syllabus our course covered subjects such as dealing with guests, common technical issues, handling deliveries and additional (temporary) crew, preparing for commercial coding, etcetera…

The bottleneck seems to be that the majority of young captains don’t seem so worried about learning these things as opposed to getting the required license first. I assume they reason that they can learn the rest on the job, or perhaps they generally underestimate the challenges they will face.

You could argue that it makes sense to invest first in the license that is crucial to get a job. However, the scary thing is that the Yachtmaster syllabus covers mainly navigation and safety, which is an important but small aspect of the required knowledge and skill. Additionally there seems to be great variation in the quality of the course depending on where you follow it. At least, that’s what I assume when I witness certain certified crew at work.

If anyone has any ideas on how we can encourage new talent to increase their hunger for knowledge and skill, I’d be happy to learn about it!


Picture: Belgium Yacht Registration


Article The Islander Magazine August 2019