If you are looking for a career as a yacht engineer, we’ve compiled a breakdown of the qualifications and requirements needed to start out, insight into the job day-to-day and how to effectively land your dream position.
What Does a Yacht Engineer do?
Depending on type, size and usage of the yacht, the Engineering department (be that a Sole Engineer or a department of 6 or more Engineers) are responsible for the operation, maintenance and repair of all mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic, pneumatic and in some cases, structural systems and appendages found on board a modern yacht and superyacht.
Skills Needed to be a Successful Yacht Engineer
The role requires a keen eye for planning and organisation, as planned maintenance (carrying out preventative and explorative maintenance before failures occur) is a very important aspect in modern marine engineering. Skills in project management, resource allocation and time management are very desirable in addition to extensive and diverse technical ability. Many yachts employ software programs to aid a methodical approach to planned and preventative maintenance and to record failures and repairs as they occur as well as keeping an accurate inventory of spares held on board. Being able to efficiently use such software programs efficiently would be highly advantageous. Examples of these asset management programs are AMOS and IDEA.
Challenges as an Engineer Onboard a Yacht
Engineering on a superyacht has particular challenges as some yachts (particularly charter yachts) can be very busy, meaning a very fast paced and demanding environment. High expectations from owners and guests in regards to service and entertainment also puts a keen onus on engineering departments to keep all systems working to minimise or eliminate down time and negative impacts on the itinerary. Of course, when the yacht is at sea, many of these systems are safety critical and break downs and failures offshore bring a whole new set of challenges and risks.
Which qualifications do I need to get in to superyacht engineering?
There are really two main entry routes in to yacht and superyacht engineering which follow two distinct certification pathways – entering from commercial shipping, or working through yacht-based certification routes.
Commercial Shipping Route of Training for Yacht Engineering
The Commercial Shipping route most commonly begins with a sponsored cadetship with a shipping company working in partnership with maritime training provider. Candidates must apply to one of a number of cadetship schemes and if accepted will undertake usually 3 years of study and work experience on the sponsoring companies’ vessels, culminating very often in the Officer of the Watch (Engineering) or ‘EOOW’ ticket and usually either an HND or BSc Degree in Marine Engineering or similar.
Once the EOOW certificate is in hand, candidates can be considered suitably qualified and experienced for junior engineering officer roles on large yachts. A common first yachting job for EOOW qualified candidates is 3rd Engineer. The main advantage of a cadetship is that seatime is gained quickly and on vessels over 3000 GT, allows for a ticket which is ‘unlimited’ by tonnage as all yacht engineering certificates are. This opens the door to working on the world’s largest mega and superyachts.
Also, the sponsoring company pays for all courses and examinations which would be extremely expensive if self-sponsored, and very often a small training bursary is paid on top (some as much as €11,000 / year). The biggest disadvantage is that candidates who ultimately want to work on superyachts will have to commit to different types of vessel for the duration of the cadetship – these are likely to be chemical tankers or containerships, but most of the large luxury cruise ship companies also offer cadetships which is in some ways closer to the yachting industry. One facilitator of maritime cadetships is the Warsash Maritime Academy – see here.
Yacht Certification Route of Training for Engineering
This route is made up of 6 key certificates:
The Approved Engine Course (AEC) – often seen as the base-minimum for superyacht engineers who wish to work on yachts over 24m LOA. Usually a 4-day course covering the theory of compression-ignition (diesel) engines and includes a large amount of practical workshops. The full syllabus can be found here. One common provider of AEC courses is Bluewater Yachting in Antibes – see here.
The Marine Engine Operators Licence (MEOL) – This is the first certificate in the yacht route that requires sea service, specific shore based learning and an oral exam. Further details can be found in MSN 1859 here.
Y4 Engineer – The first of what is commonly referred to as the ‘Y Tickets’ – Y4 allows engineers to work as Chief Engineer on yachts between 200 and 500GT and up to 1500Kw in propulsive power.
Y3 Engineer – Allows engineers to work as Chief Engineer on yachts up to 3000GT and up to 3000KW in propulsive power.
Y2 Engineer – Allows engineers to work as Chief Engineer on yachts up to 3000GT and up to 6000KW in propulsive power.
Y1 Engineer – Allows engineers to work as Chief Engineer on yachts up to 3000GT and up to 9000KW in propulsive power.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have simplified the Y ticket structure however, and page 19 of MIN 524 provides a simple conversion table from Y tickets to the new standard – Small Vessel (or SV) tickets.
Some course providers are now offering yachting cadetships – one example is this one provided by the UKSA in Cowes on the Isle of Wight –see more here.
How are Engineering Departments Structured on Yachts?
Engineering departments vary widely according to the type, size and usage of the yacht in question, but most large yachts will have some or all of the following roles on board:
Chief Engineer (or Sole Engineer on smaller yachts with only one engineer)
The Chief Engineer is in overall command of all Engineering operations on board and is the senior advisor to the Captain on all matters related to the condition and serviceability of the yachts engines, propulsion, ancillaries and hotel systems. Although Captains always retain supreme responsibility for the safety of the vessel, all the best captains will work very closely with the Chief Engineer and take heed of any advice and requests they make – after all, they are highly trained, experienced and knowledgeable subject matter experts. Chief Engineers are responsible for ensuring that the Yacht is in all respects compliant with the relevant laws and regulations governing the serviceability of the yachts systems and equipment. They are pivotal in ensuring the yacht passes any relevant flag state, port state or P&I club surveys and inspections.
Some of the very largest yachts afloat employ a 1st Engineer similar to those employed on Cruise Ships. If a 1st Engineer is employed, they will take operational (day-to-day) command of the engineering team, supervising engineering tasks and allocating work as appropriate. This allows the Chief Engineer to concentrate on the large amount of paperwork and business management necessary on board a very large yacht.
The more common understudy to the Chief Engineer, the 2nd Engineer often has responsibility for Engine Room maintenance and will take on many of the more challenging maintenance and repair tasks as required. The 2nd Engineer acts as a supervisor for more junior crew, and in some cases will be able to deputise for the Chief Engineer if required.
The 3rd Engineer will have specific duties, which may include maintenance of the ship’s lifeboats, tenders, jet skis, toys and deck equipment like winches, davits and hatchways. Very often 3rds are responsible for interior maintenance. Again, areas of responsibility vary from yacht to yacht. 3rd Engineers are often focused on gaining the requisite experience and ‘seatime’ to progress to 2nd Engineer.
The most junior engineering officer on board, the 4th is very often new to Marine Engineering and is learning the trade. 4th Engineers are often engaged in structured learning programs, or at least splitting their time between phases at sea learning on the job with phases ashore attending courses. Again, this can vary widely across the industry.
A junior, but important role found almost exclusively on large yachts in excess of around 100m, the motorman (not gender-specific!) is responsible for the operation and basic maintenance of the yachts main engines and engine room systems. They may assist in starting and stopping large engines and generators, operating switch panels under the supervision of an officer or senior engineer and reporting anything unusual. Engine room cleanliness and order will be an important part of the role.
Wiper / Oiler
On the largest yachts, especially those operating medium speed diesels or older conventional ship propulsion technology, a wiper and oiler may be employed in addition to the above with a focused role keeping engines and machinery spaces clean, and keeping greased bearings fed or keeping open rockers oiled etc. An ability to access confined spaces is often useful, and a keen eye for cleanliness in bilges and bunded tanks etc is often a must.
How To Find a Job as a Superyacht Engineer
Once you have the relevant qualifications, then comes the time to start looking for your first position. Of course, word of mouth and personal connections made through training are a fantastic way to gain knowledge on current positions available however, also consider the following:
Dockwalking – travel to one of the main superyacht hubs like Palma, Antibes or La Ciotet and walk the docks asking yachts if they need engineering crew. Make sure you take a proper CV, written references and go well presented. Be polite and be prepared for a good deal of face-to-face rejection, however don’t take it personally.
Use a reputable crew agent such as wilsonhalligan who is MLC 2006 compliant, vastly experienced and a well respected crew recruitment agency in the industry who does the dock walking for you!