The course was developed to address the increasing demand for yacht captains on vessels over 3,000 gross tons (gt). Yachts continue to get bigger and once they exceed 3,000gt, owners fill the position of captain from the ranks of merchant mariners, as the options to upgrade 3,000gt were not available for yachting personnel without reverting to commercial sea time.
Amy Beavers, VP Regulatory Compliance, MPT explained, “The Capstone Course in itself is not the intended end result or career advantage. The Capstone Course is intended to serve as the final assessment as well as familiarization of RMI law to allow a candidate to be issued the Certificate of Competency from the RMI. They cannot enter the Capstone until they have met all other prerequisites including command sea service on large yachts and training to meet STCW tables for Masters of over 3,000gtvessels (with the exception of cargo ship training which is irrelevant on yachts).”
Captain John Hafner, Vice President, Seafarers’ Manning & Training, International Registries, Inc. (IRI), which provides administrative and technical support to the RMI Maritime and Corporate Registries, worked with MPT for nearly two years to establish the program that addresses the gap in yacht credentialing. He emphasized that the designation of Master is not diminished by the Capstone Course emphasis on yachting (not commercial) vessels. He himself is a graduate of the State University of New York Maritime College and has spent more than 20 years in commercial shipping. As he explained, “the bar is set high for a Master of Yachts Unlimited Tonnage and it should be.”
One of the critical factors in assessing the Capstone Course participants is a simulator assessment which was designed by Captain Hafner. His goal was to make the hours at the simulator intense. Successful execution of the simulated challenges will assure Captain Hafner that the Master has the practical skills to maintain the safety of the vessel, the environment and the passengers. He clarified, “the simulator gives me a realistic opportunity to evaluate performance under the stress and unexpected circumstances that are present when at the helm.”
The application requirements for the Capstone Course are available here. Masters who meet the 14 prerequisites and have the relevant sea time, may apply to the RMI for approval to take the week long assessment and testing. Beavers reminds candidates wishing to apply for the Capstone Course to “keep in mind that the final assessments are similar to Coast Guard master- unlimited examinations and most of that material will come from self-study, previous knowledge and other courses taken for this upgrade and throughout their career.”
The first graduate of the Capstone Course was Captain Roberto Beretta. He held an Italian commercial Master License (to 3,000gt) and a commercial OOW Unlimited when he began to explore how to prepare for opportunities on board larger yachts. He met with Captain Hafner and “realized the requirements for the application were very stringent – this was the first hint the Capstone Course was a serious thing and not just a paper you pay for.”
Captain Baretta did additional coursework and study review for six months before he determined he was ready for the exam. Theory and practice are evaluated during the week of exams. Captain Baretta considers the entire process an enriching experience to both refresh knowledge and delve deeper into areas. He recommends the “RMI license be recognized and endorsed by as many administrations as possible … opening possibilities to me and others who will do it.”
Captain Baretta completed the coursework while maintaining his position aboard but warns the time and financial investment is significant. Beavers cautions, “the candidate can maintain their current position but will need to be able to attend numerous training courses and have sufficient study time to pass the final written and practical examinations included in the Capstone Course week. If the candidates can plan in advance and spread out the training, this may help them. If they are currently working on a new build, the process may be easier as they can travel back and forth between the school and the shipyard or take periods of leave to complete their training in a more intense schedule.”
There are a number of Masters in various stages of the application, training and study process for the Capstone Course/exam. The first step for candidates is to apply to the RMI in order to qualify. Planning is essential. MPT has schedules set up about a year in advance to assist in coordinating around work commitments. MPT has some ability to customize program dates.
The Capstone Course for Master (Yachts) Unlimited Tonnage was developed to address the growing need for captains on yachts over 3,000gt. The RMI and MPT recognized that the expectations of owners of large yachts might not be in sync with that of typical (commercial sector) merchant mariners licensed to command vessels over 3,000gt. The introduction of this yacht based STCW II/2 Certificate of Competency not only offers owners an option to retain a preferred and respected captain, it also maintains the yachting culture on the largest yachts.