From Deckhand to Captain

From Deckhand to Captain

As a young twentysomething, you might not have your sights set on climbing the ranks from Deckhand to Captain. However, with the right attitude and love for the industry, this highly esteemed title may be a realistic goal.

Not for the faint hearted, the ambitious career path is taxing as it is rewarding. Read on as we discuss the high-level requirements for your professional journey from Deckhand to Captain.

Deckhand to Captain, Step 1: 
Powerboat Level 2 and VHF / SRC marine radio certificate

Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Powerboat Level 2 (PB2) is an introductory powerboat training course. Also, considered a must-have in the industry because 98% of superyachts have watercraft on-board, such as jet skis and powerboats. The two-day course provides the skills and knowledge necessary to operate a powerboat up to 10 meters in length. Forming the basis of the International Certificate of Competence, this course covers,

  • Launching and recovery
  • Boat handling
  • Securing to a buoy
  • Anchoring
  • Leaving and coming alongside
  • Man overboard

A radio is an important piece of safety equipment on-board, which is why correct usage procedures are vital. The Short-Range Certificate (SRC) is the minimum qualification required to operate VHF (Very High Frequency) and DSC equipment (Digitised Message Broadcast). This includes both fixed and handheld equipment using international channels. On completion, the certification will enable unsupervised radio usage as well as the ability to supervise others usage. The one-day course will master the following,

  • Basic radio operation
  • Correct frequencies (channels) to be used
  • Distress, emergency and medical assistance procedures
  • Ship to shore calls
  • Digital Selective calling (DSC) using simulators
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
  • Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS)
  • Search and Rescue (SART)
Deckhand to Captain, Step 2:
RYA Day Skipper Theory Shorebased Certificate

Taught over 40 hours, this theoretical course will equip students with enough knowledge to navigate familiar waters by day. Providing a comprehensive introduction to cruising for inexperienced skippers, the course will also touch on the basics for lights, for night cruising. Course topics include,

  • The basics of seamanship
  • The essentials of coastal navigation and pilotage
  • Chartwork
  • Electronic charts
  • Position fixing
  • Plotting a course to steer
  • Weather forecasting and meteorology
  • Tides
  • Collision regulations
  • Construction, parts and equipment of a cruising boat
  • Emergency and safety procedures including distress calls, use of flares, safety harnesses, life jackets and life rafts.
Deckhand to Captain, Step 3:
RYA Intermediate Powerboat course

Building on previous RYA courses, this two-day course bridges the gap between PB2 and the Advanced Powerboat courses. It aims to teach the standard required to complete a short coastal passage by day on coastal waters using both traditional and electronic navigational techniques. More time is given to,

  • Planning a day cruise
  • Boat preparation
  • Boat handling
  • Pilotage
  • Passage making
  • Man overboard
Deckhand to Captain, Step 4:
RYA RADAR Operators course

Radar is the most versatile of all electronic navigation aids and is an important and effective tool. However, it can easily mislead those who don’t know how to adjust controls, understand its limitations, or interpret images correctly. As superyacht crew, the radar is generally used to conduct vessel tracking on a secondary radar screen during navigational watches. This one-day course assists in navigation and collision avoidance, covering

  • How the radar set works
  • How its adjustments and features affect the way it works
  • Target definition
  • Radar reflectors
  • Types of radar display
  • Radar plotting
  • The use of radar in navigation and collision avoidance
Deckhand to Captain, Step 5: 
RYA Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Shorebased

The advanced theoretical course builds on the knowledge gained from the shorebased Day Skipper course. Taught over 40 hours, the content is designed to stretch navigational knowledge. Equipping skippers to navigate safely on coastal and offshore passages both during day and night, course syllabus includes

  • Position fixing
  • Course shaping and plotting
  • Tidal knowledge
  • Use of almanacs and admiralty publications
  • Electronic position finding equipment
  • Taking and interpreting forecasts
  • Plotting weather systems
  • Weather predictions using a barometer and by observation
  • Collision regulations
  • Customs and excise regulations for cruising abroad
Deckhand to Captain, Step 6:
RYA Advanced Powerboat course

By now, skippers should be confident and practiced coastal powerboater’s. The 2-day course is the pinnacle of the RYA Powerboat scheme and requires experience in coastal powerboating for several seasons. Navigation at planning speed, weather, other challenges, and undertaking a night time passage will be covered during the course. The course outline entails,

  • Preparation for Sea
  • Boat Handling
  • Passage Making and Responsibility as Skipper
  • Pilotage
  • Meteorology
  • Rules of the Road
  • Use of Engines
  • Emergency Situations
  • Night Cruising
Deckhand to Captain, Step 7:
RYA / MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) Advanced Powerboat Examination

The final step! This exam is a practical day and night time test of boat handling and navigation, in the type of craft applicable to the National Powerboat Scheme.

The entry requirements include,

  • Minimum age: 17
  • Knowledge of navigation and chart work to Coastal skipper level
  • RYA VHF radio license
  • First Aid at Sea Certificate (STCW)
  • Logged Sea Time, 30 days, 2 as skipper, 800 miles, 12-night hours.
  • Logged Sea Time if you hold the Advanced course certificate, 20 days, 2 as skipper, 400 logged miles and 12-night hours (in addition to the sea time on the course)

Hot tip! There is a big difference between a deckhand who gained their 800 miles through relevant practical experience vs cleaning the stainless steel.

Congratulations! You’re a qualified Skipper!

The MCA recognises this qualification and could result in a complete change of career direction, including an increase in responsibility, seniority and pay. The door is now open to work on vessels up to 24m in length, operating in category 3, 4, 5 and 6 waters – that is up to 20 miles from a safe haven – day & night.

Begin your journey from Deckhand to Captain

If you’re serious about your career, feel free to contact our affiliates PYA for personalized advice. PYA have options that suits your position within the professional yachting community.

We are not a yacht management company; rather  an extension of your crew, acting as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. Virtual Pursers – The future of seamlessly, effortlessly, and efficiently navigating yacht administration. For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413. 

Maritime Administration

Cyber Security IMO Regulations

Cyber Security IMO Regulations

Maritime Administration
Ignorance is bliss? Not when it comes to Cyber Security.

Technology plays a critical role in our daily lives. Technological advancements are blisteringly fast compared to previous years, which is why it has become an urgent topic of discussion. In this digital era of ubiquitous computing, organizations without Cyber Security are at risk. Land, air, water and cyber; it’s recognised as the fourth ground for nation-states. 

As the drive towards digital transformation continues to ceaselessly gather momentum, industries need to reassess their security strategies. By not properly protecting the attack surface, private and public sectors leave themselves exposed to possible breaches.

What is Cyber Security Management and why is it so important?

In short, all connected digital systems are prone to cyber-attacks. Expanding networking capabilities to all corners of our lives can make us more efficient, but more susceptible. 2020 catapulted industries online, with cyber security becoming a top priority for businesses. The pandemic has effectively become a catalyst for cyber security threats to rise exponentially, with all sectors being vulnerable. Connecting to the internet also means connecting to potential cyber threats. Attackers are always on the prowl to compromise systems. Generally, hackers are motivated by financial gain via corporate espionage or by acquiring personal data. Not having “top secret type government information” or “lifestyles of the rich and famous” does not make one untouchable.

Maritime Cyber Security Risk

While the threat is very real, the yachting industry has been quite lackadaisical until recently. Reality is – the fancier the yacht, the greater the risk. Adding complexities to ensure an immersive, bespoke experience, has resulted in modern superyachts closely resembling an enterprise-grade network. Vessels are more connected than ever before. Despite the cutting-edge technologies to allow for reliability, efficiency, and safety, cyber security seems to have fallen by the wayside. A breach is troubling in any business; however, consequences could be far more serious in the maritime environment. Don’t assume to know what hackers want. Money may not be the only motive, terrorism is a scary reality. “A successful breach of a vessel’s control systems can potential grant the assailant the ability to take control of bridge systems and control the vessel’s operational functions from anywhere in the world, in real time”, Super Yacht News

IMO Cyber Security Regulations

“When we talk about cyber security, it is not a matter of if you will be attacked but when. In order to deal with that, you should have a risk management approach on it and this what the IMO is introducing.” Mr. Chronis Kapalidis, Cyber Expert, HudsonAnalytix

Because of the ever-rising threat of an inevitable attack, the IMO has put cyber security regulations in place for compliance by 2021. The MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3 guidelines enforce a mechanism for dealing with risk rather than listing controls that should be implemented. Not reinventing the wheel, the IMO decided to build off established international frameworks for cyber risk management, adopting five functions that represent a holistic approach to cyber risk management: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover. By taking this functional approach, captains and security officials have the flexibility to use their discretion to tailor a program that effectively meets the requirements of their vessel without becoming excessively onerous.

NIST Cyber Security Framework

Not industry or size specific, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (“CSF”) is a useful benchmark which the maritime industry can refer to when developing internal regulations and standards.

The CSF features five core functions,

  • Identify: Define personnel roles and responsibilities for cyber risk management and identify the systems, assets, data and capabilities that, when disrupted, pose risks to ship operations.
  • Protect: Implement risk control processes and measures, and contingency planning to protect against a cyber-event and ensure continuity of shipping operations.
  • Detect: Develop and implement activities necessary to detect a cyber event in a timely manner.
  • Respond: Develop and implement activities and plans to provide resilience and to restore systems necessary for shipping operations or services impaired due to a cyber-event.
  • Recover: Identify measures to back-up and restore cyber systems necessary for shipping operations impacted by a cyber-event.

Is your vessel ready for IMO’s Cyber Security compliance?

“It’s been decided that no later than the annual verification of each company’s Document of Compliance, the 1st of January 2021, all shipping companies will be mandated to ensure that cyber risks are appropriately addressed in existing safety management systems (as defined in the ISM Code)”, Pelion Consulting

With a strong background in the yachting sector, Virtual Pursers recommend Pelion Consulting to ensure Safety Management Systems are updated and ready for audit after the deadline date.

Maritime Administration

Virtual Pursers are not a yacht management company; we are an extension of your crew and act as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. As trusted yachting professionals with 20 years combined industry experience, we are here to help as well as to keep you informed on relevant industry related news and updates! For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.

The Role of a Purser

The Role of a Purser

Size means everything in the superyacht world. Although, the bigger the yacht, the more pertinent the role of a Purser. As yachts increase in size, so do the administrative pressures faced by Captains and their shoreside counterparts. This explains the significant growth the Yacht Purser job role has had over the past few years. Soon, the role of a Purser will hold the same weight as the more familiar yacht crew jobs. Without a Purser, the ever-increasing regulations and administrative workload could be detrimental to the proper functioning of the vessel.

What is a Yacht Purser?

The need for a Purser exists on larger yachts with the sole purpose to ensure seamless operations. Under the Captain’s direction, the Purser is essentially responsible for the effective and smooth running of the vessel. As a senior crew member, the Purser manages several areas, including HR, accounts, interior, purchasing, inventory, and legal aspects. The role of the Purser is to be the single point of contact for all department heads. A credible and qualified Purser should create uniformity and streamline administrative duties, making them an invaluable asset to the Yacht.

What does the role of a Purser entail?

Pursers generally have multiple essential and important duties. Some of these tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Finance – Takes ownership of all fiscal matters including accounting, budgeting and bookkeeping
  • Buyer – Purchases everything needed to cater for crew and guests including food, drinks, uniform, cleaning products and more
  • Contracts and Negotiation – Liaise with suppliers and distributors to ensure the yacht is provisioned
  • Crew Administration – Will administer payroll for the crew and oversees all crew immigration
  • Yacht Administration – Organise port clearances, logistics and customs.
  • Charter Administration – If the yacht is chartered this will incur further responsibilities
  • Guest Activities – Liaise with guests and crew to organise activities

Industry experience required to become a Purser?

Eloquent communication skills, sound industry knowledge, first-hand experience, and an eye for detail are absolute must-haves for a Purser. Since the role of a Purser revolves around paperwork, efficient and accurate administration and accounting skills goes without saying.  

Although the job requirements may differ per yacht, in a nutshell, a well-rounded Purser should encompass the following

  • At least five years’ experience in the superyacht industry
  • Corporate land-based experience
  • Exceptional service, communication, organizational, diplomacy, and delegation skills
  • Excellent computer skills – proficient in Microsoft Office and various accounting software
  • A good understanding of maritime law
  • ISM and ISPS protocols
  • Financial management
  • Knowledge of cruising areas, including restaurant suggestions, shoreside activities
  • Provisioning around the globe
  • Excellent knowledge of wines
  • STCW & PSA
  • ENG 1 Medical

On-board vs shoreside Purser

An on-board Purser is self-explanatory. Land-based Pursers do everything an on-board purser does, just in a remote capacity. There are many reasons why yachts choose to outsource their yacht administration and opt for a shoreside Purser

  • Space – Can’t accommodate a Purser on-board 
  • Cost-effective – A dedicated Purser without the overheads
  • Flexibility – Don’t require a permanent employee or prefer flexibility with hours  
  • Staff retention – The Purser you’ll never lose

What salary can you expect as a Purser?

For an established onboard Purser, with great responsibility, comes great reward. The role of a Purser oversees business critical functions, so it is fair to expect just compensation and time off. The salary is largely dependent on the size of the vessel, however tools such YPI can provide a more-or-less ballpark figure. As per Yachting Pages, “pay for a Purser can range from roughly €4,000 to upwards of €7,000 per month” and will most likely include rotation. Most commonly 2 months on two months off, requiring vessels to employ two Pursers to cover the one role.

How can the role of a Purser assist you?

A superyacht is essentially a business and as such should operate as one. Without a Purser, large yachts may struggle to function effectively, let alone maintain the high standard of service that on-board guests expect. The role of a Purser is established to assist the Captain and Chief Officer to alleviate the administrative duties, eliminating stress through saving time and effort. With twenty years combined experience, Virtual Pursers are industry experts who understand first-hand the ever-increasing administrative pressures faced by the maritime industry. Offering a flexible approach, Virtual Pursers are readily available to support all vessels, no matter the size of the yacht or the extent of the need, as well as other maritime professionals such as Yacht/Fleet Managers, Charter Brokers, Marinas/Shipyards. An ideal solution for yachts that are fully crewed, have minimal space on-board, or who don’t necessarily require full-time support. As well as yachts who have an established Purser, supporting shortfalls and as a temporary solution. Using Virtual Pursers guarantees continuity in a cost-effective manner, introducing the concept of “The Purser You’ll Never Lose”; retaining all the information and experience that comes with a great Purser, for years to come.

Q & A with co-founder of Virtual Pursers Bec McKeever

How did you become a Purser?

I came into yachting with a background in accounting, not planning to utilise my past life profession at all actually. My first yacht with the infamous M/Y Octopus, at 126m she is a beauty! I was instantly in awe with the Chief Stewardess & Purser but it wasn’t until a year or two into yachting that I started thinking about a career path and that I had the potential to climb the ranks. I was Chief Stew for a few years before Purser. Two very different roles but a lot of personal and professional development in the Chief Stew role, I believe, that really makes a positive difference to your ability in the Purser role.

Do you think you need yachting experience to be a Purser?

Yachting is so different to any other industry and experience within it lays a solid foundation, it’s the integral part of becoming a successful Purser.

What’s your favourite aspect of being a Purser?

Having my finger on the pulse and being able to orchestrate the logistics of the entire vessel. It’s so rewarding to see my plan come into action and be pulled together, especially when you have a bit of OCD.

Q & A with co-founder of Virtual Pursers Dominique Smit

Do you have to be a Chief Stew before you become a purser?

Even though it is a completely different role, it is recommended that you have some Chief Stew experience before you become a Purser. Not only will it give you a better sense of responsibility and leadership but it allows you to work closer with other department heads and gives you a better sense of how the different departments function together and the bigger picture of how the boat functions overall which is essential for the purser position.

Would you recommend doing a Purser course?

I would definitely recommend training for the role of Purser, background knowledge is essential and any additional training is always beneficial. However, do your research before you pick a course. Having a mentor to guide me through my career has been invaluable so if you do have anyone you trust, ask for their advice.

Was it always your goal to become a Purser?

I didn’t start yachting with the goal to become a Purser, I didn’t even know what a Purser was in the beginning! But as my career evolved, I started enjoying the constant challenges each new position brought and the Purser position is so stimulating and every day is different that I felt like it would be the perfect job for me.

Virtual Pursers trusted business model intends to revolutionize the yachting industry by providing an innovative, cost effective, practical shoreside solution. A dedicated Purser without the overheads. The Purser you’ll never lose. For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.