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Captain Without a Licence
Posted: Friday, February 20, 2009 3:42 PM
Joined: 09/12/2008
Posts: 2

I have heard about a Captain that was sacked because he didn't have a licence.  His licence was supposedly a French Maritime licence and all the French authorities gave him was a 1,000 EUR fine.

This man put the lives of all the crew at risk when he took responsibility for the yacht.  I would like to know what the penalties really are for this level of fraud and how the industry can be warned of such characters if all the police are going to issue is no more than a slap on the wrists.
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 10:21 AM
Joined: 19/05/2008
Posts: 52

This is a surprisingly common occurrence, especially with captains with a UK RYA Yachtmaster Ocean running boats a little over 200 GT. Not only does the captain face a large fine and/or jail, but the whole yacht will be off-cover as far as insurers are concerned, thereby ensuring that the owner will end up with nothing in the event of loss, and will be wasting insurance premium payments. Needless to say, therefore, captains face being dismissed on the spot the moment it comes to light. Benjamin Maltby. MatrixLloyd.
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 10:43 AM

A certificate of competency requires revalidation every five years and this includes revalidation of the medical.

Five years sneaks up fast, so be sure to check your expiry dates.

Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:04 AM
Life at risk ?  Diffucult to be so judgemental.  Have a look thru the marine insurance claims and virtually all of the captains  bending up yachts and killing bystanders on the dock  have many pieces of paper.  Many of the finest captains I know have vast worlwide experience, grew up swinging a sextant and only carry a simply yachtmasters ticket.  These un ticketed captains may  be trusted proffesional sailors responding to changing circumstances by taking over the owners new and bigger yacht.  I would be hesitant to call them unskilled and putting your life at risk.   French sailors in particular tend to be very  fine seaman who  find it difficult to aquire a frech commercial ticket. Remember, only a few years ago everyone was operating with a yachtmasters until  the MCA came to the rescue and  devised a system to upgraded them.  The engineer three boats down is Dutch, unticketed for marine work but has 17 years of experiece working as a yachtbuilder for one of the finest yacht builders in the Netherlands.  These things happen..
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:13 AM
Joined: 19/05/2008
Posts: 52

These ‘unticketed captains’ are exposing their employers to significant risk of uninsured loss. Either you’re professional enough to make sure that you understand and have the correct tickets, or you’re not.
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 12:02 PM
You are correct. The law is always primary.  But I still see many owners stick with their trusted lieutenants.  I suppose the owners are aware of the liability  ?  I ran into a yacht last year that was refused port clearance in Pula because of this...evidently the owner had to fly in a temp captain to clear. But their is  also was a yacht locked down in Split because the ticketed captain had no idea that Chartering with a Marshal Island Flag with a tank full of dutyfree was a No NO.   Its the life.
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 12:40 PM
Are owners aware of their liability? Not normally, no. They think it's enough just to pay their insurance premiums.
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 3:19 PM
Insurance companies are enamored with Licenses...this is how they quantify risk and grow into  international powerhouses like AIG.  They must maintain standards in order to protect their reputation and lower the premiums paid  by yachts..  Many owners are more circumspect and this creates the conflict.  Good article  highlighting the skills  of fully professional , licensed crew and the benifts of all the best navigation  technology that money can buy.
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 3:36 PM
while this is serious fraud and it should be severely punished, i'm not sure i can agree with the part about putting the crew lives at risk. He/she certainly put the yacht at risk if something had happened and the insurance company discovered the fraud

but a piece of paper does't make a captain.  Guys padding their resumes, or who are just out of  "captain school" or who think they can run a boat because they stood watch here and there or were first mate can be equally dangerous.

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 7:47 PM
take the analogy one step further - would you put your life in the hands of a surgeon if he didn't have that piece of paper?

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 9:10 PM
Many times I meet retired British couples, fearlessly sailing around the world in very modest boats, performing at a competence level superior to anything I see operating superyachts out of the South of France.  Lady Maura aground in France !!!  Hmmmm......need to send that boy back to special ticket school.
I suppose the only real solution to the.... is his ticket big enough, we are all going to die  debate, would be to  Turn the clock back a few centuries to a time of.......dem det died were the lucky ones.    
   We turn off all safety communication  systems, Epirb ,Sat com. GPS, then make insurance illegal.  Once cleared of any hope of outside assistance  it would be up to every mariner to be 100 percent prepared for any challenge. You may choose to fight the sea with paper tickets dangling from your neck Or you may choose to be prepared.
  What do you think...could be fun.
Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 12:49 AM

I do think that the MCA is a bit of a farce. Popping out "Super Yacht" captains at a alarming rate. Many of these new big Bus drivers have very little experience and a seatime book full of false seatime. How can the ability to learn fog signals and flags Parrot fashion replace actual experience at sea? How many Superyacht captains these days use more than just the big screen plotters. 

I have spent twenty years at sea. Twelve of those years as a fishing boat capain working in the Southern Oceans.  Should an owner not have the right to want an experienced captain on his boat? The MCA is blind to many commercial tickets from around the world. Should it not be looking at making the industry safer with less accidents instead of making sure that the guy whos going to wreck your boat has a ticket so that insurance will pay out?

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 7:14 AM
With regard to the Captain that didn't realise about the fuel and got locked down in Split - I felt quite sorry for the charterers.  This charter had been organised as a breakdown charter anyway and they got turned onto yet another yacht (one that was significantly lower in spec than the first one that they had chartered just so that they could carry on with their holiday). 

And the story that started this whole debate - the Captain had faked the 3000 tonne ticket.  His only experience on large yachts before this was as security (with a stint as an Engineer - another forgery?) and he took the boat to the bottom of the Red Sea.  He went through the Suez Canal twice.  If this isn't risking lives then I don't know what is!  He wasn't someone whose experience had outgrown his ticket.  He was a conman that fancied the life of a Captain.

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 7:17 AM
And I forgot to add that this was a 45m motor yacht with a GRT of over 400T.

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 8:42 AM

"With regard to the Captain that didn't realise about the fuel and got locked down in Split - I felt quite sorry for the charterers.  This charter had been organised as a breakdown charter anyway and they got turned onto yet another yacht (one that was significantly lower in spec than the first one that they had chartered just so that they could carry on with their holiday). " 

Who cares !!!  he had all the paper tickets.

What you are trying to justify is a captain with many pieces of paper operating a big yacht who had no idea of the regulations.  Its double bad because when you fly a flag of convenience , customs officials are keeping a close eye on you, an experienced captain would know this.  Everyday of my life I am coming face to face with  superyacht captains that have virtually no geographic experience.  Geographic experience implies sea time.  Logic says that to gain command of a big boat you must have big experience.  I can take you by the hand and introduce you to little bitty plastic boat yacht captains that know every country, port official and procedure in the Med like the back of his hand.  This vast experience is blown away when a paper skipper comes into our world. 
    Do you think that the owners hire us because we know how to  read the numbers off a GPS and hold the steering wheel. Even a brand new yacht owner can do this.  We are hired as captains because of our experience with ports and regulations all over the world.   As a yacht captain our whole world is ports
 To hell with all your paper

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 9:48 AM
I was not trying to justify anything.  The Captain was poorly experienced I agree.  All I was trying to say was that the people that give us our bread and butter (ie charter the yachts) had got caught up in a situation that wasn't their fault.  They were not to know when they agreed to move from their originally booked yacht that had broken down to this one that they would lose more of their time to sort out a problem with fuel and have to move to a thrid yacht.

I have to say that if you really don't care about the guests onboard having a decent holiday then you are in the wrong game in my opinion.

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 10:29 AM
That is a good question.    I can only hope that my guests enjoy their trip.    Ive never asked them.  But I do see on my 2009 schedule that the "K" family comes along again. Nice folks.  This makes 11 years in row.  The Baltic Sea, three Croatia cruises, the Black Sea, South American, pacific and naturally a couple Caribbean trips.  Next time Ill ask them and at the same time I will offer to  show them all these  bloody paper tickets and  reassure them that we will not die or get shut down in the port.
Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 11:02 AM
What I am struggling to understand is why, if you are a good, decent captain like your guests seem to agree that you are by coming back year on year and one who has all the documentation to say that you have the experience necessary to skipper the yacht are you not in favour of Captains being licenced?

I do not and never will have the opinion that a piece of paper overrides experience but surely you must admit that you should have the paperwork in place so that the industry can be regulated?  Would you be happy to use an airline where the pilots were not certificated?

I am not saying that the system is perfect.  Proverbial hoops have to be jumped through I admit and yes, a certain amount does fall down to honesty in filling out the logs etc.  But otherwise how do you prove that the seatime and experience that somebody says they have is real?  I know if I was ever in the position to own a yacht then I would want somebody to Captain it that was professional enough to have obtained the correct paperwork.  If the experience is in place then surely the ticket can't be hard to obtain?

How else can a man that has negligible seatime but a load of front be found out before he has sailed to another continent?

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 11:20 AM

Unfortunately I'm not a Decent captain. Come near me with a Marshal Island Flag, misbehave in any way and I will morph into a monster who knows the phone number of the port captain. 

  I am one of the luckiest captain around. After near  half million miles, when the rules changed, my blessed owner shut the yacht down on my behalf and let me go to London to get all the paper stamps. Many of my fellow captains were caught out and forced to leave their jobs.  This routine burns a years salary, one hundred grand ,and then jettisons you to the bottom of the totem pole...Gee the ink on the that guys tickets are fresh.  Some never recovered.  I never respect a piece of paper. Further I never respect charter brokers who will put me in danger by selling a charter in a country that does not permit it.

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 9:05 PM

a little off subject..but on the subject of licenses and insurance companies.  I carry a 100ton masters inland and great lakes license.  I currently am operating a 52 ton private uninspected motoryacht in the florida coastal waters.  For the insurance company to insure me, do I need to have that near coastal upgrade, or is that only if I'm running a vessel that has paying passengers, or is an inspected vessel?  Since it's only a private motoryacht not for charter the insurance company only needs a certificate of compentency..I think....Does anyone have a concrete answer to this?



Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 11:57 PM
Joined: 25/02/2009
Posts: 1

That would be a question that should be spelled out by the insurance company and I would get it in writing! I'm sure MatrixLloyd should know.

I also operate an 80' Motor Yacht for a private individual in Florida. We do nothing for hire on this vessel but we do leave the states for the Bahamas or Caribbean cruising. I hold both a USCG Master 500 Ton and International Yachtmaster Ocean M.C.A. license.

I specifically got my M.C.A. "ticket" because at the time I was working on a Red Flagged Vessel and the insurance company would not cover the vessel with a captain that wasn't M.C.A. Certified.  It didn't matter that the owner of the vessel was American as was I, it had to do with the flag of the vessel.

Every year at our renewal time (which happens to be February 4th) I get a call from the Insurance Broker asking the same questions and requiring my Hurricane Plan, copies of all my "paper", and the usual where is the vessel moored? How often do I go onboard, what do you do if, etc.?

So in short, ask your insurance carrier to spell it out. I would be surprised if they wouldn't try and not pay a claim if you had one, even if you are just a "private" captain. I don't need to tell you what insurance companies have done in the last 5 years of hurricanes in Florida! We haven't ever had a claim (Touch wood), but our rates have gone up over 50% in the last 4 years.

I do know that I save my owner about $4,800.00 a year in premiums as a licensed captain. But I have to think my 30+ years of experience has something to do with that.



Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 12:04 AM
I came into this industry 25 years ago. I never even questioned the Captain I was working for if he had a ticket. He had been running boats for 20 years at that time. He taught me everything and was the most patient and informative man I ever met. It wasn't untill I asked for time off to go for my 100ton license that I discovered that he didn't have one. We ended up going to school together. SCHOOL! That's my point. The USCG maritime license is a joke. You have to go to school to learn how to pass the test. Not how to be a Captain. I have a 1600ton lic and just about all the schooling I've done has been absolutly useless in the field. They have gotten better as far as the STCW95 classes but thats it. Anyway, its the legal side of the coin we're discussing ere isn't it? The insurance companies will let anyone who has a "license" run thier boat.
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 12:58 AM

Ive got all sorts of Tickets...British and American and in the end the only thing you need is an excellent, eyes closed knowledge of the rules of the road and safety, safety and more safety.  So many of those other courses as just goofy.  Radar and navigation ?  If you can read , Its all in the operators manual of the equipment.  

 The whole game is about safety and naturally sea time.   If I was able to change the rules captains would taking a first class safety course every year for the rest of their  life.  End of story

Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 12:53 PM
Joined: 13/07/2008
Posts: 32

well, looks same as driving your car inlicensed - it's against the law. Though now that I got my Master unlimited Cert - some say I am overqualified for the position I apply-1st Officer or Chief Officer
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 3:31 PM
Joined: 14/01/2009
Posts: 1026

I seriously doubt that you are over overqualified for anything.  Take the silly sun glass's off boy and I can introduce you to sailors that will put you in your place.  Many situations cant be conquered with a mobile phone and a string of  tickets around your neck.
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2009 3:49 PM
I was clearing into Montenegro last year. I zipped up to the Port authority office with the ships papers and  stood behind a superyacht captain clearing.  Problems. More Problems. The port captain was speaking Serbian and the yacht captain was American, speaking English.  Much confusion.  Port Captain made the superyacht captain fill out the paper work 5 different times and generally rode his ass for 45 minutes.  Yacht captain leaves and I step up to the plate.   Hi Tomislav !!!...Hows the life ?  Tomislav, the port captain  speaks perfect English and is a retired master mariner.  He then laughs at the silly superyacht captain who thought he could come into his office and address him with his sun glass's on .   The port captain and I stumbled down the street for a coffee.    Makes me laugh!!  Were do these yacht captains come from....burger flippers.
Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 5:10 AM
The ticket is proof of fulfilling a certain standard and it is required to have one in order to take command, it is not only for keeping the underwriters, port officials, port state control, classification societies and flag state officials happy. Unfortunately this ticket rally has been turned into a moneymaking machine by the bureaucrats. It also helps to keep the luckseekers away by having this hurdle to pass. It also is really necessary to have some education as today's mega yachts makes yesterdays yachts look like their lifeboats and as the size and guest numbers increase so does also the demands on the yacht and her crew.

Experience is gained by time and can't be overlooked, it is another thing if the person can learn from his experiences. Having gone around the world does not necessarily prove it.

This is what a good Captain is defined of...

Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 9:00 AM

Im out there all the time , face to face with this new generation of captain.  Over the past decade the super yacht population exploded.  To respond they pumped out good time charley captains as fast as they could make them. 

  The complaint with tickets is not about the paper, its about the quality of yacht crew these days. 

    Listen to what all these characters are complaining about.  The sign on as well paid  crew, spend 50 percent or more of their salary on beer then complain that its to expensive. They finish up a cruise, go skiing,   then complain that they have no time.  These guys are actually asking the boat to pay and allow holiday time for ticket acquisition. 
     Then there are to other types..hidden from view.  Every time I do a long trip I look to pick up an extra crew.  I dont waste the boss's come for free.  Couple years ago when the mast was being stepped a young rigger  asked to come along.  He has now been doing  unpaid trips  with me for years . Thousands of miles.  He makes very modest income as a rigger, pays for his MCA class's from it and then uses his free time to sail with me !! His attitude is fabulous, he is three quarters away from MCA qualification.  When he hits the scene  looking for his first command, no one will know about his drive, ambition, he will be buried behind all the entitlement, gin and tonic ticket holders.  It must be demoralizing.  

    This is why I have no respect for the paper and can only hope that fellow captains or agents actually read the resumes and personaly understand what it takes to be a professional seaman.

Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 9:28 AM
Anonymous wrote:

This is what a good Captain is defined of...

This is what a good Captain is defined BY, idiot.
 Average 5 out of 5