350-Ton Master: It's Coming

8 October 2008 By Peter Baker

If you're presently on a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, get ready for some heavy changes.

The Marshall Islands Shipping Register has been busy updating and improving its Commercial Yacht Code, and the changes are affecting charter yachts.

The updated Commercial Yacht Code will be officially announced at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS).

The number of yachts flying this blue flag has been steadily increasing and the time had come to review its services to yachts and see where they could be improved.

The result is a modified set of rules for yachts registering as commercial and for private yachts doing restricted chartering. Some of the safety equipment rules have been modified to be more yacht friendly and realistically based on the type of sea conditions yachts encounter and the space available on smaller yachts.

In conjunction with International Yacht Training (IYT), the Marshall Islands are discussing issuing of yacht-based STCW licenses for deck and engineering officers. These will be internationally recognized and similar to the MCA’s Yacht Certificates of Competency.

A proposed new 350-ton master license will fit nicely between the 200- and 500-ton qualifications, allowing captains to run the large number of yachts in that 200- to 350-ton range. Exams and orals can be taken in Fort Lauderdale.

The Marshall Islands is also reviewing non-STCW certificates such as the USCG Designated Duty Engineer to see where they can fit into Yacht Manning Tables. It's also studying the sensible qualification level of engineer needed on yachts, such as those with identical engines, which, added together, are more than 3,000 kilowatts, and smaller, high-powered yachts making short port-to-port runs.

This is a complex process to get right as any changes must comply with the many restrictive maritime regulations such as STCW and SOLAS. In addition, the Marshall Islands has an enviable reputation to maintain as the fourth largest shipping registry, respected worldwide for the quality of its service and standard of its ships.

One valuable advantage is its authorization of the International Yacht Bureau, which is based in the United States with a worldwide team of surveyors, and UK-based Regs4Yachts to issue Load Line and commercial Certificates of Compliance. This allows a route for non-classed quality yachts to become commercial.

What do you think of these "yacht-friendly" changes? What's not working with your flag requirements? What other kinds of changes would you like to see? Leave your comments below.

Peter Baker is the president of Megayacht Technical Services (MTS). The Fort Lauderdale-based company provides all types of regulatory documentation and management. His worldwide team supports captains and crew with the answers to all aspects of vessel operation. Visit Megayacht Technical Services at