Getting to the Galley

10 March 2015 By Hillary Hoffower

“Ongoing training is something thatshould never be overlooked or taken for granted,” writes yacht chef HawkDriver84in a poll. “Whether itbe YouTube videos or professional training, a chef should never stop learningand sharpening [their] skills.”

But sometimes YouTube videos just don’tcut it. On August 7, 2014, the Ship’s Cook Certificate was implemented inconjunction with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). The purpose? To ensurechefs have the fundamental skills and knowledge to properly cook and serve foodto crew on board.

Since its implementation, there hasbeen much confusion about who actually needs the Ship’s Cook Certificate. Canexperienced chefs be grandfathered into the system? Can an alternativecertificate be converted? Such concern has heated up many a galley.

“A yacht should only require to have an amazing chef onboard, regardless of professional training,” adds HawkDriver84. “Some peoplelearn best from years of family recipes and personal training that can’t bereplaced by formal schoolhouse training.”

However, Roger Towner, chief examiner for the Maritime and CoastguardAgency (MCA), was quick to point out at the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show that theShip’s Cook regulations have been around for a while, but have passed under theradar. When the MLC, 2006 regulations came into force, commercial vessels with10 or more crew were required to have a certificated ship’s cook on board, heexplained. Thus, the MCA and Professional Yachting Association (PYA) devised a2.5-day cooking assessment specifically targeted at yachting.

Towner emphasized that MLC requires countries signatory tothe Convention to introduce their own regulations. Chefs would need to check iftheir flag state will accept the MCA certificate or what are their flag state’srequirements. There are no equivalent shore-based qualifications, but the MCAwill consider other countries or flag state’s certificates.

The MCA’s extended deadline for UK-registered vessels tohave a certificated ship’s cook passed on February 5, 2015. Yet many are stillleft feeling confused, and it’s important to freshen up on requirements beforeyou head off to the Med for the season as Antibes is the only place chefs cantake the cooking assessment. Follow this guideline to figure out what you needto know to become properly qualified.

Who needs a Ship’sCook Certificate?

If you work on a yacht that fits all three of the following categories,then you must obtain the certificate:

1. An MLC, 2006-compliant vessel

2. A commercially registered vessel

3. 10 crew or more

Even if you are currently on a smaller yacht with fewer than10 crew on board, it may be advisable to go ahead and get the certificate anywayif you plan on moving to a larger yacht in the future.

How do you get it?

According to the PYA, all ship’s cooksmust have:

- An ENG 1 and STCW BST

- A certificate in Security Awareness

- A valid medical fitness certificate

- One month of sea time

The route to obtaining the Ship’s Cook Certificate dependson which of the following scenarios describes your current situation:

1. No further training is needed if you hold a Ship’sCook Certificate of Competency issued/accepted under Merchant ShippingRegulations 1981.

2. If you have recognized formal qualifications (atleast a UK Level 2 shore based catering qualification), plus the Food Safety orFood Hygiene in Catering, you will need the basic STCW 95, a seafarer’s medicalcertificate, one month of sea service and the Ship’s Cook Assessment.

3. If you have no formal qualification, you mustshow evidence of at least 12 months of work in a catering capacity, and youmust take the Ship’s Cook Assessment. Cooks with a maritime background alsoneed evidence of one-month sea service.

4. Cooks with qualifications issued by anon-EU member state or non-MLC signatory can apply for a UK Ship’s Cook Certificateonce they’ve completed the Ship’s Cook Assessment.

5. If you hold formal qualifications recognized by yourown administrations, the PYA suggests applying directly to your administrationin the country where cooking qualifications were issued for the Ship’s CookCertificate, if the qualifications were issued by an EU member state oradministration ratified under MLC.

According to Joey Meen, the training and certification directorat PYA, “The MCA has set the benchmark on the Ships’ Cook qualificationrequirements. And as yet other administrations are not (yet) asking for theassessment route.”

Where do you take theShip’s Cook Assessment?

Currently, Bluewater Yachting in Antibes is the onlytraining provider accredited by the MCA to run the Ship’s Cook Assessment, for€1,250, which it runs in conjunction with Secrets du Cuisine.

“The vast majority of chefs [who] have participated so farhave enjoyed and appreciated the experience,” maintains Lizzie Irving, thesales and marketing manager at Bluewater Yachting. “Many have been extremelychallenged by the assessment, which allows the candidates to really identifyareas from pastry to fish or hygiene that they can improve upon.”

“To be honest, it is quite a full on assessment,” says ChefChristian on M/Y Vibrant Curiosity.“I wasn’t expecting the whole process to be so intense. Actually, the Ship’sCook Certificate is probably a more advanced assessment than what was the entryChef’s diploma in France fifteen years ago.”

Irving recommends that chefs look over the syllabus andprepare themselves properly. She calculated that more than 100 students havesat the assessment and the current pass rate is 70 percent.

“As a recruitment agency, we have been quite surprised bythe ratio of chefs that hold the certificate compared to the amount of openchef positions that require it,” she said. “We are concerned that not enoughchefs have realized the importance of this.”

For more information about the Ship’s Cook Assessment, visit

If you’re still scratching your head about whether you needto be certified, full guidelines on the training can be found at

Visit formore information.