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Proposed yacht crew rules eased

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Coast Guard plan still would require license recertification at five-year intervals instead of 10

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Megayacht crews may have to do a little tap dancing and make some adjustments if the proposed 2011 amendments to the U.S. Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers are adopted, industry sources say.

“At this point I believe that the impact will be less significant than with the original [Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking],” says Amy Beavers, academic principal for Maritime Professional Training, a Fort Lauderdale license training school. She says the Coast Guard has made some concessions.

However, the amendments will have effects. The most significant change would require license holders to be recertified every five years instead of 10. On a yacht, that affects mainly the master, who on most megayachts (those that weigh less than 200 gross tons) is the only licensed crewmember required, says Will Watson, a spokesman for the Marshall Islands Registry, which registers yachts in the Marshalls as a port of convenience.

Another change: The timeworn classification able-bodied seaman has been changed to able seafarer, either deck or engineer. This could be another major change for megayacht crews, says Wayne Conwell, senior adviser for Sea School, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based licensing school. Conwell, a retired Coast Guardsman, says the new rule will set standards for the two new categories of seafarers and require that qualified people assess the crewmembers who fill the positions to see whether they meet the standards.

On a yacht, that ordinarily would be a licensed mate or engineer, but because many yachts don’t have any licensed crew other than the master, yacht captains may have to rely on schools to make the assessments and certify seafarers for duty.

“It’s not a big change, as far as we’re concerned,” says Peter Baker, president of Megayacht Technical Services International, a Fort Lauderdale-based company that specializes in regulations affecting megayachts. He says some captains he advises wonder whether a requirement to recertify the medical person in charge every five years would include the original weeklong $2,000 to $3,000 course or whether a much less expensive refresher course would suffice.

The amendments allow “the preservation of the ‘hawsepipe’ program, which permits use of on-the-job training or practical experience to obtain endorsements and would foster career paths that were not previously available” — a major win for the industry, the Federal Register announcement says.

The proposed rules also would tighten the oversight of licensing courses and change the weekly rest requirement for crew from 70 hours to 77, although some flexibility would be allowed in “exceptional circumstances.”

Public meetings were scheduled in August and early September in Miami, New Orleans, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The comment period for the supplemental notice ended Sept. 30.

The Federal Register notice of the proposed amendments is available at www.gpoaccess.gov/fr. Search keyword “watchkeeping.

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue.

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