Kaskelot - work on a tall ship

Want to work on a Tall Ship? You’ll need these qualifications…

Work on a Tall Ship

The idea of working onboard a tall ship, with square-rigged sails and a crew full of traditional boat sailors, can be very tempting. There are always ongoing opportunities to volunteer and work aboard tall ships all over the world, with a variety of itineraries and owners. Some ships will have oceans for their cruising grounds, others may stick to regular cargo routes; and some may be owned by schools or charities, with others more commercially run charter ships. There are so many opportunities to work on a tall ship.

Before you go looking for your perfect tall ship job opportunity (through SaltyJobs, of course), you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right qualifications. Read on for tips from current tall ship crew…

You’ll Need These Qualifications

So, we’re going to give you a simple and accurate insight into what the industry asks for as standard qualifications.

The two most common choices to make here, are how big are the vessels you want to work on?

Lady of Avenel - work on a tall shipVessels up to 200gt & 24m

For anything under 200gt and 24m (length on deck, e.g. not including bowsprit), you can sail and work onboard up to first mate’s position in certain categories of waters with no formal qualifications, just a medical test.

These vessels are more ‘small ships’ than ‘tall ships’ – there are many of these vessels operating around the country, often large traditional vessels with heavy gaff rigs. Their use is popular in adventure charters and sail training with young people.

If you want to be in charge – the skipper or the captain – you’ll need a commercially endorsed RYA/MCA Yachtmaster. This will be either Coastal, Offshore or Ocean depending of the vessel’s charter area and coding.

Commercially endorsing your Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence involves having a medical exam (ENG1 or ML5 depending on coding requirements), passing the RYA PPR (Personal & Professional Responsibilities) course, taking Sea Survival, First Aid, and Radio SRC Licence. Read more about Commercial Endorsements on the RYA’s website.

Vessels over 24m & 200gt

If you want to work in a paid position on a vessel over 24m, you need internationally recognised certificates. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) says that the minimum legal requirement is for you to have your STCW Basic Safety certification. This is the industry standard required of all crew looking for commercial work. Yes, this includes the most junior deckhands right up to head chefs and chief engineers, on all larger vessels from tall ships to superyachts.

You’ll need to take the STCW Basic Safety Training course if you want to work on a commercial vessel over 24m or 200gt – this includes most tall ships.

The STCW is a five day course you’ll attend at a maritime college, and costs around £1,000. Five compontents make up the course:

  1. Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting (2 ½ days)
  2. Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (½ day)
  3. Personal Survival Techniques (1 day)
  4. Elementary First Aid (1 day)
  5. Proficiency in Security Awareness (½ day, new requirement for over 500gt)

If you want to work in positions of responsibility onboard you will need to follow the MCA route. This includes Engineering/Deck Officer of the Watch programs, and then the Chief Mate and Master route.

If you’re starting from scratch, cadetships are available for these through merchant navy sponsors such as Maersk shipping. Lots of courses are based at Warsash in Southampton. Alternatively, if may be possible to find roles onboard tall ships and with sail training organisations. There may be the opportunity for professional training progressing you up the ladder from Bosun to Skipper, across their fleet of vessels.

If you’ve already got your Yachtmaster Offshore and your STCW Basic Safety certificates, you can upgrade your MCA/RYA Yachtmaster qualification to an MCA Master of Yachts 200gt. This is the industry standard international commercial yacht skipper qualification. It will let you work on tall ships or other vessels worldwide up to 200gt. As the vessels get bigger, Masters, Deck Officers, Engineering Officers and Crew will all continue to complete more training.

Queen Galadriel - work on a tall shipSail training – volunteering & bursaries

If you have previously sailed with sail training charities in the UK, either as a young person or as a volunteer, you may be eligible to apply to ASTO (Association of Sail Training Organisations) & Trinity House to their sail training development bursary. Anybody under 40 showing a continued commitment to sail training can apply for full financial funding for professional sailing qualifications. This includes the RYA Yachtmaster scheme, and the MCA STCW and Officer of Watch/Master schemes.

Getting involved with sail training is a fantastic way to begin sailing onboard small and tall ships. You’ll challenge yourself in a rewarding role and may be supported through professional training in return.

Where to find opportunities

You’re in the right place. SaltyJobs is particularly passionate about helping the traditional sector in the marine industry. We have lots of friends who own, work on, manage and sail everything from tall ships to small ships. We made a recent successful match for last-minute delivery crew on a tall ship, so like us on Facebook, submit your CV, and keep your eye out for the next great opportunity. In the meantime, please do get in touch if you have a question.

In the meantime, because we want to support our community, two other good places to look relevant to tall ships are:

 And of course, you could always consider taking a proactive approach. If there is a tall ship you’d particularly like to work on, why not contact them proactively? Or let us know, and we’ll see if we can help.

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