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Shipboard Safety Officer

Q. Amy,

I have heard about the requirement for a Shipboard Safety Officer and I am not sure who needs to have this or what you have to do to be considered a safety officer. Can you help me? Andrew

A. Andrew,

Yes, I can help. Commercial yachts and ships over 500gt are required to be certified under the International Safety Management Code (ISM) and to have an officer qualified in the MCA Shipboard Safety Officer’s Course. The shipboard safety officer’s course is directly aimed at satisfying the requirements of the ISM code for the training of the person holding this important position.

This is a formal course usually 2-3 days in length which will cover an Introduction to the ISM Code, legislative background, onboard safety management systems, review of methods of reporting and recording ISM information, accident investigation, analysis and reporting, third party audits, risk assessments, internal audits, how to create a safety culture onboard the vessel, how to carry out safety audits, international health and safety legislation, hazard identification, duties of employer, general duties of the safety officer.

The course will focus on the Code of Safe Working Practices and should meet the IMO Model Course 3.11. The course should also meet the requirements outlined in STCW as revised, chapters A-II/2 and A-III/2 with respect to safety officers.

Generally because of manning situations, the person appointed to be the safety officer usually wears many hats in his/her position on the vessel. However, the safety officer should usually not be the Master and not normally be the Medical Person In Charge. Often the Officers of the Watch are selected to serve in the Safety Officer capacity in addition to their other role.

Each yacht over 500gt must have at least one officer certificated as a Safety Officer and trained as such. Safety officers on merchant ships also need to show that they have obtained at least 2 years of consecutive sea service since they were 18 years old and if they are employed on a tank ship they also need 6 months of relevant service on a tank vessel.

You should be able to obtain this certification course in the UK, in Europe or in the United States at schools that regularly train candidates in the MCA system.

There is an excellent book on the market written by Abdul Khalique that I recommend for study on the subject. It is called Shipboard Safety Officer and the ISBN Number is 13: 978-1-85609-402-3. You may want to check with the school you will be attending to see if this is the book they use or if you should study something specific to that course.

In my opinion, the person on the ship that is designated as the Ship Security Officer and who is taking the ISPS course could also be designated in this capacity and simply add this certification to their qualifications as well.

When you are inquiring about the Shipboard Safety Officer course it is important not to call it an SSO course because that acronym is typically associated with the Ship Security Officer which is a different course and certification.

It is advantageous to those pursuing OOW, Chief Mate or Y4 Engineer to obtain these two certifications to enable them to be more versatile on the larger yachts. The holder of a yachtmaster with large yacht experience who will be serving in a deckhand or watch standing position could also benefit from this training and certification, although there is no regulatory requirement for the individual to hold a specific maritime license.

Hope this helps. Good luck to you.