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What is an A-III/2 Engineer?

24 Sep 2010 by

Q. OK, so I have heard of a Y4 and a Y2 and a DDE, and QMED and Chief and all of the other names for engineering licenses from the various countries around the world, but now I get my Safe Manning Certificate and it simply says that my boat needs an A-III/2 Engineer and an A-III/1 Engineer. How do I know who I can hire to fill these positions?

A. This is a very timely and excellent question. I have been talking about the “language of STCW” for some time now and it is so important for everyone operating a vessel internationally to understand this terminology.

We all know that STCW was created to develop an international MINIMUM standard for certification and training of watch keepers. Since each country has its own language and its own certification system, each country also has its own name for licenses and certificates of competency. Sure, some things are relatively standard like Chief Engineer or Master but Chief Engineer or Master of what??? Officer of the watch of what size vessel or type of vessel? Any limitations?

This is where having a standard language for the licenses/CoC’s is critical. So that Captains, Managers and Ship Operators as well as Port and Flag State Control Officers can ensure that each vessel is properly manned.

This way regardless of which country the CoC is issued by, everyone knows exactly what qualification they have and therefore can deduce the minimum training and experience that seafarer is likely to have and therefore what capacity they are legal to serve in.

So how do you speak this language:

First what does the “A” mean: in the STCW Code book, A refers to the section of the book that is regulatory. There is another section “B” which is the guidance section.

Second what does the “III” mean: in the STCW Code book the roman numeral refers to the chapter of STCW that the endorsement is covered by. In this case, the “III” stands for Engineering, just as “II” refers to the deck department and “V” refers to passenger vessels and “VI” refers to Basic Safety Training, etc.

Third, what does the /2 or /1 mean: in the STCW book, the /2 or /1, etc. refers to the level that mariner is qualified to serve in. For instance, STCW is broken into three basic levels. Support, Operational and Management. With support being your ratings like Able Seaman or Tankerman, Steward, etc. Operational refers to an officer that is not yet management such as Officer of the Watch or Assistant Engineer. Management refers specifically to the Master, the Chief Mate, the Chief Engineer and the Second Engineering Officer.

The two primary chapters that are referred to by the Safe Manning Certificate are chapters two and three (II and III). The Deck and the Engineering Departments, respectfully.

So let’s break down the primary codes you need to know:

A-II/1    Operational Level Deck Department
A-II/2    Management Level Deck Department
A-II/3    Management Level Deck Department (with restrictions such as near coastal or low tonnage)
A-II/4    Support Level – Entry level Deck Ratings (RFPNW, etc.)
A-II/5    Support Level – Able Seafarer Deck Qualified Ratings (AB)

A-III/1   Operational Level Engine Department
A-III/2   Management Level Engine Department
A-III/3   Management Level Engine Department (with restrictions such as near coastal or low hp/kw)
A-III/4   Support Level – Entry level Engine Ratings (RFPEW, etc)
A-III/5   Support Level – Able Seafarer Engine Qualified Ratings (QMED, etc)

So let’s make this practical:

Your safe manning certificate says you need an A-III/2 Engineer and an A-III/1 Engineer. Who can you hire?

First we look at your flag and determine if they have any specific restrictions for nationality, country of issuance of license, etc.

Let’s say your vessel is Cayman Flagged and any STCW Compliant CoC is acceptable.

So we know that a A-III/2 STCW Certificate is a Chief Engineer, so what if we get three applicants:
Applicant #1 Holds a Y2 MCA Engineering CoC (states A-III/2 on certificate)
Applicant #2 Holds a DDE from the USCG (states A-III/1 on certificate)
Applicant #3 Holds a Chief Limited Oceans from the USCG (states A-III/2 on certificate)

Two of the three applicants are qualified to fill the Chief Engineer job on the boat, because 2 out of three of these certificates/licenses will list themselves as A-III/2 , the third, the DDE is only an operational level certificate A-III/1 and therefore the DDE candidate could possibly cover the  secondary position required by the safe manning certificate which stipulated A-III/1 to serve as the assistant engineer. Why did I say could possibly? Because after we look at the STCW language, then we look at the restrictions on their individual CoC, which in the case of a DDE, it is inherently limited to 500 grt, and may have other restrictions such as a near coastal route and/or horsepower limits, therefore if your vessel is over 500grt, the DDE candidate cannot fill any position on the vessel despite the fact that the credential states A-III/1.

The same is true in the deck department, someone may hold a mates license or even a masters license for 500grt and you want to hire them to be the mate on a 700 ton vessel, are they legally able to serve as mate, no! Your license must cover all aspects of the vessel to be considered acting in the authority of your license. You must hold a separate endorsement as mate 1600/3000 tons to serve as mate on this vessel. “But what if the owner doesn’t care what license he/she has? ” Well this is sometimes true, however the coast guard has recently started not accepting sea service gained outside the authority of your license as licensed sea service which can hamper future raises in grade. Also, the insurance companies can determine that the vessel was not safely manned and in the case of an incident they could choose not to cover the incident.  In addition, operating outside of safe manning can take your vessel out of class (when applicable) and of course get you in trouble with flag state control or cause delays with port state control officers.

Even on private yachts where certain flags do not mandate license size or number, it is good seamanship to use these standards as a guide.

Long story short , the STCW code should be used as a guide for what licenses can fill which positions whether you have a safe manning certificate or not.

Also, use this code to your advantage. Make sure that you list your STCW code on your cv/resume. It will make you stand out from the rest!

I will provide you complimentary career counseling, and guidance on your manning issues, just send me an email at and include your details, and what your prospective candidates hold in terms of licenses or CoC’s.