Becoming a small vessel engineer is a good small step towards becoming an engineering expert in the marine industry. A marine engineer is responsible for maintaining and repairing the engine, sometimes under adverse situations. To become an engineer on a small vessel such as a 24m yacht, your first step would be to get the AEC1 (Approved Engine Course 1) certification in Cape Town. Let us begin.

Becoming a Marine Engineer with AEC1 Certification in Cape Town

AEC1—Approved Engine Course 1—is an entry-level marine engineering certificate approved by the MCA that familiarises one with marine diesel engines. This certificate would allow you to work on the following yachts:

  1. Chief Engineer position on yachts over 24m in length, having a 750kw diesel engine, and of 200gt in volume or less. This applies to a sailing yacht.
  2. Chief engineer position on yachts over 24m in length, having a 1500kw diesel engine, and of 200gt in volume or less. This is for a power/motor yacht.
  3. You can also work on 200gt+ yachts but only as an assistant engineer.

And most importantly, you can only work on these yachts if they stay within a 60nm radius from a safe haven. Thus, yachts that are travelling and crossing oceans would not hire an AEC1-qualified engineer.

Of course, these are not the only opportunities. You can also work on fishing trawlers, tugboats, or other types of workboats as well.

Remember, to work on ANY boat, having an STCW Basic Safety certificate and ENG1 medical certificate is mandatory. But let’s take a step back for now and let’s get to know about the RYA Diesel Engine Course first.

The RYA Diesel Engine Course

If you are someone who has no experience in engineering, or marine engineering at all, you can still go for the AEC1 certification. However, it is heavily recommended you take the RYA Diesel Engine Course first.

This is a classroom course. In this one-day course, you will learn the basics of a marine diesel engine. This knowledge will help you maintain the engine on the sea on a basic level and rectify any issues that can be resolved on the spot.

In this course, you will learn,

  • The four-stroke cycle.
  • Fuel for the engine.
  • Air and cooling system.
  • Engine electrical system.
  • Tools and spare requirements.
  • Winterisation and servicing.

By the end of this course, you will understand two principle things. Understanding how the diesel engine’s main system works and identifying and resolving any issues on the sea that require no workshop support. After getting certified, you are eligible to take the Approved Engine Course 1—AEC1—in Cape Town.

The Approved Engine Course 1 (AEC1) certification in Cape Town

If you have no engineering background but have an RYA Diesel Engine Certification, you may take the AEC1 certification course in Cape Town, South Africa. This is an entry-level certification that focuses on the very basics of a diesel engine function but goes in-depth in terms of knowledge and engine functionality compared to the RYA Diesel Engine Course.

This course lasts for 5 days and you have to be 18 years of age at minimum to be able to take this course.

In this course, you will be learning theories and doing practicals extensively to ensure you get appropriate training as per the standards of MCA.

AEC1 Course Syllabus

  • How do Compression Ignition engines work? General Principles of Compression Engines.
  • An insight into Two and Four-Stroke operation cycles and construction details.
  • Fuel systems.
  • Types of coolants and cooling systems.
  • How does air affect the combustion process?
  • Lubrication technology and introduction to lubricants.
  • Electrical systems of the engine.
  • Power transmission units.
  • Hull fitting.
  • LPG cylinder installation and Carbon Monoxide risks.
  • Safety practices while working around an engine.
  • Marine Pollution-related legislation.
  • Future technologies.
  • Firefighting and fire prevention.


To become a yacht engineer, you require extensive knowledge regarding the engine function. The AEC1 certification is mandatory if you are to become an engineer in the marine industry, regardless of your background. Even if you do not have an engineering background, having an RYA Diesel Engine Course is more than enough for you to get started.

If you are looking for a RYA Diesel Engine Course or an Approved Engine Certificate 1 (AEC1) course in Cape Town, feel free to reach out to us. Sail and Power SA is an RYA-accredited marine institution based in Cape Town. We would be glad to help you out.