Being a superyacht engineer means getting a chance to work with some of the world’s best engineering marvels. However, the opportunity does not come easily. In this article, we will mainly discuss engineer roles and what it takes to be an engineer on a yacht in South Africa.

Becoming an Engineer on a Yacht in South Africa

Good news! If you have engineering experience in any background, such as mechanical engineering or electrical engineering experience, then your trade skills are likely transferrable.

As an engineer on a yacht, your job is to maintain the engine, electronics, and software, resolve mechanical and technical difficulties with the yacht and its toys, and prevent a fault before it turns into a disaster. This engineer role is ideal for you if you are solution-oriented, flexible, and knowledgeable in your field. What you would maintain on a yacht depends on your technical background. However, engineers with mechanical or electrical backgrounds are generally able to tackle these challenges.

On a yacht, you may work as a solo engineer or in a team of engineers. Highly experienced engineers may be appointed to oversee a team of junior engineers as well. The entry-level salary for an engineer starts from US$ 3,000. As you climb the promotion ladder, you may get increments up to US$ 10,000.

So, what are the engineering positions on a superyacht? And what do you need to be an engineer? Let’s find out.

Engineer Positions and Hierarchy on a Superyacht

1. Chief Engineer

The chief engineer overseas all the operations on the yacht. They work directly under the ship’s captain, reporting about propulsion, engine conditions, and other interior systems. Furthermore, as a chief engineer working with the captain, you will also be responsible for maintaining the yacht’s compliance with regulations. You may often be summoned for ship inspection for the said purposes, and to ensure that the yacht passes all flag and port inspections as well.

Also, as a chief engineer, you will also be guiding a team of engineers under your command. Or, if you are on a smaller yacht, you may be the sole engineer. In the latter case, you may also be called for assistance with deck work, such as docking or anchoring purposes.

2. 1st Engineer

In a larger crew, the first engineer reports directly to the chief engineer and is responsible for overseeing all junior engineers. The first engineer relieves the chief engineer of his technical duties, allowing them to focus more on administrative tasks. The first engineer is responsible for organising teams, distributing workload, and resolving issues on the yacht.

3. 2nd Engineer

Generally seen more commonly in an engineering hierarchy, the second engineer acts as a second-in-command for the chief engineer. They are responsible for giving periodic reports about system status and any situations shall they require the attention of a chief engineer. The 2nd Engineer also handles some of the complicated tasks, hence requiring him to be the most experienced and knowledgeable on the team.

4. 3rd Engineer

3rd Engineers are often tasked with engine maintenance and yacht toy maintenance. They also look after interior systems. These responsibilities may vary from yacht to yacht. The 3rd Engineer position is generally the lowest position in the hierarchy except on larger crews. The 3rd engineers are expected to learn their ropes around engineering tasks while gaining sea hours and further qualifications as they advance in their careers.

5. 4th Engineer

Usually only a part of a larger crew, the fourth engineer is similar to an engineering apprentice, logging sea time while working on a yacht to gain engineering experience. As a fourth engineer, you will be required for on-field physical work almost all the time. You are expected to learn fast, pick up the pace, and gain the required qualifications and knowledge to climb up the ladder.

What do you require to be an Engineer on a Yacht in South Africa?

The Basic Requirement

To work on any marine vessel, you will require these three certifications. Get your basics right!

  1. STCW Certification or The Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping. The STCW course educates a seagoing worker on the latest marine safety regulations and practices to keep your crew and yourself safe offshore.
  2. The RYA Powerboat Level 2 License. As seagoing workers may be required to drive a tender for transportation or to her purposes, the RYA Powerboat Level 2 license is highly recommended.
  3. The ENG1 Medical Certificate of Fitness to ensure your own physical safety on the vessel.

Now, to the engineering part.

In terms of experience, you may want to check your experience. In the yacht industry, engineers from mechanical or electrical backgrounds are in demand. You will also require strong project management skills and inventory management experience. Understanding and using software related to your field is a strong plus.

When it comes to certifications/qualifications for an engineer to work on a yacht, there are two distinct types. These qualifications depend on the type of yacht you want to work on. For a complete guide on the same, take a look at this document published by the MCA.

  1. The Small Vessel Engineer Officer of the Watch allows you to be an EOOW on yachts of 3000GT with propulsion power up to 9000kW.
  2. The Small Vessel Chief Engineer for yachts less than 500GT with up to 3000kW propulsion power.
  3. The Small Vessel Chief Engineer for yachts upto 3000GT with 9000kW propulsion power or less.

Apart from that, the following certifications are a must.

  1. The Approved Engine Course (AEC), is the most essential certificate for engineers to work on yachts over 24m in overall length.
  2. The Marine Engine Operators License by MCA.
  3. The Engineer Officer of the Watch is an important milestone for climbing the ladder to the chief engineer position. There are many ways to have a go at this. EduMaritime has an extensive guide on the topic.


To be a yacht engineer in South Africa is no small task. It combines the hardships of engineering, long seagoing hours, and extensive knowledge to get the position you desire. If you have what it takes and are ready for the hardships of the marine industry, then this position might be for you. Depending on your experience and qualifications, you may apply for the most suitable position.

If you require any assistance regarding STCW certification, RYA licenses, or ENG1 medical certificates, feel free to reach out to us. Sail and Power SA is a RYA-accredited, reputed marine industry based in Cape Town, South Africa. Feel free to give us a call for more information.