Becoming a deckhand in South Africa may not be as difficult as it sounds. However, you do have to complete a few prerequisites. Some of them are compulsory, some of them are optional. In this article, we will understand the certificates you will need to become a deckhand in South Africa.

Certificates needed to become a Deckhand in South Africa

STCW – The Most Important Certificate

If you are planning to work on a commercial yacht or a boat, you WILL need the STCW certificate. It stands for ‘Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping’. In this course, you will learn different methods of handling emergencies, safety-related responsibilities, professionalism, and much more. Let’s understand the STCW modules briefly.

a. Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention (FF&FP)

Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention focuses on controlling and preventing fires onboard. This includes understanding different types of fires and fire extinguishing tools, actions to take during different scenarios, and how to use the safety tools.

This is a three days course that includes theory and practical. You will have to go through controlled live scenarios to learn the aspects of FF&FP. These practicals will make you proficient with firefighting equipment, safety equipment, and safety precautions during such incidents.

b. Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (PSSR)

Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities focus on making the crew efficient in safe working practices, improving relationships with other crewmates, and more. This module covers basic safety and general social responsibilities onboard; basically, its goal is to turn you into a responsible and professional crewmate of a ship you will be a part of.

c. Elementary First-Aid (EFA)

The Elementary First Aid module covers the basic theoretical and practical first-aid knowledge in emergency situations. Of course, you are not a doctor. But during emergency situations, you should be able to handle a medical emergency with your basic knowledge. That is the goal behind it.

In this 2 days course, you will learn basic first-aid techniques such as CPR, casualty transport, treatment priorities, shock management, bandaging and basic medicines, and more.

d. Personal Survival Techniques (PST)

When you are offshore, it is important for a crewmate to not be an excessive burden on others. So, in case of adverse situations, you should be able to handle yourself in survival and safety. The Personal Survival Techniques module takes care of that.

In this module, there will be practical scenarios set up for you. The trainers will demonstrate and help you understand how to survive. There will be different ’emergency scenarios’ set up in a controlled environment.

This course also focuses on the theory that introduces different survival gear and how to utilise them to your advantage.

e. Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)

This course was introduced in STCW in 2010 and is a successor of Proficiency in Security Awareness. This course covers the basics of security on a vessel, your roles and responsibilities regarding security onboard and so on.

Related: STCW Certificate in South Africa | Do I need one?

Powerboat Level 2 Certificate and License

If you are aiming specifically for a superyacht deckhand position, then powerboat certificates and licenses are mandatory for you. However, regardless of your deckhand goals, we highly recommend you take a powerboat level 2 course. As a deckhand, you may require to drive tenders to transport passengers or guests.

A PB2 license is a must if you are required to handle tenders.

Additionally, we may recommend the PwC course too. This will allow you to handle a superyacht’s PWC or tender for recreational or public transport purposes.

Important: Powerboat Course | What is PB1 and PB2?

ML5 or ENG1 Medical Certificate/SAMSA Medical Certificate

ML5 or ENG1 medical certificates are the certificates of fitness. They are necessary you are going to work on a vessel commercially.

The validity of these certificates is for a year and the checkup procedure must be done through an MLA approved doctor in South Africa. You can contact them here in Cape Town to get an appointment.

Alternately, SAMSA also provides a medical certificate. The process is more or less similar to getting an ENG1 or ML5. According to the Merchant Shipping Regulations, it is mandatory for seafarers to get a medical certificate.

If you are someone who is going to work commercially within South African waters, SAMSA Medical is your best option to go. It is also valid for a year and must be obtained through a SAMSA approved doctor in South Africa.


A Deckhands job is a big responsibility; without them, a ship just would not function. Due to the nature of this job, there is a high demand for deckhands around the world. Make sure you work on these certificates before applying for a deckhand position in South Africa or overseas.

Also, it is worth mentioning that the more skilled you are, the better are your chances of climbing the promotion ladder. If you are seriously pursuing a fulfilling career, you should definitely consider equipping yourself with a multitude of skills such as radio courses, navigation courses, skipping, and so on. Take a look at our Deckhand Courses for detailed information.

Sail and Power SA can help you grow in your sea career. For more information contact us today!