David Carlisle takes us through the electronics systems on the mega yachts, and what you need to know to become an electro-technical officer.
As the trend for ever bigger mega yachts continues, the electrical and electronic systems that power them is equivalent, and sometimes even superior, to what is being installed on modern cruise ships. As all these yachts are entirely bespoke, the cost of the biggest mega yachts is estimated to be many times higher than a cruise vessel of an equivalent size and can take years to design and build.
The electro-technical officer
The interior of the yacht is finished to the highest standard and would normally be equipped with a cinema, swimming pool and occasionally a mini-submarine. The lighting and audio/visual systems are state-of-the-art and there is usually at least one elevator that links all the guest decks.
The person on board responsible for maintaining all these systems, as well as all the other electrical sub-systems that allow everything to function properly, is called an electro-technical officer (ETO). Most large yachts carry a single ETO but the largest mega yachts are now carrying a senior and a junior ETO, as the amount of equipment to maintain would be too much for a single person.
How to become an ETO
There is an internationally recognised ETO qualification available in a number of UK maritime colleges but until recently there has been no requirement for yachts to have someone on board with that qualification, so the role of the ETO has been carried out by people with an HND or above in electrical engineering or an equivalent qualification.
Last year the Maritime and Coastguard agency announced that only people holding a recognised ETO qualification will be allowed to sign onto the yacht as an ETO, but there is a path for people who are currently serving in that role to obtain the ETO certificate based on their previous qualifications and experience. Currently, there are no requirements for yachts to carry an ETO, however, it appears that yachts with diesel-electric propulsion are soon going to be required to carry least one person on board with ETO certification.
This is a big step forward into the recognition of the complex and dangerous job that ETOs perform while working on the onboard systems and ensures that the position of ETO is now protected in the same way as an engine officer or deck officer. This reflects the growing importance of the role of the ETO for modern yachts and should allow for greater professional recognition of the ETO in the shipping industry.
To become an ETO you must first complete a cadetship with a sponsoring company that will consist of several academic phases at a UK maritime college and sea phases on a yacht controlled by the sponsoring company. While serving as a cadet, the sponsoring company will cover the costs of all your training and you will be given an allowance to live on for your college phases. Typically, a cadetship is three years long and some companies require a minimum amount of service (typically two years) after you complete your qualification.
Due to the number and the range in the size of yachts, the conditions for an ETO range from a full time position to time-for-time rotation. The salaries are in line with engine officers and are typically higher than the salaries of ETOs in the commercial sector.
This is a truncated version of the article that was published in the June 2015 issue of Wiring Matters magazine. For further information, including information about changes in yachts in the last 25 years, how yachts can be self-sufficient for weeks at a time, navigation and bridge control systems, slow-speed manoeuvring and the safety system, read the full article.
Wiring Matters is a magazine specifically for electricians and aims to provide guidance on complying with BS 7671.