Masters Orals Report

Monday, July 25th, 2016 at 13:16 | by Alistair Baillie

Since I had obtained adequate sea time I decided to get my Masters Certification. For the Masters level, you’re not actually required to sit any exams other than the Orals with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, although from 1st of January 2017 you will need to ensure that you have renewed your STCW Basic Short Courses.

I had a look at various colleges in the UK to see if any offered an Orals Revision course and while most did, they were pretty inflexible to my needs (with start dates and basically fitting it in with my schedule). Glasgow Maritime Academy (not to be confused with GCNS) are however very flexible, they run a 4-week course starting on the first Monday of every month, you can even split it up and attend weeks in different months if that fits your schedule better. As it happened I attended week 1 in May and then weeks 2 & 3 in June. The course follows the same schedule each month wherein Week 1 you re-cover in depth the Collision Regulations, Week 2 and Week 3 is spent going over all the other stuff and in Week 4 they do 2 days of quick fire questions with the entire group and an individual mock oral (I never attended week 4 due to my schedule and dates of the oral exam so can’t say what it was like, but everyone else in the group seemed to think it was very useful). It is a mixed group – so you are in with OOW, Chief Mates & Masters as well as people going for the various restricted tickets, large parts are common amongst them all, but it’s organised in such a way that you each have different notebooks and will split off into smaller groups in Week 3 to cover the parts that are relevant to your exam.

Needless to say, I found it useful and the fact they are flexible to your needs gives them a massive advantage over the traditional colleges. The teaching standard is also very good so I would certainly recommend them. You can find out more on their website at One last thing to say is that unlike the colleges they are used to candidates sitting their exams at the various MCA offices, so while they obviously know the examiners at Glasgow, they have various notes and orals reports for the other MCA Offices around the UK.

At the moment there’s also a large backlog at the MCA for applications and also to then book your Oral exam when you eventually get your NoE back. I luckily got a slot at South Tyneside on the 6th of July where I am happy to say I passed my exam.

Below is a copy of the Orals Report I handed into Glasgow Maritime Academy and contains my best recollection of the questions asked;

Masters Unlimited Orals Exam
MCA Tyne

The exam started on time, after introducing himself he told me to take a seat, confirmed I was there for the masters unlimited and gave me a piece of paper with a question on it (“You have an MLC Audit today what documents will you prepare for the auditor?”). Asked for my discharge book and told me to write on the sheet and disappeared for 5-10 minutes.

When he returned he asked me about my last ship – I started going through the usual items, when I mentioned 4000 passengers he asked where would I find the passenger capacity. I mentioned Passenger Ship Safety Certificate – he wanted to know its validity and he asked what certificates do cargo ships have instead and what is their validity.

He then went through the sheet of paper I had written on, looked at it – said he didn’t care about all the statutory certificates (I had written about 10 that I could remember) and started asking questions about what else he would want to inspect. This went on for 5 – 10 minutes and was interrupted by other questions;

Your crew are rigging a pilot ladder, what Health & Safety Legislation applies?

Masters Inspection of Vessel (when is it required, what is required to be inspected, where is it recorded) What temperature are fridges and freezers required to be? What are the requirements for fresh water system maintenance? (I went through all the requirements for cleaning and super-chlorination and he eventually stopped me)

A new Chief Engineer is signing on today, you know him and have worked with him before, what do you do to sign him on? What else should he have under MLC in addition to the SEA?

Why do you as master care about fuel onboard? (Probably because I mentioned discuss ROBs with C/E during his sign on part). What is ECA? What type of fuel does your ship burn? What sulphur content does it contain?

How do you know if your ship is under UMS? What are the principles of a safe engineering watch? (He didn’t want actions, etc. he seemed to want where the regulations were and to do with manning levels etc. for various parts of the voyage).

You have a new 3rd officer joining, how do you prepare him for the watch and how do you know he is competent?

You’re on the bridge, ready to depart and port officials come on board saying you’ve submerged the load line mark – what do you do? Said I wouldn’t sail, would check if the vessel is listed, would check water density, would check draughts against onboard stability system… I eventually ran out of things to talk about and he asked me to draw the load line mark on my last ship.

How many compartments was your last ship? What does this mean? What do you have to prevent flooding onboard (went on about Damage Control Plan, Cross Flooding System, WTD’s, Bulkhead deck, margin line, etc.) What is cross flooding? Why do passenger ships have cross flooding valves and cargo ships don’t? (I struggled on this and was kind of waffling – until he asked “What are the LSA requirements for lifeboats on a cargo and passenger ship)?

What does the Damage Control Plan Contain?

He then took a radar plotting sheet, put a heading line on it and a dot right at the edge of the sheet, then said you’ve come through to the bridge for a cup of tea, your new 3rd officer is on watch, you see he has just seen this target on the radar screen, what would you expect him to do that would give you confidence in him? After I had rhymed off a bunch of stuff (acquire the target, visually identify, ensure bridge team are aware of it, EBL, ARPA, etc.) he asked, What does Rule 5 say? So is he using all available means?

What fixed fire fighting systems did your last ship have? What do you mean by drencher system?

Tell me about the Hi-Fog System? Is it the same system in ER and Accommodation, how is it activated, what pressures does it run at, temperatures for glass bulb automatic activation, activation from fire detection system, manual activation, what is a pre-action valve?

You get a call at 2am, OOW says there’s a hi-fog activated in a passenger cabin? I took this to mean there was a fire alarm and just went through our shipboard emergency procedures, he wrote a load of stuff down as I was explaining the different stages of response, I just kept talking and he cut me off eventually.

Rule of Road:
Smarty Board – Lights: Red Light – what is it, what additional lights could it show, what’s its sound signal?

Smarty Board – Pilot Vessel – On Port Bow – what is it, what actions will you take?

Enclosed Space Entry – Requirements for drill? You’re conducting a drill what will you do? What is a gas analyser? How does it work? What readings will it have? What is given as % and what is in ppm?

He then gave me a laminated radar plotting sheet with 6 targets on it, told me to take a few minutes and when he came back he wanted to know all about them, he then left the room. The sheet had relative vectors and the CPA, Course and Speed of the targets was given on the sheet. When he came back, I told him what each was doing, he asked me what my actions would be and then asked what one of the other ships was required to do – I roughly quoted “not alter course towards a vessel abaft its beam” and he took the sheet away.

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