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MCA Chief Engineer, MEOL and SMEOL Certificate of Competency & Endorsement Requirements for UK Registered Merchant Vessels

mca chief engineer

A Chief Engineer is in charge of the engine department in a merchant ship and holds complete responsibility for the operations of the engine room and maintenance of all types of machinery onboard the vessel. The Chief Engineer reports to the master / captain and works closely with the master and ensures the physical aspect of the vessel is completely under control. In nutshell chief engineer gives orders for operation and maintenance of ship’s machinery system.

This section outlines the certification structure and examination and training requirements for Merchant Navy engineer officers. The certification system provides a structured progression route for trainee officers and ratings entering the industry to achieve Chief Engineer certificate of competency and endorsements.

mca chief engineer vessel

You may also read: International Maritime Organisation (IMO) STCW Requirements for Chief Engineer

MCA General Requirements for Chief Engineer CoC


  • Meet the minimum age requirement
  • Complete the minimum period of seagoing service
  • A valid ENG1 (medical fitness certificate) or accepted equivalent 
  • Hold applicable ancillary and safety course certificates
  • Pass an oral examination conducted by MCA

MCA Chief Engineer Unlimited (STCW III/2) Requirements

  • You must have obtained either - 36 months’ seagoing service as an EOOW. A minimum of 18 months of this seagoing service must have been on vessels of at least 3000 kW, in charge of the watch or with designated UMS duties and the remainder on vessels of at least 750 kW; OR
  • 12 months’ seagoing service as a Second Engineer III/2, OR Chief Engineer III/2, on vessels of less than 9000 kW - A minimum of 9 months of this seagoing service must be on vessels of at least 3000 kW, and the remainder on vessels of at least 750 kW
  • Hold a valid Second Engineer unlimited, III/2, Certificate of Competency or have met all of the requirements for a Second Engineer unlimited, III/2, Certificate of Competency
  • Successfully complete an approved education and training program, meeting the standards of competency specified in section A-III/2 of the STCW Code
  • Pass the SQA Chief Engineer or Management level examination in - Engineering Knowledge sections (General & Motor and/or steam)
  • Pass the MCA oral examination ‘STCW Reg - III/2 Chief Engineer’
  • The Engineering Knowledge written examination and MCA oral examination must be passed within 3 years prior to the date of the issue of your Certificate of Competency
  • If you are an EOOW working on cruise ships or for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), watchkeeping service may be accepted if it has been performed in a subsidiary capacity rather than in full charge of the watch
  • Your Certificate of Competency will be limited to either motor or steam ships depending on the route you have taken up to this point. For example, to obtain the Chief Engineer motor Certificate of Competency you will; hold a Second Engineer motor Certificate of Competency, have completed your seagoing service on motor ships, passed the motor section of the SQA Chief Engineer or Management level Engineering Knowledge written examination and passed the Chief Engineer motor MCA oral examination

Combined Motor or Steam Ship Chief Engineer Certificate of Competency

  • Holding a combined motor and steam ship Second Engineer unlimited, III/2, Certificate of Competency
  • Completion of at least 6 months’ seagoing service as a Second Engineer on each type of ship (motor and steam)
  • Passing both the motor and steam sections of the SQA Chief Engineer or Management level Engineering Knowledge written examination
  • Passing the combined MCA oral examination ‘STCW Reg - III/2 Chief Engineer’

Obtaining an EOOW Motor or Steam Ship Endorsement

  • You can obtain an EOOW motor or steam ship endorsement if you hold a Chief Engineer, unlimited, III/2, Certificate of Competency by completing the applicable MCA oral exam: ‘STCW Reg – III/1 EOOW’ motor or steam

Chief Engineer Unlimited Steam Ship Endorsement

  • Hold an EOOW unlimited, III/1, steam ship endorsement
  • While holding an EOOW unlimited, III/1, steam endorsement, complete at least 6 months as an EOOW on steam vessels. This seagoing service must include 3 months on vessels of at least 1500 kW and 3 months on vessels 3000 kW or more
  • Pass the SQA Management or Chief Engineer Engineering Knowledge steam paper
  • Pass the MCA oral examination ‘Chief Engineer steam’

Chief Engineer Unlimited Motor Endorsement

  • Hold an EOOW unlimited, III/1, motor ship endorsement
  • While holding an EOOW unlimited, III/1, motor endorsement, complete at least 6 months as an EOOW on motor vessels. This seagoing service must include 3 months on vessels of at least 1500 kW and 3 months on vessels 3000 kW or more
  • Pass the SQA Management or Chief Engineer Engineering Knowledge motor examination
  • Pass the MCA oral examination ‘Chief Engineer motor’

MCA Chief Engineer Less Than 3000 KW Unlimited (STCW III/3) Requirements


  • Either hold a Second Engineer, less than 3000 kW, unlimited area, III/3, Certficate of Competency and complete at least 12 months seagoing service on vessels of at least 750 kW; OR
  • Hold a Second Engineer unlimited, III/2, Certificate of Competency
  • Pass the MCA oral examination ‘STCW Reg - III/3 Chief Engineer less than 3000 kW’

MCA Chief Engineer Less Than 9000 KW Near Coastal (STCW III/2) Requirements

  • To qualify for this endorsement you must already hold a Chief Engineer, less than 3000 kW, III/3, Certificate of Competency, and since gaining this have completed 8 months’ seagoing service, of which at least –
  • 4 months’ seagoing service must be on vessels of at least 750 kW; and
  • 4 months’ seagoing service must be on vessels of at least 3000 kW

MCA Marine Engine Operator Licence (MEOL) Requirements

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Hold the applicable ancillary and safety course certificates listed in section 6;
  • Have successfully completed an apprenticeship in one of the following: Marine Engineering, Diesel Engine Maintenance, Heavy Vehicle Maintenance, Agriculture Machinery Maintenance or a relevant (marine and mechanical engineering) apprenticeship acceptable to the MCA and complete -
  • Seagoing service, the amount specified by the MCA after an examiner assessment19, as a trainee marine engine operator on vessels of at least 200 kW; AND Complete the Approved Engine Course (AEC); OR
  • Diploma (level 2) in Maritime Studies Able Seafarer Engine and 6 months’ seagoing service as a trainee engine operator or as a rating forming part of the engineering watch while holding an ERWRC; OR
  • Able Seafarer engine certification; OR
  • 24 months’ shore employment in an engineering background acceptable to the MCA and 3 months’ qualifying seagoing service as a trainee marine engine operator on a vessel of at least 200 kW and an Approved Engine Course (AEC)
  • Pass the MCA oral examination for MEOL
  • You may apply to the MCA for a Letter of Initial Assessment (LIA) for an MEOL if you Hold relevant engineering qualifications and experience and are not sure where you stand with your existing qualifications; Have Royal Navy engineering experience

MCA Senior Marine Engine Operator Licence (SMEOL) Requirements

  • Obtain 6 months’ seagoing service as an MEOL on vessels of at least 200 kW, while holding an MEOL
  • Pass the MCA oral examination for an SMEOL
  • MEOL and SMEOL will not require revalidation

Chief Engineer Ancillary and Safety Course Requirements

engineer officer courses
Table: Ancillary and Safety Course Certification for Chief Engineer - Credits: MCA

  1. The MCA will accept certificates issued under the authority of any IMO 'White List' country.
  2. The MCA will accept certificates issued under the authority of any EU Member State, as well as Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
  3. Certificates must be MCA approved.

Disclaimer: For general information purpose - please check with MCA for the latest requirements and accurate info

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