The rank of Mate or First Mate is also known as Chief Mate or Chief Officer. This depends on the yacht’s gross tonnage and usage.
The term Mate or First Mate is often used for crew that hold valid licenses under 3000GT such as Yachtmaster, Chief Mate 500 or Chief Mate 3000.
The term Chief Mate, or more commonly Chief Officer, is used for crew on vessels over 3000GT or registered as passenger vessels requiring a Chief Mate unlimited STCW Reg II/2 Unlimited license.
The First Mate or Chief Officer is the second in command and is often expected to act as a relief Captain, as required. They are responsible for managing the smooth operation of the deck department, including its general maintenance and supervision.
The smaller the vessel the more hands-on the Mate or First Mate’s responsibilities will be. Occasionally they are required to have additional skills such as basic engineering.
The larger the yacht, the more administrative the Chief Officers duties become to ensure the yacht is meeting all legal and safety requirements. Additional proficiencies such as Safety or Medical Officer on board or ISM Auditor may be required. Chief Officers managing large teams must have fine-tuned leadership capabilities.
ISM and mini ISM knowledge are some of the prerequisites often needed as well as management and strong leadership skills. Crew training and good communication skills are important. Generally, the Chief Officer/Mate is ready, willing and able to step up into the Captain’s position should the need arise.