Tips for an electro technical officer (ETO) on a superyacht
Written by Simon Osborne
As the superyachts of today become more advanced, expensive and diverse, so do the electrical systems that are found on board. This has led to the position of the Electro Technical Officer (ETO) being introduced on board.
What is an Electro Technical Officer (ETO)?
An ETO is part of the engineering department on a superyacht, employed to look after all electrical and electronic equipment and systems on board.
When is an ETO needed?
Sometimes referred to as an electrician, ETO’s are generally employed on large superyachts of 70m and above, where the engineering staff comprises of roughly four or five employees. If there is no designated ETO on board, the engineers will be responsible for all ETO jobs. However, most large yachts are now carrying at least one ETO on board, with the largest superyachts reportedly having both a senior and junior ETO to be able to fully manage all the systems on board properly.
The job role of an ETO
Reporting to the chief engineer, the ETO or equivalent engineer is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operation of all electronic, audio-visual and communications equipment on board. For large superyachts, these systems are likely to be numerous and complex, including radio, radar, telephones, satellite communications including internet, other communications, navigation systems, personal computers, email servers, TV and sound systems and security equipment.
The importance of an ETO
Modern advanced technology is key to enhancing the luxury experience of a superyacht, so the maintenance of the electrical equipment is vital to the success of any charter or owner’s visit.
For example, something as simple as a malfunctioning sound system or problems with an internet connection can put off a guest who is paying a significant amount for a week’s charter. There are also very tangible safety concerns on a yacht that wouldn’t be found in a home or hotel; if the navigation and communications equipment are not well maintained, there is a real danger to both guests and crew.
Examples of important electrical systems aboard
The types of systems ETO’s will be expected to take care of can vary depending on the superyacht they are working on. Below are some examples of important systems that they may require knowledge of should the yachts include them:
The diesel-electric propulsion system
This system consists of a number of generator sets that typically have a medium speed diesel engine as the prime mover and an alternator that generates either 6.6 kV or 11 kV at 50Hz or 60Hz.
This can then be used by the propulsion drives (which allow variable speed control of large AC motors for main propulsion) and can be stepped down to a lower voltage and used to supply the rest of the yacht’s services.
As the yacht can spend weeks at sea, its systems must be largely self-sufficient, with the ability to produce its own fresh water and have space in freezers and cool rooms to store enough food and drink for all the owner’s requirements.
For example the HVAC system must be able to cope with outside air temperatures ranging from below freezing to above 40˚C and be able to accurately maintain individual room temperatures throughout the guest accommodation.
The bridge is also responsible for the overall safety of the yacht, which is monitored with a dedicated safety system. This system is responsible for fire detection and damage and flooding control, with several more advanced systems also providing a decision-support system to allow the safety officer to have quick access to the recommended steps to deal with any emergency situation on board.
Navigation and bridge systems
The navigation and bridge control systems allow the yacht to be navigated by a single person safely and accurately in all conditions. For transiting between ports, the bridge systems are built around the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS), which provide electronic charts that can be used to plot a course for the autopilot to follow.
Legalities of an ETO
It was announced in 2014 that only workers holding a recognised ETO qualification will be allowed to join a yacht as an ETO. However, for existing ETO’s, there is a path to obtain the required certificate based on their previous qualifications and experience.
That doesn’t mean to say that a superyacht or yacht must have an ETO on board, as many yachts do not have an ETO. It has been reported that yachts with diesel-electric propulsion may soon be obligated to carry at least one person on board with an ETO qualification.
How to become an ETO
Depending on your previous experience, there are different options when it comes to working as an ETO on board.
If you are new to the industry, you will have to undergo the STCW course, as well as a range of other courses including the AEC. You will also need to spend a sufficient amount of time on board as a junior ETO/deck hand, gaining valuable experience while constantly taking qualifications.
For those with experience and qualifications in the merchant navy or superyachts, there are existing courses designed so you won’t have to start at entry level. For more information on courses, visit crew training companies and find out more.
The system skills and understanding that can be gained on a superyacht are transferrable to many other industries, both on and offshore. Electro technical officers have a career path that can eventually lead to a move into another marine sector or technology industry.