The superyacht industry has an urgent need to embrace sustainability

The year 2030 is a significant milestone as governments around the world take action on sustainable development and environmental performance. Increasingly strict targets on emissions and a greater focus on social responsibility mean that the superyacht industry has an urgent need to embrace sustainability as a fundamental operating principle. Superyacht Engineers are problem solvers and solutions are needed. There is a coming need for well-educated and experienced people to proactively manage change. So, the time is ripe for superyacht engineers to reassess their skills and education in order to meet the coming challenges.

Today, we will hear from Mick Walsh, who is currently enrolled on the Master of Science (MSc) in Sustainable Maritime Operations program with MLA College.  

Superyacht Engineers

How did you get into the industry?

I initially trained as a marine engineer by completing an undergraduate Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) in Marine and Plant Engineering at MCI, CORK, Prior to undergoing seagoing training as an engineering cadet on crude oil tankers. I continued working on oil tankers after getting my Engineering Officer of the Watch and Second Engineer licenses. Following a brief stint on a cruise ship, I eventually found myself drawn to the superyacht industry. More than ten years later, I am still working on yachts, now as a Chief Engineer. 

Tell us about your current studies

I recently commenced my first term as a student with MLA College. I enrolled in the Master of Science (MSc) in Sustainable Maritime Operations program. It was an exciting moment for me as it is a long-held ambition of mine to pursue a postgraduate academic qualification. I spent a number of years searching for a suitable master’s degree program; I was motivated by a practical need to upskill, But also by a desire to return to education for the enjoyment of learning. I knew of MLA College and was seriously considering joining the Marine Engineering Master’s Top-Up program. 

Then, a few months ago, I came across The-OM ( and Emma Baggett.  Emma acts as a guide and intermediary between MLA College and superyacht crew who are interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science (BSc) or Master of Science (MSc) in Sustainable Maritime Operations (SMO). My interest piqued, I reached out to Emma and we discussed the syllabus and my motivations, I realised that the SMO course aligned well with my professional experience and aspirations, and, it offered a broader range of learning to the Marine Engineering option. I also felt drawn to the content on a very personal level. 

What in particular made you drawn to this course?

I grew up in rural Ireland during the 1990s, a time of rapid change. Growth in intensive farming, urbanisation, and industrialisation led to increased pressure on natural resources. I spent my childhood messing about in boats on the River Slaney. Thus, from a young age, I was aware of the effects that pollution was wreaking upon the delicate river ecosystem. I developed a lifelong interest in topics such as the protection of river basins, biodiversity, and sustainable farming. But, I had compartmentalised these concerns away from my professional life. As I spoke with Emma, I realised that the MSc in Sustainable Maritime Operations could unite these aspects of my life and provide a possible future direction in my career. 

As well as on a personal level, this course is also important on a larger scale. Why is this?

The superyacht industry enjoys a unique, valuable, and interdependent relationship with coastal regions around the world. In return for access, yachts bring prestige and economic prosperity. There is a boom in employment in the support industries too which has revitalised formerly declining ports and shipyards. However, these communities are coming under increased pressure as a result of the growth of the yacht fleet. Especially with regards to additional marina berths, infrastructure, and services. We should not forget that some of the world’s most exclusive destinations are also those at greatest risk of the effects of climate change and that it is coastal communities that will ultimately bear the burden of inaction. Quite simply, the industry has a social as well as regulatory responsibility to respond to the needs of our hosts

As you have experience both in the commercial sector and the yacht industry, have you noticed any differences in attitudes towards sustainability between these industries?

One remarkable thing I noted when I entered the yacht industry is the can-do attitude of superyacht engineers. Compared to my experience in the commercial sector, there is a much stronger willingness to innovate, modernise and improve all manner of engineering systems and equipment. Sustainability simply was not part of the engineering vocabulary when I started my career. In fact, the prevailing attitude was that meeting the minimum regulatory standards was enough. The innovative culture in yachting can be harnessed to change things for the better. Sustainability requires us to consider the full impact of all of our decisions and truly understand how processes far beyond our control are affected by our actions. Not only this, it allows us to truly understand how processes far beyond our control are affected by our actions. We need additional skills and knowledge to navigate these challenges.   

Video by Hlyton John Timmerman- 3rd engineer

Due to this, do you think more superyacht engineers should consider further education?

Yes. Remarkably, few engineers look to further their education beyond their Certificate of Competency; perhaps many of us feel cushioned by the job satisfaction, defined career path, and relatively good opportunities ashore. However, I believe that a better balance is needed between academic and experiential learning. In my opinion, the Sustainable Maritime Operations program offers a lot for engineers at any stage of their career. In particular, I am looking forward to learning more about subjects such as project management, offshore renewables, and maritime strategy and finance as they will broaden my knowledge base and career opportunities. 

Do you have any advice for those who are starting to think about further education?

For those who want to broaden their horizons but are not yet ready to commit to a college course, I recommend joining a professional body in order to nurture your Continuous Professional Development (CPD). CPD describes your efforts to remain proficient, competent, and abreast of new developments through learning and experience. For example, via training courses, e-learning, webinars, technical papers, on-board projects, etc. The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) is the foremost professional body for marine engineers. There are several more maritime-focused organisations such as the Nautical Institute and Royal Institute of Naval Architects (RINA) as well as broader cross-discipline engineering institutes.  

If you are interested in returning to study, or if you don’t have a degree and wish to start, then you too should reach out to THE OM.

Emma has deep personal experience in both the yachting and education sectors. She will provide guidance and advice on the Sustainable Maritime Operations courses. As well as helping you through the application process. I truly valued Emma’s input when I applied. 

What are the requirements for acceptance into the course?

There are multiple routes available. Because of my BEng degree, I was accepted directly to the MSc Program. But, if you have a Chief Engineer Unlimited or Yacht 3000 CoC you can apply for direct entry to the Bachelor of Science (BSc) final year or direct entry onto the MSc. If you hold an Engineering OOW CoC, you can also apply for the final year of the BSc without any previous academic qualifications. The program is completely flexible and structured with the unpredictable nature of seafaring in mind. 

To Conclude

It is an exciting and revolutionary time to work in the maritime industry, as new technologies and procedures are developed to meet the need for cleaner shipping. There is no better time for superyacht engineers to take advantage of further education and learning opportunities!  I hope more will take the plunge.  

If you are a superyacht engineer considering further education get in touch with Emma Baggett, at

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