A beacon of excellence for ship masters worldwide

HCMM Chartership

Scott Hanlon, Chartered Master Mariner Registrar at the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, explains how this new award has developed

Over the last 50 years many professions have developed their own ways of recognising excellence, but until recently the maritime industry was not one of these. However, since 2013 the Honourable Company of Master Mariners (HCMM) has had, under the terms of its royal charter, the right to grant chartership status to qualifying ship masters. In association with the Nautical Institute, the award of chartered status for high- achieving professional seafarers is now a reality.

The CM chartership enjoys the support of major shipping companies. Captain Mark Fortnum, VP of BP Shipping, explains his company’s engagement with the scheme: BP Shipping are actively encouraging our mariners to apply for the Chartered Master Mariner scheme and we sponsor them through as we view the CMMar as recognition of their Continuous Professional Development and associated professional enhancement of our company.

The need for chartership in the future

HCMM’s coat of arms
The HCMM’s coat of arms. Photo: HCMM

Many of those working within the Merchant and Royal Navies are able to obtain professionally acknowledged and transferrable qualifications that have equivalency within civilian life. For example, many engineers within the maritime sector may apply for and gain chartered engineer (CEng) status, aligning them and bringing parity with shoreside professionals. Yet, until now, what was there for a ship’s master? The growing weight of responsibilities for ship masters and commanding officers of naval warships shows no sign of easing in the future. Now, for the first time in our long maritime history, we are able to acknowledge and give all those who have achieved their command qualifications the opportunity to gain professional equivalency with the charter status available in many other professions. This is a great milestone in supporting the development of our maritime industry and shows why chartership is at the very heart of the ethos and mission statement of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

‘The inception of the chartership scheme,’ says Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, ‘comes at a time when there is accelerating change in the broader maritime profession due to both economic and technological developments. This makes it all the more important to ensure that, within the ranks of senior Merchant Navy officers and their military equivalents, there is a new mechanism to recognise personal professional excellence in those who go beyond just the achievement of the necessary certificates of competence. More importantly, we need to encourage those who achieve chartership to commit to auditable, continuous and personal professional development and to demonstrate their ongoing involvement in the training and mentoring of other officers to follow in their footsteps.’

The qualities of a CMMar

Officers who aspire to command at sea have to achieve the Master STCW II/2 qualification, or its recognised national equivalent, which is rightly and globally recognised as the highest mark of maritime professional excellence.

The chartership programme seeks to build on that by making available to officers who have achieved the STCW or equivalent career pinnacle, a different sort of professional status – one that recognises the exceptional service they give over and above their certificated sea-going activities. Chartership presents a new goal for masters by recognising the individual endeavour of those who have benefited our industry and improved their own professional capability. It is a mark of excellence that provides evidence of professional eminence and expertise, superior competence and peer-recognised qualities.

CMMar application process and cycle

Routes to chartership are not rigidly prescribed, but accommodate a wide range of development. Therefore, assessment for the award will be unique to each candidate, potentially offering as many routes to chartership as there are applicants. Potential chartered master mariners all undergo rigorous peer review and will have demonstrated their unique commitment to continuing personal and professional development and to the advancement of their colleagues and their industry.

Not everyone will aspire to, or be capable of achieving, chartered master mariner status. By its very nature, chartership should not become a badge or post-nominal that every master automatically becomes entitled to as part of their normal professional development; such a prospect would serve only to devalue both the concept and the award. Rather, chartership should be the ultimate industry recognition granted only to individuals who can demonstrate superior capability and who, by their own efforts, have contributed to, and measurably benefited, the maritime industry.

‘As a Chartered Master Mariner,’ says Captain Nick Nash, ‘all my academic achievements, professional attainments, command experience and training are brought together, taking me out of the narrow confines of my job description and committing me to continued professional development in support of the broader maritime industry.’

Once bestowed, chartership will be re-evaluated at regular intervals and maintained by means of periodic revalidation and the provision of appropriate supporting evidence, with the chartered master mariner always commanding the respect due to him or her, as their ongoing capability is periodically scrutinised.

As the Lord Mountevans observes, ‘Not only will it act as a hallmark in the industry, but also as a motivator for maritime professionals… Recipients of Chartered status will indeed act as beacons of light and champions within the Maritime Sector.’

A truly international chartership

Captain Nick Nash CMMar FNI
Captain Nick Nash CMMar FNI, President of the Nautical Institute, manoeuvring off Margerie Glacier, in Glacier Bay, Alaska, on the cruise ship Royal Princess. Photo: HCMM

Ever since the chartership’s inception, it has been the aim of the Privy Council to ensure that officers from not just the UK but across

the world could become chartered master mariners. Consequently, anyone who holds the appropriate prerequisites can submit an application to be considered for chartership.

At first, from 2017 until July 2019, the chartership was only available to UK nationals; however, the Registration Authority has decided, as from July 2019, to extend the chartership worldwide in a four-phased plan. Phase One includes Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States of America. Phase Two will be Europe, and Phase Three will be the Commonwealth of Nations. After the completion of the previous three, Phase Four will be the rest of the globe.

In the words of Admiral Tony Radakin, the award represents a ‘hallmark of excellence that, undoubtedly, will have a positive impact across the UK industry and eventually, across the global maritime domain’.

The Registration Authority

The Registration Authority (RA) is part of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. All power exercised by the RA derives from the HCMM Court by virtue of the Royal Charter (amended 2019) sealed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The RA provides governance and oversight of the chartership project and is ultimately responsible for recommending any chartership application to the Court for final approval.

The RA, chaired by Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh GCB, is made up of Honourable Company members and also brings together representatives from a cross section of the maritime industry: the Nautical Institute, Trinity House, the Merchant Navy Training Board, the Royal Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the UK Chamber of Shipping, and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology. The willingness of these organisations to participate in the programme is a measure of how important this award is to the industry as a whole.

Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh summarised the importance of the scheme thus:

‘In an era when the impact of new technologies on ships and maritime operations risks marginalising the role of the professional seaman, I see the Chartered Master Mariner scheme as an international bulwark against erosion of our traditional skills and values which are so often, in the last resort, vital.’


Initial enquiries, requests for application forms and completed application forms should be directed to the Nautical Institute at 202 Lambeth Road, London SE1 7LQ . Please visit www.nautinst.org or email chartership@nautinst.org

For more information on the Chartered Master Mariner Award, see www.hcmm.org.uk/chartered-master-mariner

Scott Hanlon, formerly a teacher, and a senior midshipman of Wales University’s Royal Naval Unit, joined the Honourable Company of Master Mariners in 2019 to lead and develop the chartership scheme. He is a lieutenant (SCC) RNR, and the Commanding Officer of Greenwich Sea Cadet Unit.