Level 3 Diploma in Maritime Studies: Officer of the Watch on Merchant Vessels of less than 3,000 gross tonnage (Near Coastal)

Level 3 Diploma in Maritime Studies: Officer of the Watch on Merchant Vessels of less than 3,000 gross tonnage (Near Coastal)

SQA code: GG78 57
Ofqual code: 603/4946/3
Total Qualification Time: 1164 hours
Guided Learning Hours: 992
Credit value: 116

A deck officer assigned with the duties of watch keeping and navigation on a ship's bridge is known as the officer of the watch (OOW). While keeping watch on the bridge, the OOW is the representative of the ship's master and has total responsibility for the safe and smooth navigation of the ship.

This is one of several Level 3 Diplomas in Maritime Studies that have been developed by the Maritime Skills Alliance (MSA) for people who are working, or intending to work, in the maritime sector as a deck watch rating, able seafarer, tug/hand rating, or crew member on large yachts. These qualifications are also relevant for anyone who wishes to go to sea as they meet the basic safety training required for all seafarers.

This qualification may be available through employers, training providers and colleges.

Rationale and purpose of this qualification

The primary purpose of this qualification is to confirm the learner's occupational competence as an officer of the watch on merchant vessels of less than 3000 gross tonnage (near coastal). As a work-related, competence-based qualification it provides confirmation to employers and industry managers that the learner has the skills and knowledge needed to meet the nationally recognised standard to carry out the role.

Learners who achieve this qualification can use it to gain employment, to progress in the industry, or to work towards another qualification.


The qualification is designed to meet the following objectives:
  • preparing learners for employment
  • preparing learners to progress to another qualification
  • meeting relevant programmes of learning
  • giving learners personal growth and engagement in learning
  • supporting a role in the workplace
  • confirming knowledge, understanding and skills 


The Level 3 Diplomas are intended for people in the maritime sector and have been developed in conjunction with the Merchant Navy Training Board and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to ensure they are 'fit for purpose'.

What does this qualification cover?

As this is a competence-based qualification, learners will be acquiring the knowledge and skills required through either on-the-job experience or in a learning environment. 
The Level 3 Diploma in Maritime Studies: Officer of the Watch on Merchant Vessels of less than 3000 gross tonnage (Near Coastal) will develop knowledge and skills in areas such as:
  • assisting with bridge watch-keeping duties
  • steering and maintaining course
  • mooring, anchoring and securing operations
  • following safe and environmentally friendly working practices
It is particularly appropriate to able-seafarer and tug-rating jobs.
To achieve the whole qualification, learners must complete 22 mandatory units from the qualification structure. (See Qualification content and delivery tools). There is also an opportunity for learners to take an additional optional unit, however, the credit from this does not count towards achievement of the qualification.

Who is this qualification for?

The qualification is suitable for a wide range of learners, aged 16 or over, including:

  • school leavers
  • learners progressing from basic maritime qualifications
  • adults returning to education
  • employed learners who wish to enhance their career prospects
  • unemployed learners who wish to enhance their job prospects
  • learners wishing to move from one sector of the maritime industry to another


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. Different combinations of relevant qualifications may be acceptable. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • the Level 2 Diploma in Maritime Studies: Able seafarer/Tug Rating, or
  • a valid Navigation Watch Rating Certificate (STCW A-II/4) and a Certificate of Proficiency as an Able Seafarer/Tug Rating (STCW A-II/5)


This qualification is a mandatory component in the Maritime Occupations Apprenticeship in England (as detailed in SASE).


This qualification can lead to progression within the maritime sector, particularly when it is taken as a component of an Apprenticeship in Maritime Occupations. Completion of this qualification can lead to career progression to Mate on board or Master of a vessel less than 3000 gross tonnage (near costal), including tugs.

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Qualification structure

Group award code: GG78 57
Ofqual qualification code: 603/4946/3

The Level 3 Diploma in Maritime Studies: Officer of the Watch on Merchant vessels of less than 3000 gross tonnage (Near Coastal) consists of 22 mandatory units (credit value 116). Learners can also undertake one additional optional unit, but credit from this does not count towards achievement of the qualification.

Please refer to the qualifications structure (88 KB) for more information.

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How to assess

Ongoing course assessment will apply. Each unit specification gives detailed information on the assessment criteria, assessment (evidence) requirements and guidance on instruments of assessment for the unit.

The qualification is assessed by completing a portfolio of evidence which details what the learner has completed at work. This can be gathered through observation, professional discussion, witness testimony or supporting documentary evidence. The assessor can work alongside the learner to confirm that they have met the requirements of the qualification and that they are therefore competent in their role.

Competence is displayed through the assessor observing the learner demonstrate that they carry out their normal work activities competently and to the industry standard and comply with current legislation and company procedures. 

The assessment process will ensure that the learner can complete the tasks that they have been directed to undertake and that they can interpret the instructions correctly. They will demonstrate that they can select the appropriate resources for the tasks and can complete them within the given timescales and specifications.

Learner portfolio

Assessment strategy/principle