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WHOI Small-Boat Operator Training & Certification

New Policy and Operational Changes for Small Boat Operators

Starting in 2003, all small boat operators at WHOI must be certified before any small boat may be used in support of WHOI projects. The WHOI Coastal Ocean Institute (COI) will carry out the training and certification program, with advice and support from the WHOI Port Office, the WHOI Safety Office, and the Vice President for Marine Operations. COI will maintain operator certification records and the COI boat manager (M. Gould, X2639, mgould@whoi.edu) will be the point of contact for questions about training and certification.

In order to be fully certified to use a small boat in support of WHOI projects, a user must:

  • Complete the 1-day operator training course;
  • Maintain WHOI-taught or National Safety Council certification in First Aid and WHOI-taught or American Heart Association CPR
  • Provide a statement of experience, including courses taken and licenses held. If the experience statement indicates a lower skill level, the Power Squad Piloting course (COI will reimburse out-of-pocket expenses) may also be required;
  • Be checked out on individual boats by the appropriate "boat manager". Full certification is a boat-by-boat process as each one has unique characteristics.
  • Expand hands-on experience through the "buddy program" if individual boat check-out indicates a lower skill level. COI will provide boat time for this additional training.

All boat operators will be classified into two categories:
  • All-weather
  • Fair-weather

Temporary provisional certification is not automatically granted but may be assigned at the boat mangers discretion to new users who have demonstrated competence and intend to actively complete all certification requirements. Provisional certification will be granted for a 6-month period, subject to review at the end of the time. The initial 6-month probationary period may be extended once (for a total of 12 months) if the new user has demonstrated that full certification is personally a high priority and that an effort to complete all certification requirements is being made. Temporary provisional certification will be terminated at the end of the 6-month or 12-monght period if progress toward certification is not being made.


The 1-day operator course will be recycled at 3-year intervals. Individual boat check-out will be at the boat managers discretion, based on level of experience and extent of recent use on each boat. It is the users responsibility to provide proof of completion of certification requirements to the COI staff.

All small boats at WHOI must meet all US Coast Guard and WHOI safety standards at all times. All boats will be inspected annually to ensure that boats remain in good operational condition and are in full compliance with safety standards. The WHOI-certified operator is responsible for meeting these standards on a trip-by-trip basis.

In addition to the training to meet operator certification requirements, COI supports all boat operators with on-going communication. For example, a Users Guide prepared by COI staff has traditionally been provided to each COI boat user as a component of the certification program. This document is the primary method of communication with all users and can be considered the Users "Bible". It is distributed to new users in hard copy and may be found  here.

Short-term communication is also important to keep users up-to-date with changes to the boats and with boat-related issues. COI maintains a "boat user" email communication list for direct communication with WHOI small boat operators.

Last updated: March 21, 2012