As yachts continue to grow in size and complexity (systems and regulatory), onboard training will become increasingly necessary to operate them safely and efficiently.
There are three types of onboard training that apply to the megayacht industry: onboard safety/security training; career development or professional training; and service-oriented training.
Examples of onboard safety/security training include tender operations, firefighting, medical emergencies, security awareness with designated security duties, man-overboard drills, enclosed spaces, and working from a height, just to name a few.
One good example is medical emergencies and the complexity of the medical kits supplied to most megayachts. Each vessel should have a qualified medical person in charge, but that doesn’t guarantee that he/she will be confident using the medical kit should an emergency arise.
Anyone who has opened a modern medical kit can testify that these kits are complex, and include schedule ll and IIl prescription medications, injectables, ointments, creams, bone injectors, needles, etc. Facing a life or death situation is not the ideal time to become familiar with these contents and how to properly use them.
The airline industry does not allow any crew member to open the inflight medical kit. It can only be used by a medical professional who happens to be onboard. Today, there is a definitive need to procure outside professional medical training using the exact kit onboard. This will significantly increase crew’s confidence and the probability of a positive medical outcome in the event of an emergency.
The purpose of onboard safety training is to develop a cohesive team using the vessel-specific equipment. Doing so also significantly increases crew confidence. Numerous devastating yacht fires have been reported in the maritime press in the past six months. Fire drills with an onboard firefighting expert (a fireman with actual onboard experience, not shoreside only) to help refine firefighting skills onboard the vessel using the vessel’s own firefighting equipment is immensely valuable.
Shoreside firefighting training is still a necessity, but adding onboard training is the equivalent of firefighting training on steroids. A good program will have specific goals in mind and be cognizant of all positive and negative attributes of fighting fires on a specific vessel. This includes the strengths and weaknesses of each particular crew member.
As with all emergency training, the program should focus on the “when” a fire breaks out, not the “if” a fire happens. Onboard safety training can and should be applied to every vessel operating with professional crew onboard, including yachts.
The second type of onboard training is career development or professional training. One example is when captains or chief mates help develop the skills and experiences of junior crew. It might include navigation skills, radar use, proper radio phraseology, passage planning, collision regulations, etc. This type of training also includes specific operating procedures for each individual yacht. Even a crew member with years of experience needs vessel-specific training every time they step aboard a new yacht.
Captains and chief mates operating larger vessels in a more regulated world have far more responsibility than ever before, and it is progressively more difficult for them to find time to devote to this type of training.
To combat this, one chief mate of a large vessel reached out to us and asked that we develop an onboard training program for his deck crew and himself. The program was designed to help him hone his existing knowledge while helping his deck crew gain the knowledge they need to help prepare for the yachtmaster and Officer of the Watch modules.
The third type of training is service-oriented education. Geared toward interior crew, it can also be viewed as professional training since it supports stews ascending the career ladder. Training providers are increasingly going to the vessel to provide a variety of instruction, including silver service, flower arrangement, origami, wine and cocktails, etc.
Although interior or service-oriented training is not a function of safety or security, the results are one of the most important aspects of owner and guest enjoyment. Interior crew are the front line in respect to direct interaction with passengers. A substantively higher level of service results in enhanced owner satisfaction and, in the case of charter guests, higher crew tips.
Onboard training can help provide the knowledge and skills necessary for all crew members to prevent threats and emergencies. Recognizing and managing emergency situations early on, along with planning, expert supervised drilling and practicing for that moment, early detection and quick action are the keys to successfully handling any emergency or non-normal situation. Onboard training can help yacht captains and crew achieve all of this and keep their career on course.
Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact him through www.yachtmaster.com.