Choosing a school just as important as choosing a course

Nov 2, 2015 by Capt. Brian Luke

On Sept. 24, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) celebrated World Maritime Day. The theme this year was Maritime Education and Training in recognition of the importance of education and training to its new global sustainable development goals.

Shipping has united the world by carrying products that affect the global economy. Both the United Nations and IMO recognize the importance and necessity of the maritime education and training sector in making this possible, and the recognition that the shipping industry needs to significantly expand training in both quantity and quality to meet the needs of the merchant maritime community.

The megayacht industry is no different. Although the yachting community does not affect the worldwide economy as much as the shipping sector, there are millions of people worldwide that directly or indirectly earn a living from yachts. We are a major economic contributor to ports and shoreside communities worldwide. Construction for new-build megayachts has surpassed 500 this year and by all accounts will likely continue. That’s great news for all of us who work in the industry and better news for all those who wish to enter.

Training and education must keep up with this demand. Not only has there been an influx of new yachts in the market, a host of ongoing and new regulations have hit our industry in the past few years. From MLC 2006 to the Manila Amendments, professional mariners around the world have much training yet to be completed. This puts maritime training centers at a critical point for the future of our industry. Training centers must improve upon the quality of existing courses and increase the volume of students for which they can provide training. How can this be accomplished?

All training centers must adhere to strict guidelines put out by governmental bodies. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are two such bodies widely accepted in the yachting industry. These bodies dictate what courses are to be taught, the content that must be in each course, and the timeframe in which they are to be delivered. They also have strict criteria on the facilities to be used and how many students may be enrolled in each course. It is up to the training center to provide interesting and experienced instructors who are approved by the USCG and/or MCA and who are capable of delivering the information in an easily assimilated format.

The training center must also provide an environment (classroom or practical site) that is conducive to learning. The training center must have an acceptable, independently audited quality management system. Each professional training center is subject to annually scheduled and random inspections by numerous agencies, depending on the approved curriculum, including the USCG, MCA, International Association of Maritime Institutions (IAMI), Association of Marine Electronic and Radio Colleges (AMERC), the Professional Yachting Association (PYA), the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and Den Norske Veritas (DNV-GL), among others. Compliance with the standards of these recognized organizations and agencies better ensures the consistency of quality and processes delivered.

Therefore, the professional yacht mariner should steer clear of any training center that does not have such certifications.

The purpose of yacht training and education is to provide an adequate number of qualified mariners to the megayacht community. Yacht crew members operate vessels worldwide in a multinational, multicultural, technologically advanced environment. The training centers should aim to establish the fundamentals of the professional mariners around those parameters, taking into consideration all international regulations and standards.

At a minimum training centers should seek to establish:

  1. standards that are recognized internationally, including STCW
  2. close cooperation with the yachting industry to meet LY3 (Large Commercial Yacht Code) requirements
  3. cooperation with licensing and certification authorities as well as other internationally recognized institutions
  4. adoption of new technologies geared toward education and training
  5. pairing of onboard training with educational requirements.

Just as in the shipping sector, our yachting sector can only thrive and meet these IMO sustainable growth goals if the education and training sector is up to the task. As the regulations and insurance requirements grow more complex, as yachts grow in size and sophistication, and as crew turnover occurs as our industry matures, the IMO recognizes that it is only through education and training that seasoned crew and new crew alike will be prepared to meet the challenges of our evolving maritime sector.

Do your research and find a great training center that will help you keep your career on course.

Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact him through