Today the Maritime Skills Academy, a brand new, modern, state-of-the-art training facility in the UK, sees its official industry opening. Although, superyacht and other maritime crew have been available to use the facilities for some months, something we saw first-hand yesterday, when we spent the day at the gleaming white new training centre.
Directly next to the offices of its sister company, Viking Recruitment, the Maritime Skills Academy has seemingly popped up out of nowhere. The modest team behind the training facility (who tells us, “Perhaps we should be shouting about it a bit more”), which has seen a €6.5 million investment, hasn’t made a big fuss, and instead is letting the new building (soon to be buildings – phase two is still to come) speak for itself, and today will see key players, including Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, and Sir Alan Massey, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), at its official industry opening.
As we arrive at the facility in Dover, Kent, we immediately see a Basic Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting STCW course underway – crew are kitted up and entering the fire-proof containers. Dieter Jaenicke, chairman and founder of the Maritime Skills Academy (and Viking Recruitment) explains that the courses have been going on for some time. This facility is 100 per cent up and running and ready for crew, he says; particularly important when we consider the sheer number of superyacht crew yet to book their refresher courses, something Paul Rutterford, general manager of the Maritime Skills Academy and Viking Recruitment, agrees is a problem, and one that will see crew booking these courses far beyond the 1 January, 2017, deadline.
We also get a glimpse of where the Maritime Skills Academy’s most recently announced training courses will take place: on their helideck training facility. Just last week, the training centre announced a collaboration with global aviation support centre and training provider MAST, which will provide crew with the opportunity to take a range of MCA-accredited courses: Helideck Procedures and Emergency Response, Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO), Helicopter Refuelling and Aviation Awareness (as well as Helicopter Fire Fighting, due to receive MCA accreditation from 6 October, 2016).
We then move to the indoor swimming pool, the roof of which is partially covered with solar panels, the energy calculator for which is displayed in the reception. Research suggests this is the only indoor pool in a crew training facility in Europe, and used for the Personal Survival Techniques (PST) course, the brand new, 3m-deep swimming pool, with safety kit, including life raft, on display, is quite something. When it comes to the part of the PST course that sees crew jump from the ‘vessel’, crew have two choices here: jump from a small platform beside the pool, or go up one flight of stairs and jump from a platform as high above the pool as the pool is deep. It’s from this same platform that the life ranch is launched, by its very own davit.
Move onto the air conditioned classrooms, and crew are met with clean-looking, modern rooms, that even have portholes as windows. And a mere five minutes away, crew will find themselves at the Maritime Skills Academy lifeboat training quay, offering MCA-approved Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSC & RB), Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) and tender operation training.
This is all up and running, and this is only phase one. Phase two is expected to be completed in 2018, and will see facilities that go far beyond safety training. Crew can expect a full bridge simulator, plus smaller training suites, and engine room and high voltage simulators.
It is rare that when one comes to see the tangible form of what was once a mere rendering, one is as impressed, but in this case the modest team most definitely has something to shout about. The training facility is state of the art and one that, because of its clean and modern design, will particularly appeal to those superyacht crew familiar with a rather aesthetically pleasing working environment, not to mention the high quality training facilities on offer.
But what is perhaps most exciting is the timing of all this. The UK, while a popular sourcing ground for superyacht crew, had only a few options for training. Now, alongside Warsash Superyacht Academy and JPMA & Hoylake Sailing School, the Maritime Skills Academy gives crew three options. And when all we’re hearing from the training schools is that the refresher courses, which are mandatory as of 1 January, 2017, are fast booking up and crew are running out of options, this is very, very important. So how timely, that when crew are running out of options, one very viable one places itself right in front of our crew.
Don’t forget to pick up your copy of our Recruitment & Training Guide at the Monaco Yacht Show from our stand QE9, for everything you need to know about refresher training; also to be found in issue 79 of The Crew Report.