As directed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the 2010 Manila Amendments require superyacht crew to ‘refresh’ the following courses every five years: Personal Survival Techniques (PST), Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSCRB), Basic Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting, and Fast Rescue Craft. Simple. Or so we’d like to think.
Yet crew remain confused about what courses they have to do and which training schools offer them. And while, much of the time, these complaints are met with a wave of the hand and a muttered ‘this information’s been out there for ages’, there is something in these grievances. For a UK national working on a UK-flagged superyacht, it’s actually not too complicated – those crewmembers simply need to have refreshed the aforementioned courses and those Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) approved courses by 1 January, 2017. However, we are all aware that the crew industry is a wonderful mixing pot of nationalities, working on board yachts under a variety of flags, and this is where the complications arise.
“When the STCW was amended and refresher training was going to be required, we really didn’t think it was going to be a big problem,” admits Amy Beavers, managing director of Maritime Professional Training (MPT). “We thought we would be able to make the courses relatively straightforward and get everything scheduled in conveniently, so our students could simply pop in, be here for a couple of days and be finished. However, it’s got a bit more complicated than that. Different administrations have decided to implement the requirements in various different ways, and that has created a problem for the crew. Any schools dealing with multiple nationalities and multiple flag states have to, I hate to say it, answer to multiple gods. We may have an American who has actually got an MCA ticket and is working on a Marshall Islands flagged vessel, so there are multiple issues there.”
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the individual course requirements can vary between flag states too. Advanced Fire Fighting, for example, takes four hours under some flags and double that under others. Moreover, the language used by particular flags – the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in particular – to differentiate between the two different routes (those with qualifying sea service and those without) is an obvious cause of confusion. According to the USCG, ‘revalidation’ is needed for those with qualifying sea service and ‘refresher’ for those without. “Those two terms are relatively synonymous,” Beavers points out, which means MPT staff are doubling up as ‘detectives’ to ascertain whether crewmembers should be booking the courses they’re requesting.
When crew are unsure of what courses to take, are being told conflicting information from people who should really know the answers, and then are asked to hand over a few thousand euros to pay for the course, the chances are they won’t be too happy. But much of this stems from a presumption that the training companies are in the business of refresher training to make money. Of course they’re all businesses that need to make money, but not all of them are in existence to bankrupt crew, and they’re getting frustrated at these accusations. “The one thing we face is people accusing schools of money-grabbing, telling us we’re all in bed with the PYA [Professional Yachting Association], and it’s all one big conspiracy to get money out of crews’ pockets. Completely not true,” asserts Lars Lippuner, director of Warsash Superyacht Academy. “It’s an amendment to the STCW Code which has been put in place by the IMO.”
Further information on refresher training, including a table of what certificates crew need to refresh based on their existing certificates and role on board, will be available in The Crew Report Recruitment & Training Guide 2016, available at the Monaco Yacht Show.