Refresher training is the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment. What courses do I need to do? When do I need to do them? So we thought it was about time to speak to someone who’s already done their refresher training.

Jonathan Chell, captain of 30.2m motoryacht Escape, did his Proficiency in Personal Survival Techniques and Proficiency in Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting refresher training (shorter versions of the original courses) in January 2016.

The superyacht’s subscription to Bluewater’s One Account means that the training was undertaken at Bluewater in Antibes. But it was also the school’s timely offering that sealed the deal. “I had been looking for companies offering the updated course and syllabus since the beginning of April 2015, and Bluewater was the first company to offer the update,” explains Captain Chell, somewhat confirming fears previous echoed by the industry of a lack of infrastructure to support the demands of refresher training.

“After taking part in the course and realising how much information is lost during those years since the last formal training, I now believe the refresher courses are a very good idea.”

For so many years the superyacht industry has been subject to regulations and restrictions not focused on the superyacht sector, so Captain Chell was pleased to see that Bluewater had focused the fire fighting syllabus on more realistic aspects (“Approved training centres may tailor the delivery of a course to their audience but the course structure and content must meet the minimum criteria laid down in MNTB guidelines for the course” explains the MCA).

“From my point of view, and from what I can remember from the initial training course I took in 2007, the main update was the method in ‘Fighting Fires’,” Captain Chell recalls. “I felt there was more emphasis on the cooling of gases, using small amounts and fine bursts of water when going in to a large fire to extinguish it with a hose and pump, as opposed to a fire extinguisher.” Despite the captain’s (understandable) complaint of training videos that he told me “were at least 15 to 20 years old”, the captain was impressed at the practical updates, adding, “It’s always good to hear that techniques and ideas are changing and making the process safer.”

Captain Chell was in the camp (with many others) believing that refresher training was in part for financial benefit of the training schools, but he’s been converted. “After taking part in the course and realising how much information is lost during those years since the last formal training, I now believe the refresher courses are a very good idea.”

"Let’s look at the amount of yacht fires there have taken place between December 2015 and February 2016. This can only highlight the need for good hands-on training."

There are still lots of crew who don’t feel they need to undertake the training, and Captain Chell points to recent events as proof of the importance of keeping this knowledge up to date. “Let’s look at the amount of yacht fires there have taken place between December 2015 and February 2016. This can only highlight the need for good hands-on training, in a controlled environment, with professionals who can answer any questions and impart their well-earned knowledge. Yes, we do carry out practise drills and training on board, but nothing can beat this kind of experience. Also after having done the refresher, I have some fresh ideas for the on-board training we can do with our crew.”

Not only that, but the Personal Survival Techniques training served as a reminder for the captain. “It was a very good reminder of how uncomfortable the life rafts are - even under-occupied, and that anything we can do to avoid being in that situation for real, for any amount time, such as preventative maintenance, training drills) and so on, is as important as anything else on board.”


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