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Article by Claire Griffiths



As crew hunker down during the coming months, waiting for spring, some will grab the down time quiet and invest well-earned summer cash in training to boost the chances of a climb up the next rung in their careers. With this in mind, ONBOARD scurried off and tracked down members of the teaching wing of the yachting industry: to get a proper overview of what kind of training is available, for any crew, at any level in their career path: anywhere, anytime. It turns out the training landscape is rich, extensive with a variety of learning options to pick.

Warsash School at Solent University

Lars Lippuner is Head of Commercial Operations at Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, based at Solent University, Southampton. This is the home of the Warsash Superyacht Academy. Warsash School has a history of maritime teaching dating back 70 years and it was Warsash that, right at the beginning, led the development of the MCA Yacht Certificate of Competency syllabus and assisted other training bodies in the early days. The Academy offers higher education, MCA-approved certification and training for superyacht crew, officers, captains and shore-side professionals. Explains Lippuner who formerly

headed up the Superyacht Academy but now plays a more commercial role within the university, “We have over 200 courses including entry level, STCW safety courses, Certificate of Competency for Yachts or Small Vessel and Unlimited certification, bridge and engine simulation courses, yacht handling on scaled models, yacht and powercraft design, maritime business and international management degrees. Over the years we’ve have developed a number of courses for every possible crew level. This is still a growing industry and the level of on board competance has increase massively over the past 10 years, driven by the governing bodies and other regulatory authorities.”

Solent University is in fact the only maritime university in the UK to offer courses all the way from entry level to PhD. Warsash has up to 10,000 professional short course enrolments each year. Says Lippuner, “We are currently in the middle of an unprecedented £43 million investment in new maritime training facilities to ensure that we continue to deliver to the very highest standards.”

Learning technology in the class room is state of the art and includes Virtual Learning Environments (e-learning) plus a wide range of specialist facilities and equipment including: a maritime simulation centre, the UK’s largest and most comprehensive simulation suite with bridge, engine room, liquid cargo operations simulators, vessel traffic management, dynamic positioning, radio communications, and crane simulators; a manned model ship handling centre (the only one in the UK and one of five in the world, comprising a 20-acre site with a purpose-built lake and a variety of scaled ship models to hone the crucial skill of slow-speed ship handling; an extensive fire school and maritime survival centre (for merchant navy training and safety training for the offshore oil and gas sector). Other specialist facilities include; a towing tank, a composites lab, marine engineering workshops and marine electro-technical labs.

All the required training and sea-time to become an officer of the watch is provided during the three year course. “We see more sixth form colleges and schools offering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) engineering focussed subjects which benefit those who may want to start working straight away on superyachts and gain their sea-time whilst learning the skills required as an engineer or on deck to follow the Officer of the Watch limited certification. Says Lippuner, “Training purely to pass an examination is a very dangerous thing. Learning can be defined as an alteration in long-term memory. If nothing has altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. However, simply coaching students to pass exams will not lead to very little long-term learning and is thus dangerous to the students and the wider industry alike. All schools should thus be driven by a desire to provide effective learning and teaching.”


He adds that the industry and its practices constantly evolve and it is important that formal courses and assessment evolve alongside. “This can only be done,” continues Lippuner, “in close collaboration between the regulator, the MCA, and industry representative bodies, such as IAMI (International Association of Maritime Institutions) or others.”

In order to keep up with the changes Lippuner sees a two-pronged approach as an effective practice: One hand continues to work with the regulating bodies to ensure the right assessment is up¬to-date and in place. On the other hand work within the industry to define the self-imposed standards it wants to adhere to. The latter should extend beyond safety related issues advises Lippuner.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is another source of traditional seagoing training. Its network has an international reach with around 2,400 training centres in 58 countries and 250,000 people take training with the RYA each year.

Training to suit the super yachties can include the RYA Powerboat Level 2 and RYA Tender Operators courses that equip crew members with the skills needed to safely operate tenders and to transfer guests to and from the yacht. Both of these courses were developed by the RYA in conjunction with the superyacht industry; great examples suggests Richard Falk RYA Director of Training and Qualifications, of the way the industry has set the standards for safe operations rather than waiting for the regulations to catch up. The shore-based courses cover everything from marine radio operation to navigation, providing the underpinning knowledge needed to operate small craft and progress through the ranks.

Crew can also qualify as RYA Personal Watercraft Instructors, which will then allow the yachts on which they work to become recognised for the delivery of the RYA Personal Watercraft Safety course – perfect for getting their guests safely afloat. Explains Richard Falk, “RYA Yachtmaster™ Certificates of Competence can be commercially endorsed and used in their own right for Deck Officer or Masters on smaller yachts, or as a starting point for those looking to progress through the MCA Large Yacht qualification framework.”

Falk would like to see a more proactive approach to onboard training and development for existing crew. For example, he thinks onboard opportunities and mentoring programmes led by experienced Skippers and Deck Officers are useful in helping to develop and retain crew, as well as ensuring they are better prepared for when they eventually put themselves forward for exams for certificates of competence. He adds, ‘Whether it’s involving them in passage planning, or tutoring them in the handling of large tenders, crew will always benefit greatly from assistance in developing their knowledge and skills.”

Ted Miley is the Principal at Ocean Training based out of Cheltenham in the UK but you don’t need to know that or go there because all of the courses on offer are provided by distance learning online. These include MCA approved courses such as: MCA OOW Navigation & Radar (Yachts under 3000gt), MCA General Ship Knowledge (GSK), MCA Master 200, RYA Yachtmaster and RYA Yachtmaster Ocean. Says Miley, “All our courses are done via Distance and Blended Learning and the courses include high quality course modules and over 370 animations which enhance the learning and allow our students to get high pass grades in the final MCA exams. The students also get 12 months to learn so that they can fit the courses around the rest of their lifestyle. All our online tutors are Master Mariners so the students work with the best!”

An obvious choice for anyone looking to avoid college fees or accommodations costs, Miley explains the main aim of Ocean Training is to get students qualified so that they can rise up the ladder in the superyacht industry and become Captains. He adds, ‘“Ocean Training Online provides very high quality training courses for both MCA and RYA theory courses. Our students are based worldwide and have the benefit of studying at home or at sea in their own time and at their own pace.”


Former Chief Stew Hazel Anderson set up the yacht interior training school, VIP Training School at Palma, Majorca in 1997. The school offers training for interior crew that range from introductory programmes for newbies as well as courses for those looking to advance their careers in food service with courses in food hygiene, wine, floristry, valet services, sewing, housekeeping and laundry. Explains School Director Anderson, “I personally worked on yachts for a total of 17 years therefore have first hand knowledge and understanding of the skills required of yacht stewardesses as well as the issues that they have to deal with.” The courses have specific learning outcomes, for example, how to arrange and care for flowers and plants, but Anderson is quick to point out that the courses also aim to teach crew how to function well as a team member and as a stewardess.

She adds, “Our courses follow the GUEST Program and as such are regulated by IAMI. This programme was designed by people working in the industry, at the request of those the industry serve. They are tailored to ensure students are equipped with the information necessary to perform their role at sea, as well as raise the standards for the yacht owners.

Training for an hour, a day or a week, every little bit of time taken to study and learn adds lead to a weighty and satisfying career path. Combining this with first-hand mentoring on the job will put crew in the driving seat of their next moves.