Navigation and ship handling are skills that come naturally to experienced Superyacht captains but what about the threat of terrorism, tension between crew members, violence on board or a distress call from migrants?
How would they react under pressure? What training do they need to help them expect the unexpected?
These scenarios and more are part of a three day Command And Control course developed by West Nautical to give super yacht captains an appreciation of what can happen when things don’t always go to plan on the open sea.
West Nautical offers yacht charter and brokerage services to clients all over the globe as well as providing operational and technical advice and management to superyacht masters and crew. The company has offices in Antibes, Cannes, Moscow, London and Newcastle from where Managing Director Geoff Moore and his wife Sarah run the business.
In order to ensure that the West Nautical team was able to provide the most up to date information and advice to superyacht captains, a bespoke training programme was developed for West Nautical‘s support team to demonstrate their skills at responding appropriately and professionally to urgent assistance requests from superyacht masters anywhere in the world.
Due to the success of the initial programme, the course has been reengineered and opened up to the superyacht community to test even the most hardened Master Mariner.
The most recent three-day course was based at South Shields Marine School and attracted superyacht captains from all over the world. Delegates from the UK joined those from Australia and Europe to carry out emergency scenarios under expert instruction.
The course is the first in Europe to be recognised by the ‘Merchant Navy Training Board’ (MNTB) and only the second globally.
Geoff and the West Nautical team made good use of the Marine School’s state of the art marine simulation centre that can replicate the characteristics of numerous vessel types including a perfectly simulated 90 meter superyacht. It can also simulate entering and leaving hundreds of ports, harbours, traffic separation systems and anchorages all over the world as well as creating a variety of weather systems making the training as realistic as possible.
The bridge simulator uses Kongsberg Polaris simulation software and Seaview R5 visual software to give a true to life view for both day and night exercises. The simulator not only gives the user a sense of being onboard a vessel but it transforms them into a state of realism as a result of the motion shown through the large bridge windows. Couple this with 3d graphics and the perceived depth of field which is created by a three metre space between the bridge windows and the projection screen gives the user one of the finest maritime training environments in which to learn in safe surroundings. The simulator is controlled in a separate area where the instructor can watch the candidate and programme a number of variables to further enhance the training experience.
Using a simulated 90m motor yacht, and a 40m fast craft that allowed captains used to smaller and maneuverable vessels, a more familiar driving experience when in the simulator, West Nautical engaged the expertise of Kate Gillespie of KG Maritime as course coordinator. The captains were put through their paces on command and control training and simulation using real time navigation and emergency scenarios that they could come across in their careers.
Some of the scenarios involved medical emergencies in constricted sea traffic lanes, fires onboard and the rescue of migrants in Mediterranean waters. After each scenario, the captains were fully debriefed, a task made easier by the provision of numerous cameras and microphones in the simulator bridge enabling the delegates to watch back and listen to every word and action taken and learn from the situations that they found themselves in.
Superyacht Captain Jean Marc Bitouzet whose vessel MY St David is based in Italy said;
“We often forget that anything can happen at sea and this was an ideal way to check how we react under pressure. The scenarios were realistic and tested us to the extreme. It also reminded us of the duty of care we owe to our crew, guests and owners both at sea and in port.”
Another of the captains taking part had travelled from his home in Adelaide Australia.
Daniel George formerly of the 68m MY Hermitage said it was a fantastic course that covered many of the aspects of being a Master that weren’t included in the training for his Master’s ticket.
“My last three simulator sessions have all been based on navigation and the “rules of the road”. This course focused on management decisions and communication skills and I found it very beneficial. The team at West Nautical has thought of everything that may cause problems at sea and then added even more pressure to really test us. I’m confident that the lessons learned here will be remembered always. I’m very impressed. “
Teamwork was something that Geoff saw developing well over the three days.
“The five delegates each had a number of opportunities to be in command of the bridge simulator during the exercises. I saw some great delegation, understanding of the crisis or situation and an awareness of the needs and abilities of their fellow crewmembers. By the end they were a tight team that could, and did, handle any situation together with ease.”
Kate Gillespie agreed;
“I was particularly interested in the debriefs and at the experiential learning that the candidates took away with them. There were vast improvements in team working and the way that they developed themselves over the course. I could tell from their body language and tone of voice that they had developed rapidly in such a short space of time. I put that down to a combination of their existing knowledge, a willingness to learn more and the intensity of the course.”
The delegates also spent a day at Gateshead’s AkzoNobel paint factory where they learned about marine coatings, especially focusing on the research and development of yacht coatings, which are created and produced on site. The three-day course also encompassed team-bonding sessions, practical advice from trade union Nautilus International, insurance updates and claim guidance from ZIS Bespoke Insurance and financial planning from The Morpeth practice of St James Place Wealth Management.
“We’re already planning the next course and hope to welcome even more superyacht captains in the future. We’re very grateful to South Shields Marine School for allowing us to use the simulator and the West Nautical team are delighted that we’ve added a brand new dimension and training experience to a fantastic piece of kit that is world class,” said Geoff.