STCW Refresher training

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Firstly, I know this is going to be heavily debated and I may face some backlash but this is a personal view and does not reflect the view of my employer or my stance towards safety within the industry. I’m not after a debate or criticism, merely voicing my opinion……..!

To give you some background information, I have been working ashore with West Nautical as a Yacht Manager for over a year, after making the step ashore from an entire career at sea. I hold a valid MCA Chief Officer 3000Y license and my last roles have been a Chief Mate onboard 70m+ yachts. I still use my qualification whilst working ashore and have sailed onboard a number of our yachts whilst conducting audits or assisting them with meeting safe manning requirements. I plan on sitting my Master 3000 exam in the near future and for this I am required, like everyone, to revalidate my STCW courses following the revised IMO regulations.

After much procrastination, I finally completed my STCW refresher training, all at South Shields Marine School in the UK, at an exorbitant cost of £ 1090.00 for (BFF; AFF; PSC&RB; PST and MCAS) all route 1 meaning I had sufficient seatime in the last 5 years to make a self-declaration that the items on the syllabus for the above courses had been practiced, through onboard safety drills and training, which leads me to ask straight away – I’ve just declared that these skills have been revised onboard why the need for the revalidation courses?

1000 something pounds is a lot of money for anyone to be shelling out – regardless of whether you find yourself in the fortunate position where your employer has paid for your revalidation (not mine) or you’ve had to pay yourself, most likely having had to take time off too, which as we all know in yachting, is the really hard part!

 

Before you stop reading or flick to the next article this isn’t me having a rant, I did find some positives in the STCW revalidation:

BFF – Basic Fire Fighting, excellent course! thoroughly enjoyed getting into a fire suit and being put through our paces in a realistic environment. There is no substitute for the real thing and no amount of training onboard with or without additional training aids such as smoke machines can make up for the intensity of this course and I would happily pay to revalidate at 3 year intervals let alone 5, but let’s not go there…..! {£235 over 7 hours}

AFF – Advanced Fire Fighting, let us assume all schools conducting these courses are following the same syllabus and conducting the course over a standard time frame… no course notes for a classroom only orientated course…… really!  I felt it was rushed and barely touched on the topics with little further in-sight. A waste of time and not worth the money, especially in relation to my positive review of the basic firefighting! {£175 over 4 hours}

PSC&RB – Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boat other than Fast Rescue Boats. Put into content my experience in yachting and in the launch and recover of tenders and rescue boats, for me this course was a waste of time and money. I entirely appreciate there are many accidents happening with the launch and retrieval of lifeboats, but I personally put the majority of these down to human error and seamen not following procedures, or poor maintenance causing equipment failure. The entire refresher training revolved around the operation of the on/off load release hooks. Not a single launch / recovery or 5 mins spent on the water! {£115 over 3 hours}

PST – Personal Survival Techniques – I enjoyed this course and valued the skills revised. It’s hard to practice all these onboard unless you carry a training liferaft and are probably the least revised / revisited onboard, after all, most people only ever get into a liferaft once during their basic safety training before they start working at sea, and as such this is a valuable course! {£120 over 4 hours}

MCAS – Medical Care at Sea – You cannot put a price on the skills and techniques revised here, whilst I certainly wouldn’t want to be paying any more than it cost, I did find it good value for money and I feel the course could be further enhanced by utilising the candidates as volunteers in local hospitals (just an idea, I’m not raising the question of insurance and the logistics of this ….!). There’s only so much you can learn from a classroom environment and a whole lot more you can learn when faced with the real thing! {£445 over 3 Days}

 

There is some reprieve for those of you who procrastinate further – IMO MSC.1/Circ.1560 – 5 December 2016 has appealed for Port State Control to take a pragmatic approach to vessels whose crew have not yet revalidated their STCW certificates until the 1st July 2017. What this means in reality remains to be seen, however if you have overlooked a certificate or haven’t had a chance to revalidate due to time or course availability, there may be temporary relief.

 

To summarise, I feel the cost of these courses is too high, when you start plugging the number of seafarers completing each of these courses (between 16-20 students per course) multiplied by the cost multiplied by number of weeks – someone is making some serious money and I find it hard to believe it all goes to expenses!

 

If these revalidation courses were affordably priced perhaps there would be less resistance to completing these courses for the sake of having a controlled method (namely a certificate) to state that the holder has undertaken refresher training or better yet to find a means to determine if a seafarer requires revalidation training rather than applying it across the board.

 

Just me having my say!

by Shaun Moore, 23rd Jan 2017