Superyacht safety training for you, your yacht, crew and guests.
That sinking feeling
The superyacht was in trouble, eighteen miles off the coast. Fire had broken out and was taking hold. The Captain ordered the evacuation of all unnecessary persons on board and, with his crew, set about fighting the fire to save the yacht. Nothing went according to plan. Deep rooted in the engine room, the fire should have been extinguished with the firing of the first batch of LM200 fire fighting gas. It wasn’t. The Captain ordered the firing of the secondary backup batch, bringing the fire under control. Fire fighting tugs were ordered from a nearby port to tow the yacht to safety and, once on the scene, doused the engine room vents with water. With the blaze finally extinguished, the crippled superyacht was towed back to harbour.
Ashore, the Captain had nothing but the highest of praise for his gallant crew, who had successfully fought to save the multi-million dollar asset. In turn, the crew were adamant that the Captain had saved the yacht. At the subsequent inquiry, the happy ending was put down to good crew training, strong leadership and the fact that the crew were well versed in fire fighting drills. The Captain conceded that he had also learned much from reading Safety Reports about fires on board ships at sea and of best practice in such emergencies, and had taken the time to share this knowledge with the crew. In short, lessons had been learned from previous disasters.
Simon Harvey is program director at superyacht resource company Neurons 2 People Skills. He believes that personal development is a must if those aboard are to stay safe and that this starts with self-awareness – the foundation to crew resource management. He says, “Talk about Safety Reports with your crew. Learn where you may be making similar assumptions in a situation. Learn how mental models can affect behaviour and how behaviour can affect environment. Talk about how understanding your own management and leadership styles in the workplace can affect results and outcome. If you are to have a healthy safety culture on board, open communication and personal and team development are a must.”
Safety Reports are nothing new but they are not as well utilised in the superyacht industry as in the commercial shipping industry. “That’s because we have a different attitude to confidentiality!” explained one Captain. He continued, “When an anonymous report about a watertight door closing prematurely and injuring a crewman is published, the Merchant Navy officer will read the report and take action to ensure it does not happen aboard his own ship.”
“The naval Captain would immediately:
• call a safety meeting to discuss the issue with his crew
• ensure that his vessel’s flag state issued a safety report to its fleet
• run training sessions explaining what to do, when, where and why
• affix signs near the door, warning crew of its automatic nature.“
The Captain, who wished to remain anonymous, continued, “The superyacht crew member would read the report and angst over the size of the yacht, its cruising destination at the time of the incident and the flag it was flying, in a bid to determine which yacht was involved and who the injured crewman might be.”
Superyacht crew and owners should learn from both the royal and merchant navies whose attitude to safety places preventative training and education very highly on their must-do lists.
Safety training for you, your yacht, crew and guests
Owners spend significant sums of money on the construction, maintenance and operation of the yacht and this should include regular crew training. As the Captain is responsible for the safety of everyone on board, utilising the experience of external training companies only enhances the skills of those working on board for the benefit of all.
Film companies like Clear Blue Sky specialise in crew and guest safety videos working in conjunction with crew trainers, Da Gama Maritime.
Consideration should be given to utilising two professional and experienced companies to work closely with the crew to tailor individual packages for the vessel. This ensures the teams not only get pushed harder with drills and procedures but also have the opportunity to create vessel specific films for future review, regular revision and in respect to guests, provide an informative and bespoke safety movie demonstrating the qualification and abilities of the crew.
Crew are not always helped by the poor quality of some investigations. In recent times, the sinking of a 62m motor yacht was reported widely, with the wildfire coverage of social media and online channels spreading misinformation in lieu of any solid facts. Speculation as to why it happened was therefore rife and the shipyard that built her suffered as a consequence. A well-researched, concise and timely report with thoughtful recommendations may have avoided such a situation. Alas, the flag state took over a year to publish its findings and when it did, very few learned anything from it all.