FIGHTING FIRES –
ARE YOU FIT TO REFRESH?
By Anna Percival-Harris
(This complete article can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com edition 31)
In late 2013, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency issued Marine Information Note 469. What lay within its thirteen pages was an enigma to many people, along with a foggily distant implementation date of 1st January 2017.
Fast forward to Summer 2016 – panic has set in, few have completely digested what is required of them, MIN 469 has been replaced by MSN 1865, and there are now just six months until D-Day. Allow me to enlighten you as to what you, and your fellow seafarers, must do prior to this much talked about date.
If you hold any of the following certificates:
a) Personal Survival Techniques (PST)
b) Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSC&RB)
c) Proficiency in Fast Rescue Boats (PFRB)
d) Basic Fire Fighting
e) Advanced Fire Fighting
You must, as of 1st January 2017, have gained the certificate within the last five years. If you did the course more than five years ago, you must complete the updating training (subsequently, this must also be updated every five years).
(The list above has been edited for simplicity, as the majority of Yacht crew hold those certificates. There are many older style certificates which are also on the list. I would advise you to read MSN 1865 section 4.4, for a full run down of the courses, if you hold a pre-2000 safety certificate.)
There is a small fly in the ointment, called Advanced Sea Survival for Yachtsmen. Many crew who have done their safety courses outside of the UK will hold this certificate, instead of the PSC&RB. It is by no means an inferior certificate – it is accepted by the MCA as an equivalent to the PSC&RB. It is not, however, an STCW course, therefore it cannot currently be updated by attending the general refresher courses. That said, the MCA are, as I type, compiling another M Notice. This will detail how holders of the Advanced Sea Survival can update this course, alongside their shipmates who hold PSC&RB.
Now we have cleared that up – what does this mean for the Yachting industry?
In theory, crew should have been doing this training during 2016, so that they have the certificates in place before the deadline. However, many people are waiting until the last minute, so they have a full five years with their new certificates, before having to refresh again.
There are thousands of crew in the yachting industry, whose certificates are more than five years old – if a course was run every week for the next six months, it wouldn’t be possible to get them all trained. There are going to be many crew who don’t have the certificates in time – what will this mean for them when Port State Control pay a visit?
The M Notice states “from 1 January 2017 Port State Control Officers may require seafarers to provide documentary evidence of having maintained the required standard of competence, to undertake the tasks, duties and responsibilities listed”.
Paris MoU consists of 27 participating maritime Administrations, and covers the waters of the European coastal States and the North Atlantic basin from North America to Europe. Its mission is to eliminate the operation of sub-standard ships through a harmonized system of Port State Control. The basic principle of their inspections is that the prime responsibility for compliance with the requirements laid down in the international maritime conventions lies with the ship owner/operator. Responsibility for ensuring such compliance remains with the flag State.¹
This means that as part of a uniform system, all European countries should impose sanctions in the same way. However, there will always be differences depending on the individual dealing with each case. This is just European waters – take your vessel across the Atlantic and there is a different authority imposing the rules. There are many MoUs around the world, all working from the same set of regulations, produced by the IMO. How they interpret them, however, may be slightly different to each other.
In the bleakest of port state control inspection scenarios, a vessel to which SOLAS applies could be detained, if a member of crew did not hold the required current certification, in compliance with STCW Chapter VI and the ship’s safe manning document.²
It is therefore in the interest of the Owner/Captain to ensure all crew are trained, and to give them the opportunity to leave the yacht to attend the updating courses. The last thing anyone needs is their New Year charter being put on hold because the second Engineer couldn’t get away to do a short course.
The updating courses themselves are fairly straightforward, and are simply a compact version of the full courses. However, the prospect of hauling oneself into a liferaft, 20 years after doing the training for the first time, does not appeal to some of our older generation of seafarers. Many senior crew members are seriously considering hanging up their oilskins in favour of a life ashore. In early 2015 I watched a presentation from an HR Manager of a large ferry company. They were alarmed by the number of older crew telling them that they planned to retire before January 2017. For that very reason, one of our own instructors who teaches here during his rotational time at home, has decided to retire and come ashore. His 61 year old Chief Mate, however, has completed the refresher training, and is fully certified until he reaches retirement age.
The possibility of a mass exodus come Christmas is quite concerning for the yachting industry. Years of experience, local knowledge, relationships with owners/guests would be lost in an instant. How many bosses will lose their Captain and Chief Stew of 20 years, with whom they have celebrated births, marriages and built new yachts?
On the flip-side, this would open up senior positions for those crew who have been qualified for a while, but who haven’t been able to advance or be promoted.
In issue 28 of this publication, I wrote about the introduction of the Human Element Leadership & Management (HELM) course. The feedback from most of the students who have undertaken the HELM course since its inception is that there are good principles being taught, which they have learned from and will endeavour to conduct themselves in the manner encouraged. However, this course is not mandatory for those who already hold their CoC, and is not required when revalidating a CoC. This means that there are senior officers out there who are running their department in a way that goes against what the younger crew have been taught. This vast difference in management styles and opinions on how a crew should be run is the reason for many crew changes, and poorly run yachts.
Is there a chance that we could see a fresh approach to managing a crew, by letting those more recently qualified take a more senior role? Some crew tell us that since participating in the HELM course, they try their best to implement what they have learned, but their ‘old school’ senior officers stifle this eagerness to develop healthy working styles.
This may be a baptism of fire for some – the idea of stepping up with a fresh CoC is not always a good one, but others may breathe a sigh of relief. Will we see the back of the Captain who sits at a desk reading emails, then forwarding them on to the Chief Mate to action; the Chief Engineer who shows their face in the engine room once in a blue moon, leaving the other Engineers to maintain and work on the yachts various systems? With this older generation of crew gone, would this be a chance for the younger crew to shine, or would it be a calamity?
There is no way of knowing how many people will leave the industry because of these new requirements. There are positives and negatives to be taken from a change in crew for any yacht. Let’s hope that the majority think like our 61 year old Chief Mate, who saw value in refreshing his training, revalidating his CoC, and continuing his life on the ocean wave.
¹ Source https://www.parismou.org/about-us/organisation
² SOLAS - International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. STCW - International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers
Anna Percival-Harris is Managing Director and co-founder of JPMA/Hoylake Sailing School, a yacht training provider based in Hoylake, UK.
Contact: [email protected]