Below, Emma Baggett, THE OM shares an insight into Superyacht Crew non mandatory training and how the career ambitions of high performing crew, with their demand for personal and professional development, is driving the growth of innovative training and education.

Superyacht crew non mandatory training

There is a new phenomenon gaining traction amongst Superyacht crew, something has shifted, imperceptibly, but steadily, they are changing the way they view training. Traditionally, if training was not mandatory, then there was little appetite to engage, however this is no longer the case, in order to fulfil the operational requirements of their yachts, crew are increasingly looking beyond traditional routes of training and seeking knowledge and development to fill the gaps that their CoC’s and previous experience, have left in their professional skillset. As a result, Superyacht crew non mandatory training is on the rise.

“I am a firm believer that knowledge is power as well as being good for mental health. Even now i am studying a course online.” 1st Officer (Chief Mate)

The Superyacht industry is a demanding employer, always requiring crew to step up to meet its needs, it has always therefore surprised me that whilst expecting such levels of multi-disciplined excellence, that there has been such utter lack of willingness to invest in training crew to achieve it. When you think of the complexity of the vessels technical systems and the needs and demands of owners across all departments, it has always been presumed, that crew will naturally learn “on the job” or arrive having helpfully gained the skills needed elsewhere. The reality is that there is a huge disparity between the skills and knowledge needed and the content of current mandatory training.

This of course is not surprising, current deck and engineering Coc’s were never intended to be anything other than professional qualifications to ensure that crew were able to operate vessels in a safe, professional and legal manner. They were never envisaged to equip a crew member with the latest intricacies of business, accounting, refit, build, leadership and crew management.

“I would entirely embrace further non mandatory training. The shortfalls in HELM and project/refit management are evident within any of the curriculum that is currently required for either the commercial or yacht specific routes. There is so much room for improvement of how to handle situations as they arise on yachts. Even at the MCA/Orals level there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions of a candidate on how they would manage real world scenarios.” Captain (Master unlimited)

READ MORE: Why Superyacht Engineers Should Aim to Lead the Drive for Sustainability 

So why now? and what are the benefits for crew, the industry and by default the owners themselves? In a nutshell, three key factors, Effective Operational Leadership and Management, sustainability Awareness and the development of a culture of Professional Excellence.

Superyacht crew non mandatory training

There are a number of factors that have influenced this trend of non mandatory training for superyacht crew, covid has played its part, many crew have reassessed their careers in light of their experiences onboard during the pandemic and are looking to build on their skills to open up employment beyond their current roles. The last few years has also seen the rise of online and distance learning and much to the surprise of everyone involved it works brilliantly, opening up the opportunity to study far more flexibly from the comfort of your own cabin.

“Yes, I would like to continue to develop myself further, I feel that anything extra that can be brought to the table will continue to set me apart from any competition. I also enjoy being in the learning environment, I find it recharges me and gives me a new lease of life when it comes to training and learning new things. I would really like to study a marine biology degree of some sorts – it is a world I am immersed in; I work on the sea, I play in the sea and dive under the water, yet it is a fascinating world and I know so little about the majority of it” Captain 40m.

The effect of the ILO emissions targets and the UN sustainability goals mean that the yachts currently in build will be far more focused on environmental and operational sustainability, with owners who have the budgets to accelerate the technology and crew who will need to be abreast of the latest innovations and have more diverse skill sets.

The increase in rotational positions mean crew have more available time to study and are keen to improve their knowledge and ability, whether that is initiated by the needs of their owner, or a specific operational need or issue onboard. This could be in relation to service, technical, operational, culture, sustainability or an issue with crew dynamic or an update on legislation.

“I think a lot of my generation of captains are curious and hungry for expanding their knowledge. Management companies are starting to encourage training schemes and I think that owners should participate too. I also think it depends on the program. However busy boats where crew have little leave does not make training an appealing thought when you have t seen friends/loved ones for months/years. However if the balance is right, then absolutely” Captain 60m.

For the industries part, it is opening its eyes and acknowledging the financial and cultural impact of supporting the development of well trained and supported crew, by building a working environment that works around the simple equation of investing in crew in order for them to achieve excellence. Non mandatory training for yacht crew  can help produce a workforce who feel more satisfied and valued in their careers, and in turn are more likely to commit to the industry in the long term, reducing the skills drain and hugely improving the owner experience.

For crew they increasingly see that everyday should be a school day, ultimately the process of learning should never stop and by embracing an attitude of continual professional and personal development, they will excel and stay credible within the workplace, future proof themselves for the evolving sector and improve their own career prospects into the bargain.

“I would 100% consider studying non-mandatory subjects. They will help to increase my knowledge and ability, dealing with people, managing the refits of the vessel and also allow me to have options when the time comes to revert to a shore based way of life.” 2nd Officer.

There is one training program rather than a specific training provider, which has led on innovative learning and ironically it was created because there was no mandatory training route supported for the interior department. The IAMI GUEST programme is the only Internationally Accredited Maritime Hospitality and Service Training available to Interior Superyacht Crew. In addition, GUEST is developing a range of professional development courses and therefore the target audience has expanding to include those crew in deck/bridge/engineer/ETO roles too. As a result they have recently changed their acronym to encompass not just ‘Service Training’ but also ‘Superyacht Training’

Interestingly the development of interior CoC’s allowed the inclusion of a much broader and realistic range of modules for the senior HODs and Purser level courses than would have been allowable in a purely maritime course, the Advanced Leadership course in particular caught the eye of captains and senior crew when they were looking for the answers to develop their own crew management and leadership skills. This course is increasingly seen as the leading course for Leadership in the sector, so many crew have seen and experienced poor leadership at some point in their career, the interest and motivation to not make the same mistakes themselves has propelled the course in popularity. There are a number of established training providers currently offering the courses which you can find on the GUEST website.

GUEST Superyacht crew non mandatory training
Image by GUEST

The GUEST modules are developed by the members of their voluntary working groups who make a point of collaborating with crew to listen to their experiences and survey opinion to develop its courses based on feedback, offering a collaborative and progressive approach to course development.

Positioning itself in the market as the recognised yacht qualification body for non-mandatory Superyacht training its overall aim is to set the standard across the board, reassuring captains that they are employing only the most highly skilled and knowledgeable crew.

“I would love to continue studying and developing. When you stop learning you get stale and not keep up with the current times and it is easy to get complacent. That is how you can get some captains who are a long time out of training, who adopt outdated approaches to operational leadership. If you genuinely want to be a good captain, someone who you want people to look up to, then you need to continue developing yourself all the time.” Chief Mate (Master 3000)

READ MORE: How Do MLA College Students Complete Their Work Remotely?

Sustainability and the protection of our planet is becoming a top priority within the maritime sector driven by the IMO emissions targets legislation, and an increasing awareness of the toll of modern industrial activity on the planets oceans and eco systems. Alongside this, is the demand from the new generation of environmentally aware yacht owners who are looking for solutions for the future that are less polluting, consume less energy and exploit less resources.

global sustainability
Image by MLA

One bigger picture factor is that the industry is seeing a gradual change in the owner and guest demographic, they are gradually getting younger, and with that comes a stronger interest in technology and the requirement for their vessels to be able to deliver functionality and flexibility, experiential value, whilst also achieving operational sustainability. As a consequence they require crew who can not only meet this brief but actively develop it.

“I would entirely embrace further non mandatory training. The shortfalls in HELM and project/refit management are evident within any of the curriculum that is currently required for either the commercial or yacht specific routes. There is so much room for improvement of how to manage situations as they arise on yachts. Even at the MCA/Orals level there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions to ask a candidate how they would handle real world scenarios.” Captain (Master unlimited)

When it comes to meeting the needs of educating Superyacht crew on sustainability, MLA College have quietly achieved significant success in developing their Sustainable Maritime Operations (BSc) and Masters (MSc) programs. MLA College is a UK based, award-winning provider of online and distance learning degrees in a range of Maritime, Marine and Sustainability based subjects. Working closely with the UN as one of their designated CIFAL centres (City of London) and offering both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees which are taught via supported distance learning, allowing students to obtain a relevant degree, whilst balancing their careers, life at sea and other life commitments. Their strongest USP’s are that the courses, are designed to be entirely flexible around the unpredictable complexities of life onboard for Superyacht crew (you can start and stop if you need to) and the unique and highly relevant subject areas which focus on the key areas of marine operational sustainability.

MLA College Superyacht crew non mandatory training
Image by MLA College

They currently have Captains, Chief Engineers, Chief Officers and a wide range of crew from the Deck, Bridge and Engineer departments enrolled into the programmes. All of whom are interested in equipping themselves with relevant knowledge that they can implement in their day-to-day roles onboard, which will also enable them to move into shore-based roles with a greater insight and experience in the future. This success is due to tapping into the developing demand for knowledge amongst crew across all specialisations, who see first-hand through their day to day working lives the impact of their vessels and want to be proactive and have a voice in driving forward both operational and environmental sustainability.

“I believe it is important to continue growing even at master level, and if there is a subject which you feel interested in or passionate about why not explore it further. This not only increases your own personal understanding but is a great way of exploring your horizons when it comes to being shore based” Chief Officer (Master 3000)

Uniquely MLA College took the step in 2021 to recognise and value Superyacht crew’s CoC’s and professional and life experiential learning in place of academic qualifications for those wishing to apply to the BSc or MSc SMO programs. This has been a huge step in opening up higher education to those crew who do not have the benefit of post eighteen education but have worked hard for their professional qualifications and have years of professional experience. Currently, this ground- breaking opportunity is open to any crew member who has achieved their OOW/EOW/Chief /Mate/Chief Engineer/Masters CoC’s.

Both the MSc and BSc in Sustainable Maritime Operations (SMO) are designed to give world class qualifications and provide a wide array of both maritime subject-specific and transferable business and managerial skills. The SMO programmes allow students to reach their desired professional goals and enhance their understanding of sustainability within the context of their industry. With a range of modules to choose from and subject areas that range from offshore renewable energy, ocean processes, corporate and social responsibility, ethical business practice and environmental impact and protection.

“I believe it is important to carry on growing even at master level, and if there is a subject which you feel interested in or passionate about why not explore it further. This not only increases your own personal understanding but is a great way of exploring your horizons when it comes to being shore based” Chief Officer (Master 3000)

The next few years are going to be an interesting time for the industry, there is the real opportunity to supports crew from all departments in their pursuit of personal and professional development, empowering them with the skills and knowledge to better perform in their roles. Investing in crew in this way has the potential to result in more efficient, cost effective and professionally run vessels. What’s not to like?

Get in touch

If you are interested in becoming an MLA College student and continuing to learn and the themes of this article resonate with you, Emma Baggett and her company, THE OM, have partnered with MLA College to promote an opportunity for Superyacht crew to access a final year BSc or MSc In Sustainable Maritime Operations. This degree is delivered via online distance learning, designed to be accessible and completely flexible around working routines. If you don’t have previous academic qualifications, you can use your CoCs to gain entry. With the opportunity for qualified OOW and Engineer Offices to gain direct entry to a final year BSc and Masters and Chief Engineers to jump straight to an MSc. Whether you want to build on your maritime qualifications or translate your experience and qualifications gained in the sector into a successful career ashore find out more at

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