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Training vs. Education - Part 1

"What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand." - Confucius

In modern yachting, we have been witness over the last 15 years to a unique period in time where many changes are occurring in all departments onboard superyachts with respect to training, education, and safety management.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) & the International Labour Organization (ILO) have committees which develop standards for the maritime industry through conventions resulting in codes such as STCW, MARPOL, SOLAS, MLC, etc. These conventions are passed to Member Governments for them to incorporate them into National Law, which is then applied to the vessels that carry their Flag.  In the USA and UK, the respective Coast Guard (USCG/MCA) take the lead and advises the Government so that these codes can be nationally codified and implemented.

It has been determined that to improve safety and the protection of the marine environment and mitigate loss of life and property, consideration of the Human Element must be a primary focus. This is done through initial and continual training and education in school to improve knowledge, understanding and proficiency, demonstration of competency through assessment of practical skills, onboard mentoring, training & assessment, as well as fatigue management, life balance and quality of life, etc. commensurate to the level of responsibility of the seafarer.

While there is no way to ensure that you will never encounter a serious injury to a crewmember or guest, a major pollution event, or an emergency in your yachting career, proper training and education increases your professional knowledge and skill level and therefore raises awareness and can help prevent these events from happening. In the event you do experience an emergency, that same training will assist you and your fellow crew in handling the event, and reducing loss of life or serious injury, damage to the marine environment or loss of the vessel.

Many people assume that to fully master a subject you must go to school.  It may come as a surprise for you to hear me say that this is only one aspect of training and education. A great deal of training should be done onboard through mentoring and professional development, and these are free. 

Before we discover how we can achieve learning for free onboard we need to look at the basic principles of training, education – what it involves and how really different these terms are!!


  • Education is: the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of  reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually through study, schooling and/or research


  • Education frequently takes place under the guidance of instructors, but students may also educate themselves if they are determined to succeed and achieve their desired aim – which in this industry is a credential/CoC. Self-teaching really works: the most famous person who did this was Leonardo Da Vinci! Most successful maritime students have undertaken considerable self study, research, reading, and observing throughout their careers and in preparation for their written examinations prior to arrival in a formal classroom setting.


  • Training is the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behavior. Teaching, (or developing in oneself or others), any skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies that can be used, in our case, onboard a Yacht. Otherwise, learning by doing! Training has specific goals of improving one's capability, capacity, productivity and performance in the job you are employed to do! Observers of the labor-market also recognize the need to continue training beyond initial qualifications: to maintain, upgrade and refresh/update skills throughout working life - which is often referred to as professional development. We should always be training for our next level of responsibility.

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.”  ? Peter F. Drucker

In Summary:

The education and training done in school represent only a fraction of the amount of training you need to be successful in your yachting career and in life.  It also forms the mandatory part allowing for regulatory compliance, and professional growth and certification. It often includes industry standard written exams and practical assessments to test your newly learned competences.

So where does the rest of your training come from? In short, onboard training & mentoring of a practical nature, previously known as “OJT”. This is why your sea service is such an important factor in qualifying for your certificate of competence. The IMO recognizes that along with formal training and education, the experience and skill you develop while serving on the vessel is paramount to your overall competence and that is why minimum amounts of actual sea service are required for all levels of maritime credentialing. The more diversity you have in your sea service, and the more useful your OJT, the better you will perform in school and the better you will perform in your career.

The captain trains the deck officers, the chief engineer trains the engineering officers, the officers train the ratings, the chief steward(ess) trains the stewards(esses), etc. By using this technique everyone’s professional knowledge & skill levels are improved, and a stronger team developed.

"What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand." - Confucius