Putting Superyacht Captains to the Test


Captains serving aboard superyachts managed by Newcastle based West Nautical have been put through their paces in a training exercise that has seen dealing with the threat of terrorism, tension between crew members, violence on board and distress calls from boats loaded with migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean

The scenarios were part of a three day Command and Control course developed by the company to give superyacht captains an appreciation of what can happen when things don’t always go to plan on the open sea.

The yacht management company has offices in Antibes, Cannes, Moscow, London and Newcastle from where Managing Director Geoff Moore and his wife Sarah run the business.

Together they developed a bespoke training programme designed to demonstrate skills at responding appropriately and professionally to urgent assistance requests from superyacht masters anywhere in the world.

Now following the success of the initial programme, the course has been reengineered and opened up to the superyacht community to test even the most hardened of Yacht Master Mariners.

The most recent three-day course based at South Shields Marine School attracted superyacht captains from all over the world. Delegates from the UK joined those from Australia and Europe to carry out emergency scenarios under expert instruction.

The course is the first in Europe to be recognised by the ‘Merchant Navy Training Board’ (MNTB) and only the second globally.


Good use was made of the Marine School’s marine simulation centre that can replicate the characteristics of numerous vessel types including a perfectly simulated 90 metre superyacht. It can also simulate entering and leaving hundreds of ports, harbours, traffic separation systems and anchorages all over the world as well as creating a variety of weather systems making the training as realistic as possible.

The bridge simulator uses Kongsberg Polaris simulation software and Seaview R5 visual software to give a true to life view for both day and night exercises. The simulator not only gives the user a sense of being onboard a vessel but it transforms them into a state of realism as a result of the motion shown through the large bridge windows. Couple this with 3d graphics and the perceived depth of field which is created by a three metre space between the bridge windows and the projection screen gives the user one of the finest maritime training environments in which to learn in safe surroundings. The simulator is controlled in a separate area where the instructor can watch the candidate and programme a number of variables to further enhance the training experience.

Captains used a simulated 90m motor yacht, and a 40m fast craft that allowed them to use to smaller and maneuverable vessels, a more familiar driving experience when in the simulator. Course coordinator, Kate Gillespie of KG Maritime put candidates through their paces on command and control training and simulation using real time navigation and emergency scenarios that they could come across in their careers.

Some of the scenarios involved medical emergencies in constricted sea traffic lanes, fires onboard and the rescue of migrants in Mediterranean waters. After each scenario, the captains were fully debriefed, a task made easier by the provision of numerous cameras and microphones in the simulator bridge enabling the delegates to watch back and listen to every word and action taken and learn from the situations that they found themselves in.

Superyacht Captain Jean Marc Bitouzet whose vessel MY St David is based in Italy said;

“We often forget that anything can happen at sea and this was an ideal way to check how we react under pressure. The scenarios were realistic and tested us to the extreme. It also reminded us of the duty of care we owe to our crew, guests and owners both at sea and in port.”

Another of the captains taking part had travelled from his home in Adelaide Australia.

Daniel George formerly of the 68m MY Hermitage said it was a fantastic course that covered many of the aspects of being a Master that weren’t included in the training for his Master’s ticket.

“My last three simulator sessions have all been based on navigation and the “rules of the road”. This course focused on management decisions and communication skills and I found it very beneficial.“

The delegates also spent a day at Gateshead’s AkzoNobel paint factory where they learned about marine coatings, especially focusing on the research and development of yacht coatings, which are created and produced on site. The three-day course also encompassed team-bonding sessions, practical advice from Nautilus International, insurance updates and claim guidance from ZIS Bespoke Insurance and financial planning from The Morpeth practice of St James Place Wealth Management.

“We’re already planning the next course and hope to welcome even more superyacht captains in the future. We’re very grateful to South Shields Marine School for allowing us to use the simulator and the West Nautical team are delighted that we’ve added a brand new dimension and training experience to a fantastic piece of kit that is world class,” said Geoff Moore.