30 May 2016
30 May 2013

Taking the HELM

Bryony McCabe
Amongst the changes to the yacht certification structure brought about by the STCW Manila amendments is the requirement to introduce mandatory crew training in resource management, leadership and team working skills at operational level, and leadership and managerial skills at management levels. As such the MCA have introduced the Human Element, Leadership and Management course (HELM) that will be a mandatory requirement for anyone applying for MCA yacht-rated certificates as of 31st August 2013.


Image courtesy of Thierry Ameller.

There are two separate courses for the different levels of crew; HELM at the Operational Level, which is a three-day course, and HELM at the Management Level, a five-day course. For crewmembers applying for an Officer of the Watch, Master <200gt or Yacht Engineer Y4 and Y3 ticket, then the three-day HELM course will apply. It aims to provide students with awareness and understanding of the key human factors influencing effective resource management.

For all other Master tickets and Yacht Engineer Y2 and Y1, the five-day HELM course will have to be completed as a pre-requisite for a management level Certificate of Competency issued by the MCA. The aim of the course is that students will be able to control the operation of the ship and care for persons on board at the management level through the use leadership and managerial skills.

Senior crew already in the system will not be required to go back and undertake HELM training retrospectively and there has been much discussion over this decision as to whether this is a missed opportunity to improve the level of professional management on superyachts. Hearing from Roger Towner, chief examiner at the MCA at the Antibes Yacht Show, he explained the reason behind the final decision not to grandfather the course: “Just imagine me saying to an old captain of the Queen Mary with fifty years sea time behind him that he has got to go and do a five-day management course. We’re not even going to try.” The MCA understands that current captains and senior crew will have enough managerial and leadership experience behind them already.


“You can’t learn management in five days and walk out with a certificate. You don’t need a certificate, you need to know what you’re doing in the first place.” - Captain Marcel Busse



The benefits that the course may bring to the industry are also being debated. Captain Marcel Busse of motoryacht Amadeus, when asked about the HELM training, voiced his opinion that, “You can’t learn management in five days and walk out with a certificate. You don’t need a certificate, you need to know what you’re doing in the first place.”

However Karen Passman, owner of Impact Crew believes that, “No single course can create leaders or managers overnight, but it can help participants to recognise the elements of good leadership. Ask any great leader and they will tell you that they are on their leadership journey and still learning. Great leaders never stop learning and seek regular development and support to help them improve. HELM is a sound starting point.”

With the corporate world dedicating much time and money to leadership and management guidance and this training already an established part of the commercial sector, it is apt that superyacht industry should follow suit. Crew may be reluctant to invest in something that is yet to be tried and tested by many of their predecessors, but if HELM encourages more professional practices on board, it should be embraced with open arms. To join in our debate on HELM Training, please click here.

The Marine Information Note concerning Human Element, Leadership and Management Training can be read here. 

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