Tender safety and our natural assumptions

Richard Falk looks at the importance of crew and guest safety and
the RYA Tender Operators Course

Anyone who has worked in or been associated with the superyacht industry for a period of time will know of someone who has been involved in an accident with a tender. In some cases such accidents have been minor or perhaps even a near miss. Sadly, in some cases those accidents have been fatal. With a global industry run under multiple flag states it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics of the number of incidents involving

tenders each year. However, for some time there have been some very positive moves afoot to address this very real area of concern.

Five years ago the RYA launched the RYA Tender Operators course. This training package, a year in the making, was developed at the request of industry and was put together in partnership with the PYA with input from captains and crew from across the industry.

Why another course?
For many years the industry had operated with the RYA Power Boat Level 2 as the “standard” for crew in order for them to be able to drive a yachts tenders. The assumption was that this course was fine for the job at hand. However, we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

In conversations with a wide variety of people across the industry it became clear that there was quite a disconnect between what people thought their crew were being taught and the skills they would actually need to operate tenders in a wide variety of contexts. The RYA Level 2 power boating course is a basic boat handling course intended for people starting off in a power boat for use in familiar waters by day. Whilst some superyacht tender operations will certainly take place in these circumstances, clearly many will not and this is where the extra training comes in. And so, after a fairly detailed assessment of what type of operations superyacht crew might be asked to undertake we set about identifying what was missing. The RYA Tender Operators course was born.

What is covered in the RYA Tender Operators course?
This course is aimed at taking a crew member with some power boating experience and at least the RYA Powerboat Level 2 and providing them with a whole new set of necessary skills. Night pilotage, use of electronic navigation equipment, practical night time exercises, towing of “toys”, short – handed operation and passenger management are just a few of the areas covered.

The course is delivered on vessels that are typically larger and more powerful than those that might be used for the RYA Power Boat Level 2 course, ensuring that crew start to gain some experience on craft that better represent the scale they will be operating on from the yacht on which they work.

Whilst most of the course is practical, there is some theory on pilotage, different propulsion systems and different methods and equipment for launch and recovery of tenders. The emphasis is very much about closing the gap between where the RYA Powerboat Level 2 course finishes and what crew will actually be expected to do in real life.

How has the new course been received?
This course was always going to have a limited market appeal. There was no expectation that thousands of people would be queuing to undertake a non – compulsory course. However, since its launch almost five years ago we have seen steady growth and in many parts of the super yacht sector we are now seeing very significant demand for this course.
The feedback from those who have undertaken the course has been excellent, with most coming away from it with greater levels of confidence and certainly a better appreciation of how to use all the resources at their disposal in planning and conducting night time operations on board powerful craft in unfamiliar waters. The ideal candidate is one who is relatively new to the industry, has the Powerboat Level 2 and is looking to upskill themselves whilst at the same time enhancing their CV.

What next?
For more details on the RYA Tender Operators course or
to find an RYA Recognised Power Boat training centre near you, visit www.rya.org.uk/training