A Week In The Life Of A Student: Completing The STCW95 Basic Safety Training

Day One –
Elementary First Aid

Arriving at South West Maritime Academy, I felt uneasy not knowing what to expect but these nerves and worries were soon put to rest. From the moment I stepped into the reception I was greeted by a happy smiley face, who proceeded to get to know my name and see how I was feeling about the first day. Each member of staff constantly had a smile on their face, talking to everyone participating on the courses and making us all feel welcome, while pointing us all in the direction of the tea room to get a hot drink before stepping into the classrooms.

When entering the classroom I was dreading having to stand up, say my name and an interesting fact about myself like you normally have to do in these kind of situations – this didn’t happen. Our instructor, Singe, introduced himself and simply got everyone to say their name before moving swiftly onto his presentation. He apologised in advance about the length of his PowerPoint and the quantity of information in it, describing it as a ‘death by PowerPoint’ scenario but this wasn’t so. Singe always referred to how certain skills would be used and in different situations onboard different vessels, something that definitely helped me. I have always struggled to know when skills would be used and in what situations, having these situations put onto a vessel and with a made up backstory for more depth and to make the situation more real, definitely helped my understanding and to imagine what it would be like in the moment when onboard encountering an emergency.

The day felt like 2 hours, the information given was extremely interesting and informative, throughout the day there was practical tasks and questioning which got everyone involved. From CPR with defibrillators to putting someone on a stretcher and practising the recovery position the day was full of fun and activities. Our instructor was informative and didn’t hesitate to share some of his own stories which had everyone in the room laughing or gasping in amazement at some of the things that really do happen in real life – not just in the movies! Throughout the day we covered a variety of topics and how to deal with each situation…

  • Hazards and the types of accidents that can occur
  • The human body
  • The recovery position
  • CPR and defibrillators
  • Choking
  • Defibrillator Use
  • Wounds and bleeding
  • Burns
  • Using stretchers
  • Medical conditions to look out for

After today I feel like I could definitely deal with an emergency situation thrown my way.


Day Two –
Personal Survival Techniques – ‘Sea Survival’

Today we had Sabrina who was very attentive and enjoyed sharing her experiences with the group.

In the morning a number of different topics were covered and we were given an idea of what would be happening during the afternoon while we were in the water. I have heard that many training schools use a swimming pool for their sea survival training, South West Maritime Academy are situated in Cromhall Quarry with part of it full of water. They run the course all year round, wind, rain, snow or sun because you never know what the weather will be like if you do, one day, need to abandon ship.

We covered topics such as:

  • The hierarchy of needs
  • Emergency signals
  • Hyper and hypothermia and the differences
  • The different emergencies at sea
  • Emergency drills are training
  • Muster lists and where you usually find them
  • Methods of abandonment (the different types of life boats and rafts)
  • How life rafts inflate, what is in them and what to do once in a life raft
  • Different life jackets

After lunch we got our immersion suits on and got into the water in the correct manner. During the few hours we were in the water we learnt how to gather as a group and make ourselves visible, how to move as a group and how to turn a life raft over. We then did a practise drill, leaving the pontoon with a designated Captain in charge.

With the help of Sabrina, John and Luc the whole group worked as a team with no one left behind, we learnt valued skills that will save our lives if we should ever need to abandon ship in real life. The instructors work hard to give you a situation that is as realistic as possible.


Day Three –
Personal Safety, Social Responsibility and Fire Theory

Today was a slightly longer day with a lot of information! Luke went through what happens before you join a ship (when receiving a job offer from a vessel) and what happens the day you join. This was to give us an idea of what to expect. We covered:

  • Ways to raise alarms
  • ISM code
  • SMS
  • Solas
  • IMO
  • Parts of the ship (mid ship, forward, aft, port and starboard)
  • What actions you take in an emergency
  • Pollution from a ship
  • The effects of pollution
  • Safe working practices
  • Employee obligations
  • Safety regime and how often drills should be done
  • Accident presentation
  • Permits to work
  • Effective communications and barriers
  • The company’s responsibility
  • Discipline and consequences
  • Drugs and alcohol onboard

After learning how to protect ourselves at sea we began fire theory. During this time, we learnt about the different types of fires, the different extinguishers and what fires they should be used for. Both Luc and John were very attentive, ensuring we weren’t overwhelmed by all the information we had received throughout the day. We were questioned on what we had learnt and there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions and hear the stories of John and Luc while they were teaching us.


Day Four –
Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting practical

Today was all practical, being five foot and a little bit with not a lot of strength I thought I was going to struggle slightly but that wasn’t allowed. We began by putting on our fire protection gear, then making our way to a yard where the fire truck was sat waiting. We began by learning how to unroll different widths of hoses and how to roll them up again, we then participated in a team exercise. Finally taking it in turns to use the hose and practise each setting with John.

After lunch we practised putting together the back strap, oxygen tank and mask. We checked to make sure everything was working and not damaged. Once we had checked everything, we packed up the fire truck and went for a quick drive down to the bottom of the quarry where we got all equipment on and went for a walk around the containers where the fire usually is.

If I was struggling at any point John, very kindly, helped me and assured me I was doing great. After this we went packed up ready for day 5!

Day Five –
Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting Practical

On day five we participated in two runs with fire, the first was with John, he took us up to the top of the containers, down the ladder and on a left hand search into the compartment where the fire would be, at this point the fire was not yet lit.

Once we were in the compartment John made everyone sit down while he lit the fire and we watched it progress, this was so we could see the development and watch as the neutral plain lowered. We were taken individually to use the branch and lower the fire as we were taught the day before. As a group we left the compartment again on a search for a casualty which we dealt with before exiting the containers. This exercise was exciting and prepared us for the second run.

After a break we returned to the containers for round two. By this point the fire was already raging and heating up the doors and compartments. We entered as a team but this time without John to guide us. As a team we made our way through each container checking for casualties before coming to the last compartment where the fire was burning.

Before entering the door was cooled, we then entered and began to extinguish the fire, once the fire was controlled a casualty was found and removed as we all followed closely behind. We had worked well as a team and with the guidance and knowledge of the instructors we completed our task successfully.

All in all, I had an amazing week at South West Maritime Academy and recommend them highly to anyone completing or renewing their STCW certification.


For more information on Completing The STCW95 Basic Safety Training visit:

South West Maritime Academy