How the MNTB is working on new ways to accumulate sea time – a cadet’s experience

Cadet Bradley Horton is the first to officially accrue sea time by completing an industrial placement, developed and trialled by the MNTB and its partners.

HMNB Devonport

While it’s good news that SMarT Plus funding has been approved by the Government and will increase the number of cadets trained annually, this has intensified the challenge of finding available sea time berths to accommodate these new recruits.

To help remedy this, the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) has piloted new “industrial placements” in partnership with the Royal Navy, Chiltern Maritime, Trinity House and the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA).

These industrial placements will be offered initially to charity cadets, who do not have sponsor shipping companies on whose vessels they can accumulate sea time. Each placement will be up to six weeks in length.

Initially, the berths will be available for engineering cadets in their final sea phase. Ultimately, the scheme will be opened up to deck cadets too.

"The industrial placement scheme has been trialled by seven cadets with some very positive outcomes and feedback from those who participated," says Kathryn Neilson, director of the MNTB.

So far, one engineering cadet, Bradley Horton, has completed a placement that has been classed by the UK MCA as official sea time. It is hoped more industrial placements will be offered in the future.

Though it is still early days, it is hoped that these new placements will give training officers a broader range of experience in addition to sea time gained on Merchant Navy vessels.

“The challenge for the industry is finding quality sea time experience for cadets. We need to get better at thinking outside the box," says Kathryn Neilson.

“When cadets are onboard the Royal Navy vessels in a dry-dock scenario, they are exposed to new machinery, different procedures and protocols and new routines, which makes for a more well-rounded, comprehensive training experience," she says.

“Securing quality training berths for cadets has always been a challenge, especially for charity cadets. Whilst offering quality sea time, we are also addressing the berthing shortfall," she continues.

Bradley Horton, an engineer cadet with Chiltern Maritime, was the first cadet to have officially accrued sea time by completing an industrial experience placement, which he undertook with the Royal Navy at HMNB Devonport in Plymouth. Here, Bradley tells us in his own words about the experience and what he got out of it…

“During my time working at Devonport with the Royal Navy, I was lucky enough to have stayed in the Wardroom located within the naval base. This gave me a chance to not only interact with higher ranking Royal Navy officers, but also see the professionalism and elegance that the Royal Navy has to offer.

“Within the first week, the other engineer cadet and I completed a brief safety introduction with other staff members working within the dockyard. Once we had finished, we joined one of the petty officers, who showed us around the different Type 23 Frigates — HMS Northumberland, Argyll, Kent and Montrose — that were berthed awaiting refit work. We were given a general familiarisation of the different ships and it was interesting to see the different stages of refitting these vessels — one had just arrived at the yard while another was awaiting sea trials.

“In comparison to the cruise liner I worked onboard previously, the Type 23 Frigates were a lot more confined and included completely different systems that I would not have been otherwise exposed to during my engineering cadetship, such as the use of gas turbines as propulsion and a variety of different weapon systems.  

“During my second week, we underwent an endoscope inspection of cylinder liners and carried out an inspection of the crankcase on one of the generator engines on the HMS Argyll. The engine was contained in an enclosed space for safety purposes, which made it more challenging to remove crankcase doors. It was very interesting having to consider how the environment in which these vessels will be sailing has such a dramatic effect on the layout of the ship and why additional systems must be put in place to deal with this.

“We assisted one of the petty officers with working on one of the dehumidifiers onboard the HMS Northumberland during the third week of the placement. We were instructed to change one of the capacitors on the gearbox of the dehumidifier, which meant stripping down the machinery, locating the specific electrical part, replacing and then reassembling it.

“During our last week, along with the petty officers we were in charge of removing tank top doors so that the space could be inspected. This required us to locate the different enclosed spaces that were due for inspection and to remove them so that they were ready to be ventilated and inspected. We also tested one of the fuel-transfer pumps to make sure that it was pumping sufficiently and at the correct pressure. This meant being stationed at specific locations of the piping system and locating and fixing any leaks that arose during the testing period.

“Overall, I can say that I was very proud to have been chosen to complete an industrial placement within the Royal Navy. Despite not being able to join the vessels during their sea trials, I found the whole experience very appealing. It increased my knowledge of different ship systems, which wouldn’t have been possible working solely on Merchant Navy vessels. It also gave me a vast insight into the workings of the Royal Navy and the structural differences in rank and operation.”  


Photo: Royal Navy.

For more information contact:

Kathryn Neilson

Director, MNTB

020 7417 2824 / 07425 863810

kathryn.neilson@mntb.org.uk