400 delegates from 28 countries…

Four hundred delegates from 28 countries around the world converged on Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the end of last week (14-15 November) for the International Sail Training and Tall Ships Conference 2008. Organized by Sail Training International in collaboration with the American Sail Training Association (the biggest of STI’s 25 member national organizations), the conference had an overall rating from delegates of close to ‘Excellent’. Sail training vessel operators from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and throughout both Europe and North America attended, along with representatives of host ports from Europe, the Caribbean and North America. The conference comprised a mix of plenary sessions for all delegates and an á la carte menu of 16 workshops. These covered a range of topics from dealing with the current ‘economic tsunami’ and navigating the regulatory seas, to recruiting trainees, the development of a successful sail training program, and the ingredients of a successful Tall Ships event. The conference also included a session for the Sail Training International Youth Forum, attended by 36 young sail trainers.

The Rt Hon Rodney MacDonald, Premier of Nova Scotia opened the conference and welcomed the delegates, followed by Nigel Rowe (President and Chairman, Sail Training International) and Mike Rauworth (Chairman of the American Sail Training Association). The premiére of a dramatic new two-minute film (click here) aimed at attracting young trainee crews to participate in Tall Ships events preceded an inspirational key-note address by Peter Neill, Director, World Ocean Observatory. He talked about the value and importance of sail training in changing the lives of young people, the imperative of exemplary safety standards, and the perils of organizational complacency in the sail training industry.

The conference was preceded by a full session of the Class A Tall Ships Forum, an organization created by Sail Training International in 2004 to address the needs and interests of the big square-rigged ships. The delegates to this meeting made considerable progress on the codification of a modular training program to meet the demands of the new IMO Code for Special Purpose Ships, and on a process for developing new ideas to improve the economics of participating in Tall Ships events. In parallel with this, representatives from host ports met for a separate seminar.

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