Managing risk is our biggest responsibility and something we take seriously.
The Sea|mester experience is designed to be adventurous, so to say that there are no risks would be misleading. However, awareness of these inherent risks is the key to managing them. Our goal is to weave risk management throughout every activity, every day and we rely on our students to do the same, taking responsibility not only for their own safety but for the safety of their fellow crew mates.
Our partners in risk management
It’s our view that risk management is a partnership between all parties and a process that should start before even enrolling in the program. Learn More...
International SOS® (Intl. SOS) is the world's leading medical and security risk services company. With over 11,000 employees, led by 5,200 medical professionals International SOS is in the business of saving and protecting lives from more than 1,000 locations in 90 countries.Learn More...
Ways that we mitigate risk
Program Design & Structure
Our programs are built on the principles of experiential education, with leadership, nautical and ocean sciences at its core. Since the experience is designed to be ‘hands-on’, our staff not only place a high emphasis on risk management themselves but rapidly pass these critical elements onto their team.
Throughout the voyage, students develop risk management skill and knowledge through a number of different methods. This learning is reinforced through practical application, as students demonstrate safe practices during everyday activities. Through repetition, simple precautions become second nature.
Staff Experience and Training
The quality and experience of our staff play an integral role in our risk management strategy. Every member of our team is multi-talented, combining the practical skills essential to the operation of a mobile live-aboard program with the more traditional university, graduate, and post-graduate degree education.
All are qualified professionals with experience teaching in their subject areas. Our staff includes U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains, IYT/MCA Master of Yachts 200 Ton Offshore and Ocean, PADI scuba instructors, marine scientists, oceanographers, and medically trained personnel. Staff to student ratio is 1:4, providing close interaction and individual attention.
Vessel Design, Classification & Certification
Both S/Y Argo and S/Y Ocean Star fly the red ensign. Their home port is Road Town in the British Virgin Islands, meaning that our vessels are part of the UK Ship Register and, therefore the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is one of the best performing flags in the major Port State Control regimes with a reputation for maintaining the highest international standards. For this reason, the majority of the world’s quality yachts fly the red ensign. Each yacht is inspected annually by a representative from the BVI Shipping Registry who, on behalf of the MCA, certifies that the vessel has been maintained to their classification standards.
The ability to communicate effectively, clearly and on a timely basis is essential in mitigating risk. Both our office and operational team are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the duration of a voyage.
We communicate via a number of different methods and each vessel is equipped with multiple communications devices that include:
- Cellular phone
- Satellite phone
- Email via cellular or satellite
- VHF radio
- Single side band radio
- 2 x 406/121.5 MHz EPIRBs (emergency position indicating radio beacons)
- SPOT Tracker
Shoreside Medical Support
We work with Remote Medical International (RMI) to provide integrated medical support for the remote environments throughout which we travel. RMI is a Seattle-based company with an international footprint. Through a single point of contact, RMI’s Topside Assistance program extends us world-class medical advice and resources to anywhere in the world.
Throughout the voyage, our staff and students can access RMI’s Global Coordination Center anytime by phone, email or secure video chat. RMI partners with the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, who thoroughly understand the complexities of medical care in remote settings. Seven seconds is the average time that it takes to speak to a medical professional when calling RMI, which include actively practicing, board-certified emergency and specialist physicians.
Working with RMI we radically improve the quality of our onsite medical care.
Personal Flotation Devices
Every soul aboard is issued a SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) approved Type 1 PFD as well as an ocean rated, auto-inflate PFD and harness which they are required to wear while on deck in accordance with the Sea|mester policy. At the sole discretion of the Sailing Master, there are times when persons can be on deck without their PFD / harness combination. Typically this would be limited to calm seas, during daylight hours, when not under sail. PFD’s and harnesses will always be worn when making way at night or anytime by those working outside the lifelines or higher than deck level.
Sea|mester staff live full-time with their students and much of our success comes from the strong working friendships that form as a result. Staff and students are truly on an expedition together. At times and locations deemed appropriate and safe, students have free time to explore ashore in small groups, yet for the most part, our staff are with their team to lead, guide and experience the voyage together.
What we expect from you
It’s our view that risk management is a partnership between all parties, and a process that should start before even enrolling in the program.
Prospective students, you know yourself best, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about the Sea|mester experience so you can make an informed decision as to whether our program is a good fit for you at this stage.
Through experience, we know that each student has his or her own personal comfort zone. Whether related to immersing themselves in a new social environment, trying new activities or even tasting new foods, we are all a little different. Our goal is to create a challenging yet physically and emotionally safe environment for our students, yet the Sea|mester experience is not necessarily for everyone.
All Sea|mester experiences are spent exclusively aboard a sailing vessel and the health and well-being of our students are top priorities. While most Voyages are only moderately physically challenging, all programs are designed to provide an intensely emotional and interpersonal experience. Students are sometimes asked to do things they may not believe they are capable of doing. Part of our risk management process is to develop confidence that these activities can be accomplished. This confidence is based on our collective 40 years of experience and the skills of our instructors along with the measured expectation that the student is fully committed to working hard, taking responsibility for him or her self to work effectively in the group to achieve the goals of the program. We expect the following from our students:
Appropriate Leadership Behavior
- Follow the conduct guidelines as laid out in the Sea|mester student agreement contract
- Work effectively as a member of a team despite potentially stressful and difficult conditions. This may require problem-solving on an interpersonal or group level as well as a willingness to accept differences.
- Contribute to a safe learning environment—no inappropriate verbal or physical behavior toward others is tolerated for any reason.
- Be able to willingly and equally share responsibility with crew mates in daily group tasks. Each student may not do an equal share each day, but over a period of several days, each student should do a proportionate share. All students are learning the skills and being challenged by the conditions and activities; there can be no expectation that any other student will be able to continually assume a greater share of the work or that an instructor can continually focus a greater share of his/her energy and time on one student.
- Effectively communicate ideas and concerns on an individual and group level.
- Have the cognitive ability to learn necessary skills given normal time limitations of a Sea|mester experience.
Personal Safety & Good Judgement
- Be able to stay alert and to focus attention for up to several hours at a time while attending classes, or receiving instructions.
- If taking prescription medications, be able to maintain proper dosage by self-medicating without assistance from instructors or others (unless otherwise discussed with Sea|mester).
- Be able to effectively signal or notify instructors or other student crewmembers of personal distress, injury, or need for assistance.
- Recall and understand hazards and risks previously explained by instructors.
- Be able to independently identify and recognize obvious hazards, such as rough water, collision hazards, purposely capsizing sailing dinghies and other risks associated with the marine environment.
- Recognize and understand the hazards and risks posed by other crew members, which include, but are not limited to, fatigue, state of mind, and actions that may influence judgment and decision-making.
- Be able to effectively alert and warn others of potential or impending dangers such as broken equipment, shifting wind or sea states or other environmental hazards.
- Act responsibly around above-stated hazards to minimize risk even when not directly supervised.
Understand The Inherent Risks
Many of the risks that exist during a Sea|mester Voyage are inherent to international travel and the adventure activities in which we participate. Most can’t be eliminated without destroying the unique character of the program and the activities themselves. Take a moment to download a copy of both our Declaration of Risk and Liability Release as we believe that reviewing and discussing ways to mitigate personal risk as a family is important to do before committing to join an AQ program.
International SOS - Worldwide Reach, Human Touch.
Our Risk Managament Partner
We work with International SOS to provide integrated medical support for the remote environments in which we travel. International SOS is a US-based company with an international footprint. Through a single point of contact, International SOS Membership extends us world-class medical advice, security services, and evacuation coordination anywhere in the world.
Because we want to be prepared for every scenario, we facilitate International SOS membership for every Sea|mester student. A critical piece of this plan is that International SOS membership also provides 24/7 access to a robust network of doctors and security services both before and during the trip. The cost of the membership is:
- $50 per student for 20-day voyages
- $75 per student for 40-day voyages
- $150 per student for 80 & 90-day voyages
We will add the membership fee as a separate item on your tuition invoice, and prior to the program, we’ll send all of your International SOS membership details. While we understand that this is an additional fee, we believe our students and their families will appreciate the value of International SOS’s services along with the peace of mind that this resource brings. Before and throughout the voyage, our staff and students can access International SOS medical or security staff anytime by phone, email or through their app. International SOS thoroughly understand the complexities of medical care in remote settings and radically improves the quality of our onsite medical care.
Remote Medical Care
While on a Sea|mester voyage, students have access to remote emergency & routine medical advice and coordination through International SOS assistance centers. As part of Sea|mester’s incident response system, crew members can speak directly with International SOS physicians in deciding the appropriate response to medical incidents both small and large.
Before the program, students can refer to International SOS for information on the specific locations they will travel. With your member login, the International SOS website and mobile application can provide insight on vaccination requirements, passport and visa requirements, advice on in-country healthcare and health concerns, hygiene, dietary concerns, currency, and even cultural considerations.
Medical Administrative Assistance & Coverage
Included with International SOS membership are referrals and office hours for physicians, hospitals, clinics, and dental clinics all around the world. Through the extensive network of International SOS assistance centers, Sea|mester participants receive assistance in arranging appointments, emergency translation services, and assistance with documentation and administrative correspondence. Through the mobile device, International SOS members are only one click away from the nearest assistance center.
Global Evacuation Coordination and Coverage
International SOS is a world-leading provider of medical and security service. In addition to remotely monitoring developing medical and security situations, assistance centers have the ability to dispatch medication and supplies. Sea|mester participants are covered by International SOS’s infrastructure should the unlikely need arise for emergency evacuation or repatriation. Many Sea|mester itineraries take our students and staff off the beaten path and away from adequate medical facilities. In the worst case scenario, the International SOS emergency evacuation service gives Sea|mester staff, participants, and families peace of mind.
Assistance Center Online and Mobile Application Access
Sea|mester students should be knowledgable about the locations they hope to visit in determining which program is right for them. With your International SOS membership number, you will be able to log into www.internaionalsos.com for access to pertinent information before and during your voyage. For specific questions, GoBeyond participants can call and speak directly with International SOS experts for personal assistance on medical and vaccination information; visa, passport, and travel document acquisition; security information and legal assistance; culture and customs considerations; personal safety and packing advice; as well as referrals to additional resources.