What to expect from a Brookes Bell Sharp End course.


The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the original author or contributor. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the UK P&I Club.

The Brookes Bell Sharp End course is a highly esteemed and eagerly awaited trip for those in the shipping industry. With promises of exciting new knowledge, the chance to get up close and personal with a ship and of course some time to get to know your fellow attendees. 

Each course will follow a different agenda depending on who/what is available at the time of your stay and given the nature of the industry this can be subject to last minute changes. 

A typical agenda might look something like this:

Arrive Monday evening.

Pick up from hotel 9am Tuesday Morning

Intro to Brookes Bell

Talk on Fire investigation (Brookes Bell office)

Ship visit


Lairside Maritime Centre

Dinner and drinks

Pick up from hotel 9am Wednesday morning

Talk on naval architecture (Brookes Bell office)

Ship visit



Talk on liquefaction (Brookes Bell office)


All talks are given by an expert in that field, making sure you get the best knowledge on the topic at hand. Audience interaction is encouraged and the presentations include some real case material to bring it all to life. 

  • The fire talk showed how little time it takes for a fire to spread and how a small bin fire in the crew cabins can fast become something much more sinister.

  • The naval architecture talk proved that having a visual representation of an incident can not only help you figure the situation out yourself but also prove your point should the matter land in court, as there is the potential that not everyone involved will have a technical background and a reconstruction can therefore be an extremely useful tool.  

  • And lastly the liquefaction talk proving the importance of pre-loading checks and again how quickly things can turn sour.

These topics are not only useful from a claims handling standpoint but also from a loss prevention angle, giving attendees the knowledge to advise their customers appropriately. 

Ship visits are a big part of the trip and for a lot of people, the first time they have ever seen a ship up close, let alone been on board one. Your experience will understandably be different depending on the type of vessel you get on the day. However, most visits will include a trip to the engine room (hottest place on earth) and the bridge (where the decision making happens). You will learn how the ship operates, who's in charge of what and also about the cargo being carried. 

  • When visiting a coal carrier it was explained that the cargo is self-igniting and subsequently the holds are fitted with Co2 extinguishing equipment.

  • Alternatively when visiting a tanker, safety precautions were heightened. All electronics must be tested before acceptance on board in case of sparks igniting the cargo and ending in complete disaster (phones were therefore kept in the van). It was explained how samples are taken and how safety measures are around every corner in order to prevent issues with this sensitive cargo. 

And if you thought seeing a vessel in the water was impressive, wait till you go to a drydock! Seeing the entirety of a ship and standing at the very bottom will blow you away. Information on how a dry dock works (ie how to get these giant ships in and out safely) and what kind of work is done to them whilst there, is explained. 

Lastly, the most talked about part of the trip. the simulator! 

At Lairside Martime Centre you get to put your figurative sea legs on and walk the walk as the captain of a ship. You not only get to plot your voyage the old fashioned way (with a hard copy map, a special ruler and a compass). Once you've wrapped your head around this you will then be taken to use your new found knowledge; converting what you learned into the 21st century version of a map - the radar. 

Navigating your route on these simulators really shows how complicated the process can be and gives you a much better understanding of how ships are operated in real life. The slightest of adjustments can make the biggest impact. 

It can therefore be seen that the course is extremely beneficial, not only to those new to the industry but also those with little to no sea going experience. It's the perfect chance to expand your knowledge and get to know what it's like on the other side of the desk - out in the thick of it. 

Seeing the picture from all angles allows you to gain a better understanding of your member's position and as a result enables you to provide greater assistance. It's also a good networking experience, allowing you to form relationships with others in the industry who you may work with in the future. 

Staff Author