SPO recruits, trains and develops our talented employees for the long term. The Company places strong emphasis on lifelong learning and is committed to providing training to equip our employees, both at sea and ashore, with the highest standards of training.
The Company invests in discretionary training, materially above any non-discretionary statutory requirements, to enhance the safety, quality and professionalism of our operations. Our flagship training facility, Swire Marine Training Centre (SMTC), provides seafarers with ongoing training to ensure a consistently high standard of operational excellence is maintained across the Company's diverse fleet. The Centre is one of the most advanced of its kind in the offshore industry and among the first of such facilities in Asia.
Despite the material downturn in the global Oil and Gas E&P industry and the impact of COVID-19, our commitment to training and development of our seagoing employees remained very high. As a result of COVID-19 restricting physical travel from around the world to SMTC in Singapore, we moved the majority of our theory-based training online. Webinars are hosted by SMTC Training Instructors and Fleet Operations Superintendents and are delivered via the Microsoft Teams platform. Training covers various subjects ranging from "Manual Handling" to "Risk Assessments". We have over 25 different subject matters in our webinar title range.
We have revisited and revised our internal course offerings and streamlined this for 2021 and beyond. We intend to run practical courses when travel allows, but as has been demonstrated in 2020, this can and will be done alongside existing webinars.
Over the 12 months of 2020, we trained 2,414 seafarers on various courses by SMTC instructors, equating to a total of 4,301 training hours. This represents a 77% y-o-y increase in the number of people trained in 2020. The total number of seagoing employees who attended discretionary courses across various geographies was 3,856 with the overall number of training hours being 32,017 (inclusive of SMTC-led course figures). While this represented a reduction from 73,048 training hours in 2019, we managed to cover a larger number of seafarers. The non-discretionary courses were attended by 817 employees with 26,420 hours of training spent.
Due to the difficult economic conditions, formal training for shore-based employees was put on hold. We continued to run internal compliance related training. During the pandemic, various industry bodies were offering free webinars on a variety of topics, which were attended by our Technical and Operational Managers. Shore-based employees continue to have access to an extensive selection of online courses on software, creative, and business skills through our e-learning portal, Percipio.
Training cost as a percentage of the wage bill for the two employee groups in a COVID-19 travel restricted year was as follows:
This is a function of incurring no air travel, hotel accommodation and subsistence costs versus the existing instructors as a sunk cost running internet-based webinars where possible, and postponing the courses that must be undertaken physically to a time in the future when global travel is once again possible.
Career succession planning is an important element of SPO's strategy for achieving our future growth and success. Succession plans are developed for shore-based employees within their departments and outports with the assistance of SPO's Talent Management team; and for offshore positions by the Competence Assurance Department.