EP vote for improving the centralised mechanism for the recognition of the maritime education and certification systems of seafarers

4 Apr 2019

ETF welcomes today’s vote in the European Parliament on the revision of Directive 2008/106/EC on the minimum level of training for seafarers. The ETF considers indeed that this was a necessary revision as there was scope for substantially improving the efficiency of the administrative framework regarding the mutual recognition of training and certification systems foreseen under this Directive – and especially the recognition, assessment and reassessment of third countries’ systems – to enable a more efficient allocation of the Commission resources and the EU taxpayers’ money. ETF particularly appreciates the emphasis such a revision places upon the level of transparency that should prevail in processing demands for the recognition of seafarers’ certificates of new third countries.

The revision is heading in the right direction in this respect because as from now on, the launch of the process for such a recognition will cease to be automatic. The decision to launch this process will indeed now have to be taken by the Commission by means of an implementing decision and on grounds of several criteria: the provision by the requesting Member State of an estimation of masters and officers likely to be employed by the third country concerned and the assurances that the latter complies with the requirements of – not only the IMO Convention on Standards on Training and Certificates for Watchkeepers (STCW), but also the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC), for the sake of maritime safety and the promotion of decent onboard working and living conditions.

When the decision to revise Directive 2008/106/EC was made, ETF pointed out that this should be seen as an opportunity to create a new ambition for Europe’s maritime training and called on the policymakers for developing more far-reaching legislation providing for the establishment of an EU-wide maritime certificate of excellence going beyond the STCW requirements. The idea being to harmonise maritime curricula upwards in Europe. The ETF also called for the establishment of a European network of Maritime Education and Training institutions (METs). It is positive to note that seafarers’ education will be supported by exchanges of students between METs across the EU. ETF also welcomes the fact that the European Parliament has supported the ETF plea by highlighting the need to develop in the future, European Maritime Diplomas of Excellence (EMDE). The revised Directive stipulates that these form of training beyond the STCW requirements will have to be designed by the Commission once the SkillSea project – an important EU-funded project for sectoral cooperation on skills and which involves amongst others the two European Social Partners for Maritime Transport, ETF and ECSA – would have been completed at the end of 2022. “It is our hope that EMDE will make it possible to create a competitive advantage for European seafarers by equipping them with skills above and beyond those required at international level” Philippe Alfonso, ETF Political Secretary for Maritime Transport. “This is of particular importance in the context of a changing work environment in a time of increasing digitalisation of the sector”, he added.

“It has to be recalled that the STCW Convention sets out internationally agreed minimum standards which are often below the maritime education that might be offered in METs across the EU. The extent and excellence of maritime education and training in Europe should therefore be encouraged and supported, also bearing in mind that such education and training are often provided through a free and public system”, said Mark Dickinson, Chairperson of the ETF Maritime Transport Section EU Committee and General Secretary of Nautilus International.

Lastly, the European Parliament should be commended for having actively contributed to the positive outcome of the legislative procedure and ETF thanks in particular its rapporteur, Mr Dominique Riquet who demonstrated a constant concern to improve the Commission’s proposal by betting on the quality of maritime education, the need for further action to enhance the European maritime skills base, and an uncompromising requirement for maritime safety for vessels flying European flags.