METSTRADE & IBEX join forces!

Skippers Working Without Borders

Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Project final conference takes place in Brussels, pointing the way towards improved EU job mobility for charter captains operating Small Commercial Vessels (SCV’s).

Held on 16th June the conference was attended by a healthy cross section from the leisure yachting industry including skippers, sea schools, charter operators, maritime lawyers and several national boating associations.

The problem, which the project is aiming to address and resolve is quite simply as follows: 

Currently within the SCV (Small Commercial Vessel) maritime sector of the EU, qualifications are not mutually recognised between the authorities of Member States. Therefore nationally qualified professionals are excluded from commanding identical vessels, operating under different national flags.

The main thrust of the day’s agenda focused on the detailed preparatory work that has now led to the creation of a unique cross-reference comparison tool. This aims to level the playing field for suitably qualified skippers, allowing them to work on yachts flagged by more EU member states than what their original country specific license currently allows.   

The dedicated software created within the project clearly establishes where uniformity already exists between training and qualification standards across seven different EU flag states at Yacht Master Offshore equivalent levels.  And, just as importantly it goes on to precisely define where any shortfalls exist from one state to another.

The design parameters of the program called for objective and transparent comparability of a multitude of qualifications and training standards by breaking them into their smallest parts called FEs (Fundamental Elements).

In order to achieve this, the TCC-SCV project developed what they have called the ‘MultiFex FE Extractor.’  This is basically an online software tool designed to provide a simple and standardised method of extracting FEs found in the content of the qualification documentation from various training syllabuses.

This data is then fed into the online Comparison Tool, which has the software capability to interrogate the information collected by the MultiFex. The resulting output objectively compares qualification standards between different states and training bodies, it can then be presented to decision-making authorities to support cross border approval of qualifying skippers.

Armed with this detailed information, candidates will theoretically be able to ‘top up’ and meet the full requirement demanded by a particular state. It is envisaged that attending and successfully completing one or more pre-defined modular courses will achieve this. Obviously the benefit here is that skippers can be credited with the knowledge, experience and qualifications that they have already gained, thus precluding the necessity to ‘re-qualify’ from scratch, in order to work on vessels flagged outside of their home state.

Note: The base module is configured on a motor yacht in non-tidal waters, this enables ‘topping up modules’ to be added, in order to gear up the qualification parameters to apply to sailing and tidal operations.

An EU funded project with a specifically targeted outcome

SiljaTeege, one of the project leaders told IBI, “the first phase was entitled TRECVET (Transnational Recognition of European Certification in Vocational Education and Training.)  It was set up and funded with the support of the European Commission, and successfully identified the scale of the problem and helped raise awareness of it via a process of inter EU state cooperation and precise data gathering. Initially we analysed qualifications and standards from three states, namely Germany, Spain and UK.”

The continuation of the project was then approved and funded through the Erasmus + Key Action 2 Strategic Partnership program and set to run for two years from 1st September 2014. Second phase expanded the data gathering to seven countries in all by adding in Croatia, Czech Republic, France and Slovenia.

Ten partners from nine EU countries were selected for their expertise in maritime qualifications and their diverse knowledge of the qualifications required for operation of Small Commercial Vessels.

The supporting group contributing data and expertise to the project was therefore made up of one European association, four National associations, two maritime universities and three sea schools operating in the SCV sector.

The project title then became: ‘TCC –SCV.’  The acronym actually stands for: ‘TRECVET Core Curriculum for Small Commercial Vessel Skippers.

It should be noted here that the establishment of Core Curriculums for equalising job compatibility is already well established within the EU for a number of other industries, and it is envisaged that the final outcome from this project will fit into that framework.

Supporting market growth in a rapidly changing boating environment.

The conference was hosted by the Brussels based EU marine trade association European Boating Industry (EBI) who have been instrumental in sponsoring, supporting and enabling the project.

In her opening remarks Mirna Cieniewicz, Secretary General of EBI pointed out that there are 50 to 70,000 professional skippers working in Europe, and 60,000 charter yachts under 24 metres operating in European waters.  (The TCC-SCV project is specifically built around the skippers requirements for navigating yachts up to 24 metres / 200 tons.)

She also mentioned that all the evidence pointed towards a demographic change in the market, where ‘boat use’ as opposed to ‘boat ownership’ seems to be the growth axis for the leisure marine industry.  Therefore charter skippers are an important human resource as an essential part of the Blue Tourism future.  

“The present situation of cross border inflexibility” said Mirna, ‘is actually affecting a whole industry and not just the charter skippers.” 

She went on to list; delivery skippers, dive boat skippers, charter companies, crew agencies and harbour staff as other victims of the current situation.      

Josie Tucci, general manager for charter operator The Moorings who are part of the TUI Marine Group with Sunsail and Le Boat in the family, further supported this point in a presentation to the assembled delegates. The group controls a total fleet of around 2000 boats offering water-based holidays.

Josie declared that 50% of the company’s business is in Europe with a multi-flagged fleet, contributing some 40 million euros revenue to the group. She also emphasised that Sunsail’s flotilla type holidays were growing and attracting more novices to the boating world, where they get can involved without fear or risk, due to the presence of professional skippers in the fleet.  She said that this was a key to growth in an ever more competitive sports/action holiday market where packaged offers from golf and skiing etc were attracting clients.

Some 22% of the TUI charter group’s guests leave the dock with a skipper onboard, and the growth of flotilla type holidays is strongest in the USA, which Josie pointed out usually leads to a similar trend following in Europe.

In conclusion she said that the company had 200 skippers operating in the UK and Med, and that they fully support the TCC-SCV project, which will enable them to grow the resource in order to meet demand with more flexibility in future.

A complex challenge, simply explained.

Via a short video clip, Mike John one of the other project leaders, who is Principle of Sea-Teach RYA training school in Mallorca gave a graphic presentation of the problem.

Standing in front of an identical pair of Fairline Squadron 55 motor yachts, Mike said;

"With my RYA Commercial Yacht Master Coastal ticket, I can legally navigate the one on the right (British flagged) but for the one on the left (German flagged) I am not allowed to take the helm on a commercial basis. This is despite the fact that the operational rules/regs and safety requirements for both boats are exactly the same.”

Next steps, and EU Commission Involvement.

A significant degree of support for the project was very evident from the European Union authorities at the conference. Various speakers from the parliament and the commission enthusiastically pledged their support for its eventual implementation across all maritime states in the EU.

These included MEP Claudia Monteiro de Aguiar a member of the Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism, who has tabled a motion recommending renewed funding and continuation of the project.

David Kerr, an EU Maritime Affairs Attaché representing Malta, said that the continued exchange of information between states is key to success in the coming months. He also mentioned that a very similar project was underway for inland waterways, (commercial cargo traffic) in order to address exactly the same problem, which is also affecting job mobility.

Konstantinos Tomares is Deputy Head of the unit dealing with Professional Qualifications and Skills within the Directorate General of the Commission. He started his presentation by stating that the implementation of such a scheme is quite simply ‘back to basics’ and fully aligns with the principle of free movement of professionals across all EU states.

He confirmed that the only way forward is to harmonise the requirements, but with the first consideration always being focused on the highest standards of safety.  He also mentioned that a Professional Qualification Directive, employing the concept of Core Curriculum comparison was already in existence for other trades within the EU, and that in his opinion, the ‘Skippers Without Borders’ Project would be well aligned with the scheme.

Speaking for the project team, Mallorca based Bernie Butler who was one of the originators of the concept along with Silja Teege and Mike John said, “the ultimate role-out of this project now depends on widening the exchange of information and embodying more qualification criteria for all EU maritime states into the Core Curriculum Qualification analysis tool.”

Bernie confirmed that the software module is fully expandable, and ready to accept more national data in order to broaden the possibilities, and ultimately increase mobility across more states for skippers of Small Commercial Vessels.  

Another successful outcome of the project is already established in favour of Czech Republic and Romania, as neither of them have an SCV qualification within their present maritime certifications.

Using the TRECVET Core Curriculum plus ‘Bolt-On’ modules, the project will design two new SCV qualifications specifically for those nations, both of whom offer development opportunities for the yacht charter market within the EU.

More input and practical data is required, and will help to get this project to the next stage. Do you have personal experience of how this problem can affect cross border working for professional skippers of Small Commercial Vessels?   Please mention your qualification level, the country that issued your certification, and the type of yacht that you are working on, together with any comments or questions. 

Looking forward to hear from you.

Kind Regards,

Peter Franklin

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