“Skippers Working Without Borders” events in Brussels

Impressions from the Networking Cocktail and the TCC-SCV Conference:

Download Conference Agenda including speakers’ bios here

TCC-SCV final conference presents solutions to enable skippers
to work without borders

On Thursday, 16 June 2016 over 60 people joined the conference “Skippers Working Without Borders” organised by the TCC-SCV Project team and hosted in Brussels by one of the project partners, European Boating Industry. The day was a unique opportunity for a lively and dynamic exchange between the speakers – including key EU and industry representatives – and the participants who discussed the issue of restricted work mobility of professional skippers on board small commercial vessels in Europe.

Mirna Cieniewicz from European Boating Industry, who moderated the event, set up the scene by providing some numbers for the nautical tourism, gathered by TCC-SCV Project. The estimations for the charter industry make it an essential part of the Blue Tourism, with about 50,000-75,000 professional skippers working permanently or occasionally across Europe. Although difficult to quantify due to the lack of figures in every EU Member States, the charter fleet is estimated around 60,000 units up to 24m in length. The small commercial vessel charter activity would generate a turnover of 6 billion EUR annually.

Yet, there are no common rules across Europe for the training and certification of professional skippers and captains. On the contrary, the regulatory landscape is very fragmented as rules are only set at national level. One of the consequences is that professional qualifications from one Member State are not recognised by another, causing problems with recruitment, work mobility and lack of standards for profession.

TCC-SCV Project Leader Silja Teege (from charter & sea school Sea Teach) presented the 2 main outcomes of the TCC-SCV initiative: the Online Comparison Tool and the Common Core Curriculum. The Online Comparison Tool showed that today 80 to 90% of the 7 analysed qualifications are identical. It means that differences are far less than commonalities and that generally speaking the various qualifications are already fairly similar. This tool brings the much needed transparency and details about the content of each qualification, making it easy to understand what additional training or competences would be required when working for another Member State’s flag.

The Common Core Curriculum was designed based on the current common base. Based on the identified differences among Member States, the additional knowledge and competences would be proposed as modules. This way, each skipper can personalise his training needs according to the common core and the necessary additional modules requested by individual Member States. Therefore, the additional compensation measures would be limited to the truly different competences required by the destination Member States.

Josie Tucci, General Manager of The Moorings (TUI Marine Group), one of the leading charter companies worldwide with over 30 million customers, and the speakers at the event, gave full support to the work carried out by the TCC-SCV project. Josie Tucci explained that skippered charter is a growing trend in the wider charter business and the profession of skipper goes beyond mere navigation to become “a holiday animator” who is essential to the overall holiday experience. The company employs around 200 skippers annually. Looking at the Spanish example, Lara Hidalgo, Legal Adviser at ANEN (Spanish boating industry association) showed how the charter activities in Spain have been picking up and the numbers are growing, in particular thanks to eliminating barriers such as matriculation tax.

The first roundtable panel brought together EU representatives to discuss the benefits of the EU approach. Konstantions Tomaras, Deputy Head of Unit at European Commission, in charge of free movement of professionals, reminded the audience that certain EU rules are already in place to guarantee work mobility. But as Mr Tomaras observed, often Member States and public administrations themselves are not even aware of the measures and procedures they should apply to enable work mobility. It was clear that more work is needed with national authorities and industry to increase awareness about the existing rules.

Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, Member of European Parliament’s Transport & Tourism Committee and Chairwoman of the SME Europe Working Group on Tourism, delivered a warm message of support to the efforts carried out by the TCC-SCV project partners. She announced that she had requested EU funds in order to extend the work done so far to additional countries. At present the TCC-SCV has analysed the qualifications from 7 Member States: UK, Germany, France, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Czech Republic. It wishes to add in the future also Scandinavian, Italian, Greek and Dutch qualifications. This will also support the further development of the Common Core Curriculum for European skippers. Fellow Member of European Parliament István Ujhelyi, Vice-Chair of Parliament’s Transport & Tourism Committee and Vice-Chair of Parliament’s Tourism Intergroup, also gave his support to the TCC-SCV initiative during his afternoon intervention.

“This issue will be given further visibility and endorsement during Malta’s Presidency of the EU” announced David Kerr, Maritime Affairs Attaché to the EU for Malta. He added that nautical tourism in general would be a priority for the Maltese Presidency starting on 1 January 2017 and that he was looking forward to continuing working closely with European Boating Industry on this matter. Support was also received from Serban Berescu, IMO Maritime Ambassador for Romania, who recalled that unlike the small commercial vessel sector, international merchant shipping was fully harmonised thanks to the IMO STCW Convention.

Concluding the discussion of the second roundtable discussion, Thomas Strasser, Team Leader at the European Commission reminded the audience that the Commission had identified this issue back in 2014 and the on-going study would help identify what options lay ahead. He added that Commissioner Karmenu Vella is supportive of the boating industry too and he congratulated the boating industry for its proactive and problem-solving attitude.

Bernie Butler from TCC-SCV Project explained that “it all started few years ago with 3 people on a small island realising there is a problem for professional skippers. Today we’re here talking to the European institutions and national authorities about possible solutions.” And this is, what the professional skippers need, the problem to be recognised, the solutions identified and the actions to be taken at national and the EU level. In the closing remarks, Mirna Cieniewicz (European Boating Industry) invited all the participants to inform companies and administrations about the tools available, send their remarks to the TCC-SCV Project Team and make them known in order to raise awareness about existing solutions. She also thanked all the partners: Sea Teach (Spain), PFRI (Croatia), APL (Czech Republic), FIN (France), BVWW (Germany), UCM (Romania), Spinaker (Slovenia), ANPPER (Spain) and Sea Regs (UK) for their contributions and the hard work in the months preceding the event.

The “Skippers Working Without Borders” conference was preceded by a cocktail reception at the European Parliament, organised jointly by MEP Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, President Piero Formenti and SME Europe EPP.

 For more information, please contact us at info@tcc-scv.eu