The EU harmonises proficiency certificates for inland waterway transport

Mutual recognition of professional qualifications is intended to improve career prospects for all crew members

The EU harmonises proficiency certificates for inland waterway transport

The Maltese presidency last week reached an informal deal with the European Parliament on setting up a common system of certificates for people working in the inland navigation sector in the EU. Holders of these certificates will be able to practice their profession on inland waterways across Europe. The new system will improve career prospects in the sector and make it easier for qualified people to take jobs wherever they are available.

The single certification system will cover all crew members, from apprentices to boatmasters. Geographically it will apply to activity carried out on EU inland waterways falling under the scope of the directive, including the river Rhine. Both aspects constitute a clear improvement on the current situation, in which EU legislation on mutual recognition in the sector only covers boatmasters – and only when they operate on rivers and canals other than the Rhine. The rest of the crew is covered by the horizontal directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.

The new certificates will be based on competence, bringing flexibility for talented and motivated people to progress faster up the career ladder. Currently it is common to require completion of a fixed number of years in one post before promotion is possible. Introducing competence-based qualifications should also improve safety and reduce accident costs.

To avoid disproportionate administrative burdens, the new rules will take account of the different characteristics of EU countries. Some member states have no inland navigation, some have waterways that are not connected to those of other member states, and in other countries inland navigation is only seasonal or a very limited activity.

All those member states with at least some inland navigation will have to recognise the EU certificate on their territory, but the extent to which they will be required to ‘transpose’ or incorporate the other provisions into their national legislation will depend on the cost-effectiveness and added value for their individual circumstances.

“Inland navigation is the most energy-efficient mode of transport and has great potential, especially for shifting the transportation of more freight from land to waterways. The single certificate system opens up new career opportunities and will hopefully give a boost to the whole sector”, said Ian Borg, the Maltese Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, “Furthermore, I am pleased that the provisions are only to be applied where necessary because this type of transport is not possible in all countries of the EU because of the topography.”

The agreed draft directive is part of the EU’s efforts to promote inland waterway transport under the NAIADES II program.