Standardisation of qualifications and certificates: Towards a common understanding in European Maritime Education and Training

European shipping is backed up by an advanced education and training system which produces a vast number of highly qualified seafarers. Nevertheless, a large number of skilled and highly ambitious potential maritime employees are available in countries such as India and China (Emad&Roth, 2008), which means an increased competition to the European maritime industry and the European seafarer. In order to stay competitive, the European maritime industry will have to keep itself up-to-date and build on its strengths. One of these strengths is the advanced Maritime Education and Training (MET). However, to stay advanced or to develop further, incentives should continuously be implemented.

The KNOWME project looks at possible ways to further improve European MET by bringing the needs of the industry and the needs of the seafarers together. One important objective of the KNOWME project is to enable employees to move jobs from one sector to another. For young people it is much easier to choose a seafaring career if they know that there are opportunities available to them in the future in fields such as maritime law and maritime logistics. This increased mobility however requires from European MET making a step forward towards harmonisation, following the efforts of European education and training in general to become more harmonised in aspects such as:

  • moving towards harmonising the level of MET provided;
  • the recognition and acknowledgement of certification and qualifications;
  • the exchange of knowledge and skills across the Member States.

After clearly distinguishing between the STCW training aspects and the added value education aspects within MET, this paper identifies possible areas for common measures among European Member States for improving cooperation for more efficient use of resources for training, education and knowledge development in the maritime sector. It is shown that, although revisions have been made to STCW95, there is still some variation in the standards of supervision, curricula content, the overall quality of training institutions and the extent of fraudulent certification (Alderton, 2002; Rojas 2002; KNOWME TP 4.2.1), and that efforts can be undertaken in order to move towards harmonisation. Total harmonisation is not the goal. However, moving towards a more harmonised system would substantially improve European MET

The following efforts that will facilitate the move towards harmonisation have been discussed in this paper:

  • A regional common understanding and the need for regionalisation;
  • Building library connections and the development of IT focusing on existing links between MET institutions;
  • Sharing the MET programmes/curricula with other graduate institutions or exchange of teachers and their standards in order to learn from each other’s best practices;
  • MET students should be made familiar with distance and e-learning programmes during their studies;
  • Supporting the exchange of students or professionals in both VET and HE. The Leonardo programme and the Erasmus programme are important tools to achieve this;
  • A more frequent use and, ideally, the use of English as the language of instruction at MET institutions in non-English speaking countries should be promoted;
  • Developing more flexible, short, goal-oriented courses and study programmes which allows maritime students and professionals to quickly and directly acquire recognised additional skills or knowledge.

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