The shipping industry is obliged to operate to the highest levels of safety, environmental standards and quality; this calls for extremely skilled crews. These skills need to be continually developed as the shipping industry experiences changing regulations, new techniques and automation of systems.
A certificate of competence is required by law for the nautical and technical functions required on board seagoing vessels. The international STCW convention of the IMO contains the standards for training, certification and watch keeping. These form the foundation for the professional requirements of seafarers. It takes time to adapt to changes in this convention, meaning that international professional requirements often lag behind the latest developments in the sector.
At the national level, professional requirements are laid down in the Seafarers Act and associated regulations. This forms the fundamental structure of the Dutch maritime education system. However, the structure, scope and detail of these legally defined requirements make it difficult to fit them into the general structure of MBO education (here, MBO can be explained as middle-level vocational training). The more autonomous structure of HBO education allows for more flexibility, although challenges still arise there (here, HBO can be explained as higher professional education and training).
The limited number of pupils relative to the sheer diversity of courses for maritime professions (merchant shipping, dredging, maritime contracting and fishing) puts pressure the MBO institutes to provide high-quality maritime education.