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.
The foundation of professional requirements of crews is based on:
- A legally-required certificate of competency for nautical and technical functions,
- The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978.
It is important to note that adaptation of this convention takes time. This means that professional requirements often lag behind the latest developments taking place 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 structure of HBO education allows for more flexibility, although challenges still arise there (here, HBO can be explained as higher professional education and training).
Importantly, the limited number of MBO level pupils in relation to the sheer diversity of courses for maritime professions (merchant shipping, dredging, maritime contracting and fishing) puts pressure on accomplishing high-quality maritime education at the MBO level.