Skilled crews

Priority: skilled crews are the mainstay of the shipping industry


“The availability of skilled crews is paramount – achieved by a high-quality Dutch nautical education system and unhindered access to the international labour market.”

KVNR - Tjitso Westra - Bemanningszaken en Opleidingen - web


Tjitso Westra
Manning and Training

+31 10 2176 277

KVNR - Nathan Habers - Public Relations, Crisisco├Ârdinatie en Geopolitiek - web
Press inquiries


Nathan Habers
Public Relations

+31 10 2176 264


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.

The challenge

Crewing regulations must provide sufficient room for incorporating innovative developments. The approval of experimental crew configurations and the issue of experimental licences could contribute towards this.

In light of the specific nature of internationally established, and legal, professional requirements, allowing MBO maritime education courses to deviate from the general MBO requirements would be a positive step forward.

Because of the global nature of the maritime labour market, it is also of vital importance to remove any legislative barriers for those Dutch shipping companies desiring access to this international market. This will facilitate Dutch shipowners’ recruitment of quality crews, allowing them to sail safely and effectively.

State of play - 9 February 2021

Collaborative work is in progress with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management on the revision of the crew legislation, during which the points mentioned above are given attention. The revised legislation should enter into force in 2024.

Within the structure of the Organisation for Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (SBB), a review of the qualification files took place in 2020. The new ‘semi-dual’ structure, in which training courses for shipping and fishing vessels are combined, will be introduced in the 2021/22 school year. Therefore, the coming six months will see the emphasis on the practical details of the new structure.