Enshrining European Directives in training regulations

The example of the inland shipping occupations

Markus Bretschneider, Johanna Telieps

Ordinances relating to the training occupations of inland bargeman/woman specialising in freight shipping, inland bargeman/woman specialising in passenger shipping and inland shipping captain will enter into force on 1 August 2022. New EU guidelines needed to be taken into account during some parts of the process of drawing up the training contents and examination requirements. This article describes the challenges that had to be overcome whilst developing these two training regulations and also outlines the solutions that were found in order to harmonise domestic and European standards.

Initial situation and the need to revise training regulations

The main impetus for a modernisation of the inland shipping occupations was provided by a rise in the demands placed on staff working on inland waterway craft and by two EU Directives (cf. Information Box). The latter define EU-wide competence standards for deckhand teams whilst also drawing a distinction between operational level and boatmaster tasks.

Whereas the operational level predominantly involves the carrying out of tasks that have been assigned, the management level is required to assume overall responsibility on board and is in charge of ensuring the proper execution of these tasks. Training in the occupation of inland bargeman/woman (operational level) focuses on joint skills, knowledge and competencies and on technical aspects. In the case of the occupation of inland shipping captain (management level), the emphasis is on the areas of navigation and steering (cf. Table). The process for updating the vocational education and training of inland bargemen/women took the occupation of the same name from 2005 as its starting point. By way of contrast, dual VET in the occupation of inland shipping captain was developed from scratch. Both sets of training regulations constitute approved training programmes in accordance with the EU Directive. Successful completion of the final examination in each case fulfils the prerequisites for acquisition of the Union certificates of qualification as helmsman (inland bargeman/woman) and boatmaster (inland shipping captain) respectively. Holders of the previous qualification of inland bargeman/woman were permitted to be in charge of a vessel if they had completed at least four years of travelling experience and had also undergone a patent examination conducted by an inland waterway authority. The EU Directive abolished this proviso with effect from 18 January 2022.

Table: Occupational profiles of training occupations in inland shipping
Inland bargeman/woman (3 years) Inland shipping captain (3½ years)
Steer vessels to aid with navigation Navigate vehicles and plan trips
Use vehicle equipment Use, check and document vehicle equipment
Load and unload vehicles (addressed in greater detail in the specialism of freight shipping) Plan and monitor the loading and unloading of vehicles
Maintain hulls and associated systems Maintain hulls and associated systems
Maintain mechanical and technical plants and ship’s engines Maintain mechanical and technical plants and ship’s engines

Identify malfunctions in hydraulic systems and initiate measures to rectify such malfunctions

Check and repair mechanical and technical plants and ship’s engines

Organise and supervise shipping engineering operations
- Organise and supervise technical processes
Transport persons (addressed in greater detail in the specialism of passenger shipping) Transport persons
- Transport goods
Become involved in the social community on board Encourage the social community on board
Carry out quality assurance measures Carry out quality assurance measures
Act in emergency situations Prepare for emergency situations, act accordingly and take on a leadership role when such instances occur
Equivalent at EU level
Successful completion of the final examination and radio operator’s certificate: Helmsman Successful completion of the final examination and radio operator’s certificate: Boatmaster


How are general training plans harmonised with EU competence standards?

Figure: Integration of EU requirements into training regulations pursuant to the BBiG Foto-Download (Bild, 754 KB)

When developing the contents for the first two years of training, the social partners, the Federal Government and the federal states agreed that the EU competence standards should be taken into account and that contents at the operational level should be designed to be as identical as possible. The Vocational Training Act (BBiG) sets out the applicable standards for the structuring of training occupations in the dual system. Criteria include the occupational profile agreed during the application discussions and the principle that skills, knowledge and proficiency should be competence oriented. One initial challenge was to link this with the firm requirements stipulated in the EU Directives. In order to resolve this matter, the company experts began by formulating the training contents to be imparted separately from the EU competence standards. The competence standards were then added in (cf. Figure). A correlation list was drawn up in order to match the input and to ensure and demonstrate that the relevant contents of the draft ordinances took full account of the EU Directives.

EU Directives

The EU member states are required to implement two Directives relating to inland shipping into their national laws by 17 January 2022 at the latest.

  • Directive (EU) 2017/2397 on the recognition of professional qualifications in inland navigation 
  • Delegated Directive (EU) 2020/12 as regards the standards for competencies and corresponding knowledge and skills, for the practical examinations, for the approval of simulators and for medical fitness 

These Directives contain the prerequisites and procedures for the issuing of certificates for qualifications in inland shipping and for their recognition within the EU. Two of the objectives are to foster mobility in the EU and to ensure safety in inland shipping.

Examination requirements and EU standards

Competency requirements for the operational level should be an object of Part 1 of the extended final examination in order to provide a “fallback qualification option” should the candidate not achieve a pass in Part 2 of the extended final examination. In such an instance, the prerequisites for the awarding of a Union qualification certificate as a boatman would be fulfilled. When the examinations were designed, consideration needed to be accorded to the fact that the EU Directive sets out that skills should be imparted over a period of two years. This issue was, however, comparatively easy to resolve. In a departure from normal practice, Part 1 of the extended final examination is not conducted until the end of the second year of training.

The necessity of taking account of EU examination standards relating to the acquisition of a boatmasters’ certificate proved to be a greater challenge by far. Failure to do so would have meant that those completing dual VET in the occupation of inland shipping captain would not have been permitted to direct an inland waterway vessel in the EU. The difficulty was to reconcile the structural stipulations of the extended final examination and the principles of assessment in the dual system with the EU-specific requirements. At EU level, the demands made in these two examination areas are extensive and described in considerable detail. In terms of their breadth and depth, they extend well beyond the way in which examination requirements are formulated in training regulations. The contents of the EU Directive which are designated as “examination elements” are divided into two categories according to their significance. Thanks to the use of open formulations, these have been entirely encapsulated. This means that the scope of examination requirements remains within the dimensions that are usual in the dual system. Nevertheless, the individual examination elements stated in the EU Directive have been included in an annex to the text of the ordinance together with the instruction that the categories and number of elements required by the EU must be tested in the final examination. The examination boards are responsible for creating this integration. The different assessment scales contained in the Delegated EU Directive ultimately need to be aligned with the German national assessment standard used for examinations in the dual system. If these special conditions are met in the final examination leading to the qualification of inland shipping captain, then an application may subsequently be made to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration Body for the issuing of a Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster. Mention must also be made of the additional requirement to complete an official state examination for the awarding of a Radiotelephone Operator’s Certificate for the Radiotelephone Service on Inland Waterways. This certificate is acquired nationally and is internationally recognised. Although the contents of this examination do not form an object of dual training, candidates will be prepared during their vocational school-based training. The same applies in respect of the Union certificate of qualification as a helmsman.

The BBiG as an integrative reference framework

The example of the inland shipping occupations shows how EU Directives can exert an influence on the structuring of national qualifications. There are also other training occupations in which European regulations need to be addressed and incorporated. When the railway worker occupations were updated, for example, account needed to be taken of the national Train Drivers’ Licence Ordinance because this transfers a European Directive into national law. The BBiG is the relevant regulatory reference framework in which training contents need to be identified and formulated. EU requirements are assimilated into this framework, and a systematic matching of contents must take place for quality assurance purposes. The present case did not merely involve training contents. There was also a particular necessity to harmonise examination performances and various assessment scales. The aim is to develop more abstract formulations which are able to represent more than one specific type of content, and the principle of “technologically neutral formulations” also applies to the drawing up of examination requirements. Neither is it mandatory for specific requirements to be implemented at the formal level of training regulations. Sub-statutory provisions and agreements may also be deployed. This approach was also pursued in order to integrate the EU Regulation on the protection of animals at the time of killing into vocational education and training in the occupation of butcher. Linking the two levels permitted dual training to ensure fulfilment of the prerequisites for the acquisition of different Union certificates of qualification in inland shipping without moving outside the legal framework governing the German system. However, the example of the inland shipping occupations also shows that enshrining European guidelines in German training regulations requires a painstaking and time-consuming approach. All stakeholders and institutional levels involved must display a great deal of iteration, precision and willingness to compromise.

Markus Bretschneider
Academic researcher at BIBB

Johanna Telieps
Academic researcher at BIBB


Translation from the German original (published in BWP 2/2022): Martin Kelsey, GlobalSprachTeam, Berlin