Platform for the implementation of a future inland navigation action programme

jobs and skills

Executive summary

The Horizon 2020 project PLATINA3 provides a platform for the implementation of the NAIADES III action programme. PLATINA3 is structured around four fields (Market, Fleet, Jobs & Skills, Infrastructure) of which Work Package 3 (WP 3) deals with various aspects of the IWT training and careers topics, in particular:

  • Providing input for competence standards related to the use of zero or low emission propulsion systems (see Deliverable 3.1)
  • Identifying knowledge and skills needed for greener vessel operation in refresher classes (the present Deliverable 3.2)
  • Preparing input for competence standards related to onboard systems allowing automation of IWT vessels
  • Supporting the use of modern techniques such as simulators, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in training schemes for greener and highly automated vessel operation
  • Provide input to a roadmap on standards for examination of new competences in the EU regulatory framework

This report presents the conclusions from PLATINA3’s Task 3.2 which identify content for refresher classes for greener vessel operation to enable personnel of inland navigation vessels to update competence with a view to new technologies applied by ageing workforce not yet familiar with life-long learning. This deliverable builds upon existing studies and analyses, interviews as well as the outcomes of the 5th PLATINA3 Stage Event (19 and 20 October 2022) where experts made presentations on this topic and first findings were showcased.

Scope of the report and definitions

The scope of the report is limited to analysing and identifying content for refresher classes for greener vessel operation. It highlights the fact that the use of alternative fuels and energy carriers is likely to lead to a need for diversification on upskilling and refresher classes that is different from the current situation in which almost all vessels are using diesel as fuel. The report has been inspired by the findings of Deliverable 3.1 on alternative fuels or energy carriers that will most likely be used most in future IWT. It applies the methodology suggested by CESNI experts in the discussion of the draft competence tables submitted in the framework of Deliverable 3.1, i.e. the system of a boatmaster sailing a vessel using alternative fuels or energy carrier and the persons being involved in the bunkering of fuels or exchange/maintenance of accumulators as addressing of specific competence that may have to be refreshed periodically.

More concretely, this report 3.2 follows the submission of Deliverable 3.1, which objective is  to “Identify competences, detailed in knowledge and skills, to deal with alternative fuels, propulsion technology and exhaust gas aftertreatment systems that can be proposed to update European Standard for Qualifications in Inland Navigation (ES-QIN)”.[1] Based on findings of other projects and initiatives on zero or low emission propulsion systems and experience gained in drafting competences for lower emission fuels, the deliverable proposed new standards for competence.

Regarding the alternative fuels that are under consideration, or that may play a role in the energy mix of the future, Battery Electric, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen, Ammonia and Methanol as combustion fuel have been considered – Ammonia is currently not used in IWT. E-Fuels (Hydrogen based synthetic Diesel-like fuel) is still in an experimental stage. Experts agreed to strive to go beyond pilot projects currently covered in the permanently updated CCNR overview of pilot projects for zero and low emission fuels, e.g. by including liquid hydrogen as an example of cryogenic gaseous fuel.

As forseen in the PLATINA3 Grant Agreement, this new draft competence standards for new and innovative technologies have been discussed in CESNI meetings. CCNR Secretariat prepared a first set of draft standards for an environmental-friendly navigation that has been presented for the first time in CESNI/QP on 4 February 2021 and been further examined in CESNI/QP on 20 May, 16 September and 2 December 2021, and 19 September 2022. Now available in all four CESNI languages, the draft competence standards have been examined in more detail by expert during the CESNI/QP/QM meeting on 15 November 2022.

In parallel, CESNI experts have been involved in the preparation of the session on task 3.2 and, also, partly, participated in the exchanges on the task 3.2 at the PLATINA3 5th stage event in October 2022. This recent exchange reaffirmed the approach of renewing any future specific authorisation for alternative fuels by a two step approach, including an examination and the proof of navigation time on board vessels using the alternative fuel for propulsion. CESNI experts from different permanent working groups of CESNI, including the working group on technical requirements, underlined the need to update content of refesher classes preparing for an examination on the specific competence, with a view to rapid developments, both in the field of technological progress and regulatory updates of elements concerned by proposed competence standards. This view is comparable to the requests for updating the competence standards for LNG experts in the 2010s which led to the adoption of an establised chapter on LNG competence and examination that entered into force as chapter 4a of RPN on 1 July 2016[2].

Results of the analysis and recommendations

The most important points which have been raised in this report are the following:

  • refresher classes for environmentally friendly vessel operation are needed in view of rapid technological enhancement of engine drivelines, life-long learning principles and, most important, maintaining a high level of safety in the IWT sector
  • to best provide an adequate proof of this knowledge and skills, a combination of an exam and a proof of navigation time in a relevant environment is considered to be most adequate. However, it has been argued that sailing time with a new system on board does not guarantee familiarity with that system. Therefore, it is key to find appropriate ways to identify appropriate documentation of required experience and to establish, next to an exam, also simulator time that should be subscribed in the framework of an approved training programme or alternatively a practical exam.
  • such refresher classes, at least the (practical) examination and the proof of sailing time should be mandatory
  • the recommended interval for refresher classes in need of regular updates is set at 5 years
  • a first step should be to prepare curricula on the basis of approved competence standards related to the use of zero or low emission propulsion systems, which can be followed by preparing curricula for regular education and training programmes and refresher courses
  • Innovations, like VR/AR, could facilitate a more interactive approach in offering short courses to the IWT sector in combination for guidelines for practical “on-the-job” experience, while also VR/AR could facilitate tailored options upon request.

[1] PLATINA3 Grant Agreement, p. 30.

[2] See CCNR resolution 2015-I-7 referring to experience gained with pilots of LNG vessels addressed in CCNR recommendations like TMS Argonon or TMS Scirocco and results from the EU funded project LNG Masterplan

Executive summary

This document is taking stock of the current situation of refresher classes in European inland navigation in general and more specifically of refresher classes for more automated vessel operation in inland navigation in Europe. This exercise on more automated vessel operation, in line with PLATINA3[1] deliverable D3.3 and based on the sector consultation during the first Platina3 stage event is focussing on remote controlled and remotely assisted vessel operation. Even though remote vessel operation and remote assistance are not automatically linked to automation, stakeholders including decision makers in the some of the largest companies in the sector are currently investing in remote vessel operation and start to train their personnel in the domain of cooperation between remote control center and crew on board remotely assisted or remotely controlled vessels.

For reasons of clarity, automation is looked at on the basis of the internationally accepted levels of automation in IWT introduced by the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR). Even if remote controlled vessel operation is not necessarily automated vessel operation, remote controlled vessel operation is in the focus of this report due to practical relevance of new competences of remote vessel operators and personnel on board remotely controlled or remotely assisted vessels as described in deliverable 3.3 and currently discussed in CESNI, i.e. on a level of automation 2 and 3 which is the most common practice when looking at the most comprehensive overview of pilot projects on automation as permanently updated on the CCNR website.[2]

The present report compares the situation in the sector of inland navigation transport (IWT) with other modes of transport that are often more advanced in terms of mandatory or voluntary refresher classes in general and more precisely in more automated transport operation. This overview leads to the assumption that IWT could fall behind other modes of transport in terms of attractiveness for newcomers to the transport sector who wish to be part of a lifelong learning environment and attractive job opportunities that provide for upskilling where need be.

Some concrete subjects for updating of CESNI standards for competence are then looked at with regard to modern technology for more automated vessel operation. As the competence standards have just been introduced in early 2022, this report focuses more on new competences for more automated vessel operation that have been identified in Platina3 deliverable 3.3 (Report on competences to operate on board systems allowing for automation of inland navigation vessels) submitted on 31 August 2022.

Based on these general findings, this document is proposing a general scheme for refresher classes for two key target groups of deck crew members operating more automated vessels, who are:

  • experienced crew members already sailing on board IWT vessels since a long time
  • crew members who have recently joined the IWT sector, on operational level (OL, i.e. boatman, able boatman and helmsman) and management level (ML, i.e. boatmaster)

This document provides as well a brief outlook on modern training methods and techniques. Legislators will have to decide if the proposed options for such training will be established and what preconditions will have to be considered. This will largely depend on the judgement of CESNI Member States, in the respective police regulations, if vessels will be allowed to sail without a person holding a certificate of qualification as a boatmaster onboard and if so, if the person onboard a remotely operated or remotely assisted vessels can be an able boatman with specific additional competence (and qualifications such as a radio operator’s certificate, which is only required by persons holding a certificate of qualification of helmsman or as a boatmaster).

[1] PLATINA3 1st Stage Event, the “Budapest sessions” on 7 & 8 April 2021. Programme and presentations available on

[2] lists 37 pilot projects (state 6 October 2022) in a four language (DE, EN, FR, NL) overview of projects mostly coming from CCNR Member States (BE, CH, DE, FR, NL), Scandinavian countries (FI, NO, SE) and the UK.

Executive summary

Within PLATINA3, policy makers, River Commissions, IWT sector representative organisations, knowledge institutes, education and training institutes, jointly identify means, measures and tools to promote inland waterway transport (IWT). Integration & digitalization of IWT in view of modal shift & synchromodality; Zero-emission, automated & climate resilient fleet; Smart & climate resilient waterway and port infrastructure with clean energy hubs; and Skilled workforce anticipating to zero-emission & automation, are considered important topics that can lead to more use of IWT.

With the introduction of new energy carriers on inlands vessels, along with more advanced levels of automation and digital tools for navigational assistance, comes the need for existing and future IWT personnel to anticipate to new innovations. This report is the result of activities in PLATINA3 Work Package 3.3, to propose standards for competence for on-board systems for automation on inland vessels, with a focus on identification of competences, detailed in knowledge and skills, in addition to the existing CESNI standards of the European Standard for Qualifications in Inland Navigation (ES-QIN)[1].

The findings of the CCNR inventory of projects of on-board systems allowing for automation of inland navigation vessels were taken as a base to assess the need to adapt, update or propose new standards for competence for nautical staff on inland vessels. Also developments in other transport sectors have been considered, such as maritime, rail, road and air transport. Representatives of employers, trade unions and river commissions, as partners in PLATINA Work Package 3, have been actively involved in the consultation and review process in view of practical and legal implementation processes. In parallel, leading initiatives, so-called frontrunners in the IWT sector bringing automated on board systems to the market, have been consulted for including practical experience. The assessment for competence standards allowing for more advance automation in inland shipping, will be presented along three transition paths: (i) track guidance assistant systems in inland navigation (TGAIN); (ii) remotely operated or remotely supported vessels; and (iii) developments towards fully autonomous inland vessel concepts.

For track guidance assistant systems in inland navigation (TGAIN), the existing ES-QIN framework seems sufficient. Although it is recommended to introduce short courses to familiarise with the technical specifications and control of the on board systems. Since TGAIN systems are already taken up by the market and thus affect requirement of existing nautical staff, the need for upskilling of the IWT workforce in view of more advanced levels of digitalisation and automation of on board systems in inland shipping will be further analysed in Task 3.4. The use of e-learning platforms to introduce TGAIN short courses for familiarization with TGAIN systems, can be an interesting concept to research.

For developments towards fully automated (or autonomous) inland vessel concepts it is expected that, a transition is towards the need for more “soft skills” (communication and awareness), as has been a trend in maritime and air transport. As many existing initiatives are still in R&D phase, either advancing from TGAIN to higher levels of automation or following a different approach through machine-learning, more (practical) research is needed to understand the effects of this systems on required competences for nautical staff in inland shipping. It is suggested that as part of short-term R&D programmes for semi- or fully autonomous systems[2], attention shall be given to analyse impacts on required competences as a result of introduction of on-board systems as well as the confluence area of required competences and manning regulations.

For remotely operated or remotely supported vessels the need for new competences is more urgent. Existing initiatives are expected to advance from operations on national waterways of European waterways to cross-border pilots and market integration. Drafting of new standards for competence for nautical personnel in inland navigation involved in the remote operations is therefore considered to be a priority.

In proposing new competence standard for remote control operations, both existing (single vessel operator) and potential future operational models (multiple vessel operator supported by remote control supervisor) have been considered. The proposed competency framework involves competences for the following roles:

  • Remote control center operator (RCCO) on Management Level, including additional competence[3] for vessel and RCC familiarisation; conducting checks to ensure connectivity and navigational functionality with the RCC; emergency procedures; communication with onboard personnel and third parties; effects of man-machine interaction and limitations;
  • Remote control center supervisor on Management Level (experienced RCCO), to anticipate for a potential situation with reduced experience requirements for the RCCO or operating multiple inland vessels simultaneously from one workstation in the RCC (under the condition of a supervisor monitoring the nautical operations), which includes more advanced competences of VTS equipment; traffic management and communication protocols; emergency and response management; personal attributes and administrative skills related to more advanced coordination tasks[4];
  • Person (e.g. Able boatman) on a remote-controlled craft on Operational Level, as the (assumed) sole person on board, which includes competences from Management Level (Boatmaster) to enable taking over navigational control of the inland vessel (as redundancy); advanced communication skills especially for emergency response; knowledge of on board system for remote control; and general operational knowledge of vessel and stability. Similar to a boatmaster operating under conditions that have to obtain competence for special authorisations sailing with LNG, radar or on inland waterways with a maritime character, the person on board, who could be referred to as the able boatman in remote control operations should obtain additional competence for remote control operations under these conditions (if allowed).

As of next steps, the results of this work shall be integrated in a roadmap for adoption of new competences and content as discussed in the permanent working group of the European Committee for drafting standards in inland navigation (CESNI), more precisely in the CESNI Working Group on Professional Qualifications[5], known as CESNI/QP[6]. As remote-control operations are expected to evolve quickly from fixed route on national waterways of European Member States to cross border operations, CESNI/QP should consider prioritising the review and adoption process to kick-start the work on introducing of competence-based education and training programmes to allow of special authorisations for nautical staff involved in remote control operations. Only after discussion of the required competences, further discussion on manning requirements can take place. This is in line with the decision of CESNI/QP Crew to start working on manning tables for European manning regulations that can be taken up by CCNR and the EU without focus on more automated vessel operation.


[2] Semi-autonomous here refers to automated control of the inland vessel with the presence by nautical personnel on-board or at a remote location, or both, to take over control manually on-board or from distance when or if needed.

[3] In comparison with the existing ES-QIN framework for Management Level (Boatmaster).

[4] In addition to required RCCO competences and practical experience as RCCO.

[5] European Committee for drawing up standards in the field of inland navigation (CESNI):


Executive summary

Right skills for green jobs are certainly the prerequisite to make the transition to a greener economy happen.[1] Today, skills gaps are already recognized as a major bottleneck in a number of sectors,[2] and the inland waterways sector, which relies on a skilled workforce, is no exception.

According to the Communication from the European Commission NAIADES III: Boosting future-proof European inland waterway transport[3]The current and future workforce needs to be equipped with the right skills to deal with the green and digital transitions, cyber-security, synchromodality and the automation of vessels and infrastructure. (…) The Commission therefore will also mandate CESNI to prepare standards for skills for alternative fuels operations and for environment-friendly and efficient vessel operation (eco navigation).”

This energy transition represents a great challenge for the workforce. Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) personnel needs support for a transition to a zero emissions fleet. This transition includes the use of alternative fuels, batteries and electric propulsion systems for which new standards for competence of personnel is needed. In terms of relevant new energy sources and energy carriers, an analysis of pilot projects that have received recommendations from the CCNR or from national bodies (the case of the pusher ELEKTRA operating in Germany) have shown that at least methanol and hydrogen as alternative fuels, batteries and electric propulsion systems should be looked at. So far, the European Standard for Qualifications in Inland Navigation (ES-QIN) does not cover these alternative fuels and technologies. First discussions of the safety risks related to the new sources of energy in CESNI as well as consultation of battery manufacturers and operators of pilot projects have lead to a first set of competences. These competences can be split in a general part, applicable for all alternative fuels, batteries and electric propulsion systems and a more specific part. The work was carried out within the PLATINA3 consortium in cooperation with the permanent working group of CESNI for professional qualifications (CESNI/QP). The latter, assisted by experts from DG MOVE also reflected on the legal framework of introducing such new standards of competence.

In this context, this report aims to identify the competences to deal with alternative fuels, propulsion technology and exhaust gas aftertreatment systems that can be proposed to update ES-QIN and provides an overview of discussion already carried out in CESNI/QP.

[1] International Labor Organization, Skills for Green Jobs: A Global View, 2011,–en/index.htm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the regions NAIADES III: Boosting future-proof European inland waterway transport, 24.6.2021, COM(2021) 324 final.

Scroll to top