Platform for the implementation of a future inland navigation action programme

Competences for on board systems allowing for automation

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):


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