Jochen Schulte attended the Final Conference of the Project “Vasco da Gama – Training for Greener and Safer Maritime Transport”, which took place in Brussels on 1 March. The issue of skills development in the maritime economy was one of the core issues of the project.
The aim of the project was to contribute to achieving the development of high professional skills and the development of Education and Training within the EU. In particular, it focused on improving the skills of persons employed in European shipping with a view to addressing specific challenges such as maritime safety and the reduction of environmental damage. It also aimed to lay the foundations for mobility within Europe, involving education and training institutions. The project was led by the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), an organization that brings together some 150 regional authorities.
The main drivers of the project – the French region of Bretagne and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – emphasized the importance of maritime professions at the regional level. Jochen Schulte praised the project’s character as an incubator for projects covering a variety of topics and geographical areas, all focused on promoting mobility and the key role given to regional authorities, while at the same time developing partnerships with other professional and academic stakeholders from the sector. Jochen Schulte underlined the activities of the BSPC in this respect, not least against the background of the current BSPC Work Programme.
The Maritime Rapporteur recapitulated the lessons-learned from the project.
1) The importance of exchange programs: The first Vasco da Gama Summer School was held on 24-29 August 2015. It was organized jointly by the CPMR and Kalmar Maritime Academy. Participants from the Atlantic, Baltic, Black Sea and North Sea benefited from briefings and discussion time with high-level speakers on the issues of maritime safety and security, integration of the human element and cultural influences in these areas, and greening of maritime transport. A series of case studies and exercises gave an operational dimension to the training course. All parties involved had agreed that this first Summer School had been a great success and that it is worth repeating in the future. It is the stated goal of the organizers that the lessons learned from this first edition will help to develop the content of future Vasco da Gama Summer Schools. This important milestone should be further developed.
2) The contribution to the networking of the stakeholders: For instance, cadets from the involved academies can participate in experimental pilot training sessions that will be organized in 2 different maritime basins. A high-quality cross-national master program in Sustainable Shipping at an advanced level has been developed, which ran from January to June 2015, with the participation of close to 50 people: students and seafarers from Sweden, France and Germany. Various professionals from across the shipping supply chain have been brought together in the development of a course module. The project has thus contributed to a network of partners, which extends from the Black Sea over other sea basins all the way to the Baltic Sea, and which constitutes the nucleus for exchange and cooperation in this region.
3) The necessity of the input from the involved regions: The regions are key actors in the improvement of the attractiveness and internalization of maritime professions, as they are responsible for education and training, as they are drivers of regional economies and economic sectors, and as they are the ones best equipped with knowledge about the local and regional situations and needs. The difficulty – and the objective of this project – lies in combining these strengths and insights in a mutually beneficial manner.
“Continue the Vasco da Cama” label
Jochen Schulte concluded by urging stakeholders to continue and build upon the “Vasco da Gama” label even after its formal conclusion. The project could be continued in the framework of the separate sea basins, for instance with support from Interreg. GD MARE distinguishes its Blue Growth initiative among others based on sea basins, and the education and training in maritime professions should be an integral part of any growth strategy. The regions could offer their know-how to the Commission and its GDs in so far as personnel and quality needs are concerned, for instance in the areas of sea traffic or the “Blue Economy”.
To do so, CPMR should mind the EU context. It must turn to respective priorities and initiatives to complete them, to develop technical synergies with them and, to participate in them as appropriate. Special attention should be paid to the initiatives such as the Blue Careers Initiative. The CPMR is already working on sectors such as maritime transport, port logistics, and shipbuilding as part of discussions on the implementation of technical partnerships that should ensure the design and development of European cooperation projects.
The regions play an equally important role in this regard. A concept catalogue should be developed based on the experiences gained so far and together with the CPMR General Secretariat interregional projects should be designed and implemented by the regions.