Support for training

Supporting members’ professional training and career development is one of the most important parts of the Union’s work. As well as offering courses and career development grants, the Union campaigns to ensure that training for seafarers and inland boat workers is supported, funded and promoted by governments and industry.

What this campaign is about

British, Dutch and Swiss seafarers and boatmen have a reputation for being highly-skilled professionals. However, the numbers of young people entering the industry has fallen sharply in the past 30 years, leading to a cohort of workers who are largely set to retire in the next ten years – taking their expertise with them. Some gains have been made in the last decade with the introduction of tax incentive schemes for shipowners linked to training provisions,  but the total number of British, Dutch and Swiss maritime and inland waterways professionals continues to decline.

The Union believes that a well-trained maritime home-grown skills base is essential for countries which rely so heavily on goods by sea and river.

What we want to achieve

Nautilus is calling on national governments and the European Union to do all they can to support the future of the maritime skills base in Europe. This includes continuing to fund training schemes and apprenticeships for young people looking to enter the industry, to outlaw social dumping (unfair competition through the employment of low wage workers from other countries), and to increase public awareness of the maritime and inland waterways industry.

What have we achieved so far

Nautilus International has a long-established role in promoting the maritime and inland waterways industry, and the career opportunities within it, to the general public.

We are partners in the Careers at Sea Ambassadors and Zeebenen in de klas programmes, and through these schemes many of our members volunteer to give inspirational careers presentations in schools and youth groups.

Our campaign work alongside social partners in the UK was instrumental in getting SMarT funding for officer trainees secured until 2015 in a climate of swingeing government cuts.

The Slater Fund provides grants for ratings, yacht workers and electro-technical officers to progress up the career ladder, and we promote jobs within the industry online on our Nautilus Jobs site and in the Telegraph.

In 2014 Nautilus, along with the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), launched a report concluding the second phase of research in the Career Mapping project. This examined ways in which barriers to career mobility for European seafarers can be broken down.

The report found that seafarers chose their careers for positive reasons, but that the advantages of future careers ashore in the maritime cluster do not feature highly in their list of reasons. However, it found that most seafarers expected to leave the sea before normal retirement age.

The report concluded that more could be done to help seafarers move into shore-based positions as it could raise a number of issues, not just with the different work role but usually the change in home life.

It stated that whilst there was no ‘magic wand’ to fix many of the existing frameworks, more needed to be done to improve career progression for seafarers. The report recommended a number of practical and achievable measures including promotional material on future job opportunities ashore, greater coordination and integration of maritime promotion, career progression training, and promotion of funds available for retraining.

What’s next

Nautilus is involved, via the ETF, in developing Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping in Inland Waterways (STCW IW) and hopes to see measures implemented within the next few years so ensure that workers on the rivers of Europe are highly trained, have good terms and conditions of employment and are able to work on all European waters with one standard certification of qualification.

The current funding for SMarT in the UK is available until 2015. The scheme was widened in 2014 to include trainee ratings. The Union will be campaigning to ensure that the scheme receives renewed commitment from the UK government when the current term ends. We will also lobby for the adoption of these across European.

The Union continues to bring to the attention of the UK Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) any problems that are raised by cadet members with regards to their training. This especially involves cadets on UK-flagged ships who are sailing with no native English speakers onboard and who are therefore struggling to complete their training records.

Our Young Maritime Professionals Forum also provides career support and peer networking for young members. Any cadets or young members experiencing problems with their training or difficulties at work associated with their age are encouraged to contact our dedicated young members’ service at

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