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Professional and Technical Services

Professional & Technical Services

Nautilus’s Professional & Technical (P&T) Services team focuses primarily on upholding the high international standing of the professional qualifications of members and promoting their interests in technical and safety issues that affect their work.

The P&T team helps ensure that members’ training and certification is sufficient to carry out their jobs effectively and efficiently, whilst maintaining a high standard of safety at sea today – and in the future.

At a time when Western European seafarers are coming under increased pressure from lower cost labour, the department sees to it that members’ Certificates of Competency continue to be recognised as the ‘gold standard’, therefore guaranteeing continued demand in a competitive market. In addition to actively participating in the development of international standards for training and certification at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the P&T team works to ensure effective implementation of these at national level. Thus, members’ skills and qualifications meet the current and future needs of shipowners and there is a clear incentive to employ UK, Dutch and Swiss seafarers over cheaper alternatives.

Nautilus’s members work globally and the P&T team ensures that they are represented in international forums. The team participates in several organisations looking at training, development and safety within the industry. The team is committed to representing the views of members at every level; advising on policies, reviews and guidance for shipowners and employers everywhere.

Nautilus attended meetings with the IMO as a representative of the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Association (IFSMA), as well as the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), on issues affecting members.

The P&T team provides extensive input into the work of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), providing the organisation with advice and assistance. Nautilus has been heavily involved in European projects and initiatives, including the SkillSea scheme, which aims to identify skills gaps for current and future seafarers. Nautilus is also involved in special interest groups associated with the IMO, including the International Lifeboat Group, made up of shipowners, unions, nautical institutes and naval architects, which improves the safety of lifeboats. Another, the Human Element Industry Group, raises the profile of human element issues within the IMO.

Towards Union goals in the UK, the P&T team has been actively working with the National Maritime Occupational Health & Safety Committee, which Nautilus co-chairs, to discuss issues relating to health and safety onboard. Nautilus also co-chairs the War like Operations Area Committee, which discusses the safety of seafarers within designated high risk and warlike operations areas. This, in conjunction with participation at the National Maritime Security Committee, allows Nautilus to react to developing situations and be certain that guidance issued is adequate to ensure the safety of members working in such areas.

Nautilus also holds the chair of the UK Merchant Navy Training Board Technical Committee, looking at the development of training programmes within the industry and ensuring members’ qualifications remain relevant as the industry develops.

In the Netherlands, members’ interests are represented through the committee structures of the Department of Infrastructure and Water Management (formerly Department of Infrastructure and Environment), the Liveability and Transport Inspection (IL&T), health and safety service ARBO commission Vereniging Platform Maritiem (formerly the General Commission for the Prevention of Seafarers’ Accidents at Work) and several non or semi-governmental bodies dealing with safety and education issues.

Nautilus continues to participate fully in the work of the IFSMA and is represented on the IFSMA Executive Committee. Through IFSMA’s NGO status in IMO, Nautilus has been able to actively participate in IFSMA’s work. Moreover, Nautilus has played a major role in formulating IFSMA’s Strategic Plan and in identifying the five key challenges that IFSMA has to face in future:

  • Skills and competence of ship's crew

  • Criminalisation of the shipmaster

  • Operation of ships of the future

  • Safety management

  • Public relations and communication

Finally, Nautilus produced and presented the following papers at several IFSMA Annual General Assemblies, which were applauded by its affiliates worldwide.

  • Firefighting equipment and lifesaving appliances

  • Ballast water management

  • Failure of the regulatory system and influence of the insurance market on the criminalisation of shipmasters


Over the last four years, the P&T team has:

  • Advanced proposals making the installation of CCTV cameras on passenger ships mandatory

  • Lobbied the industry to provide life saving appliances and safety equipment which are suitable for all users

  • Taken an active role in the review of IMO guidelines on fatigue

  • Been involved in a review of relevant safety guidance and amendments to mandatory instruments in order to reduce the number of lifeboat accidents

  • Successfully resisted proposals to reduce safety regulations on cross-channel ferries

  • Advised several government consultations

  • Provided input to a review of the process for recognition of seafarers' certificates in the EU

  • Utilised the results of the EU-funded Project Horizon research to introduce new watchkeeping patterns

  • Ensured that high quality accommodation is available ashore for seafarers working onboard Dutch non-continuous trade vessels where there is none onboard

  • Helped reform the Dutch nautical education system to enable increased mobility for seafarers and preserve nautical colleges in the Netherlands

As a union, Nautilus recognises that technological development are likely to have an enormous impact on the industry in coming years, but it is vital that they are introduced for the right reasons and improve safety and the working lives of people onboard.

The P&T team has been involved in several successful high-profile campaigns on the importance put on the wellbeing of current and future seafarers. With the increased recognition of the wellbeing and mental health issues in the sector, Nautilus has taken part in several projects aimed at improving the wellbeing of members, including developing guidance on the issue.

Another key focus has been providing tomorrow’s adequately qualified seafarers, which includes developing new pathways into the industry. Among these are the development of apprenticeship standards, reviewing existing training to ensure its continued relevance and identifying current and future skills gaps and ensuring that they are addressed.

The P&T team has been involved in several successful high-profile campaigns on the importance put on the wellbeing of current and future seafarers

The department has achieved a number of successes in the past four years. In the UK, the Union was successful in securing increased funding from the government for the SMarT initiative to support the training of future seafarers.

Nautilus has consistently called for this, including as part of the Jobs, Skills and the Future campaign, to bring it in line with aid provided by many other maritime nations. In 2018, the government agreed to joint proposals from the Union and the UK Chamber of Shipping to double the annual SMarT budget to £30million, potentially also doubling the number of officer trainees. New SMarT Plus funding also contains a mechanism to help newly qualified officers struggling to find post-qualification employment.

As technology progresses, Nautilus will continue to focus on the effect that increased automation may have on seafaring jobs and what actions need to be taken to ensure the positive impact of technological advances on seafarers.

Nautilus has taken part in the debate at the IMO as part of a regulatory scoping exercise to determine how the international regulatory framework may apply to the operation of automated ships. The Union submitted papers to the IMO for consideration, including the results of the Nautilus Federation survey of members, to ensure the IMO hears the opinions of the seafarer. This was the first time their voice has been heard in the conversation.