• Photo: Ports of Switzerland

24.04.2024 By: Andreas Haug

Artikel Nummer: 49247

Aiming for a greater intermodal shift

Initiatives to increase the attractivity of European inland waterway transport. The political goal of diverting goods traffic to the waterways is threatened by the severe shortage of skilled workers. Against this background the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine organised a workshop in mid-March to take a look at the labour markets and how attractive jobs in the sector are. The aim was to gain an overview on the basis of statistics, and of any measures already taken.

Participants in the workshop, which took place in Strasbourg as well as online, included representatives of the five member states of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR), that is Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as of other European countries, the European Commission, international organisations with a stake in the inland waterway transport industry as well as other commercial entities.

Together with the EU’s commission the CCNR is currently finalising its second report on the sector’s labour market.

The most important trends cited include the ageing of the workforce, labour migration (from east to west) and a shortage of skilled workers.

In freight transport, the overall employment trend remained relatively stable from 2008 to 2021. However, the ageing of the workforce calls for increased efforts to increase the attractivity of inland waterway transport.

Counter-measures needed

Many measures have been initiated in recent years in the CCNR member states to meet high demand for staff. Since the financial aspect can be a key motivating factor, programmes have been set up to finance apprenticeships and further training, for example.

A number of online information platforms have also been especially set up. They include ‘Ahoi Captain’, ‘Acteurs du fleuve’, ‘Wereld van de binnenvaart’, and ‘Are you waterproof’; and a special mobile application called Wilbi can also appeal to a wider audience. In addition, information events are held at regular intervals, both in inland navigation firms themselves as well as in schools.

Despite the measures taken, supported by all of the players in the inland waterway transport segment, employment problems in the sector remain acute. Recruitment strategies, such as those presented by the international initiative ‘Branding & Recruitment’, have to aim at young people in initial training as well as at people with a wide range of profiles seeking to switch careers – for example seafarers, unemployed people and job-seekers from every European country – including those without inland waterway transports.

Training, retention

The retention of personnel working on ships is also of great importance. Careers with clear development opportunities, good working conditions and a good work-life balance can also serve a purpose beyond pure recruitment. A plus point of the professions in the industry is the pay, especially at the management level.

Training should continue to focus on improving curricula and on modern teaching methods. The use of training ships and / or simulators for practical exams are also considered trump cards for future trainees.

Last but not least, legislators have an important role to play in creating up-to-date, simplified regulations that meet the sector’s needs.


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