IMG_1477On 1 March, the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe hosted the final conference for the Vasco da Gama TGSMT project (Training for Safer and Greener Maritime Transport) at the Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. The project was co-funded by the European Commission’s DG MOVE / DG MARE as part of a political initiative launched by the CPMR in 2010 with the intention of improving education and training programmes and the mobility of students, teachers and workers in the maritime transport sector. The project was a response to the guidelines set out in DG MOVE’s 2009 paper entitled, “Strategic Goals and Recommendations for the EU’s Maritime Transport Policy until 2018 . An evaluation will be published in the next few months.

Opening the meeting, Pierre-Jean COULON, President of the Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and Information Society section of the Economic and Social Committee immediately stressed that, “Europe has a duty to meet the needs of young people looking for a career in the maritime sector, notably in terms of mobility”. In this respect, he emphasised that European mobility programmes should pay particular attention to maritime careers and even went so far as to propose a “Maritime Erasmus + +”.

Eleni MARIANOU, Secretary General of the CPMR, specified that, “the Vasco da Gama project is only the first step towards the involvement of regions to promote the sustainable development of Europe’s maritime transport. In this respect, the CPMR will not limit itself to subjects such as upskilling in safety and “greener” maritime transport. It will use its experience to widen its field of action and integrate other emerging or existing sectors linked to the blue economy.” However, this will only be possible if, as she pointed out, “there is greater synergy between Regions, universities and education districts on the one hand and shipowners and other representatives of European maritime businesses on the other.”  The future identification and development of blue skills depend on the introduction of a strategic partnership to enhance the actions and power of Regions in the areas of education and training.

Isabelle THOMAS, Member of the European Parliament, emphasised the importance of training in supporting blue growth. “Training is one of the most profitable forms of investment.” However, “it must involve a range of players and show its ability to adapt and be flexible in the face of technological innovations and advances.” Finally, she described her vision for the future, stating that, “maritime Europe does not yet exist and we need it”.

The lessons learnt and the recommendations after two-and-a-half years of cooperation and action within the framework of the project were described by Jean-Pierre CLOSTERMANN of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Marine, who stressed that, “the students are very enthusiastic about the multicultural dimension and technical teaching involving the use of simulators”. He put forward a number of recommendations stating that, “administrative barriers to student exchanges have yet to be overcome. We also have to find technical solutions that would decrease market costs while giving colleges and training establishments greater access to the latest high-tech simulation equipment.” On the environmental issue, “students must be given understanding of the environmental impact of maritime transport and maritime governance. They have to acquire good practices and consider the environmental impact when engaging in a decision-making process on board ship,” explained Merijn HOUGEE, Director, representing the “Clean Shipping Index”. Captain Hubert ARDILLON, President of Cesma (Confederation of European Shipmasters’ Associations), highlighted the importance of the human dimension and of “mixing different nationalities within the same college to improve the students’ ability to adapt, increase their knowledge of English and give greater insight into the human factor.

Pierre KARLESKIND, Vice-President of the Brittany Region, raised the question of attractiveness. “Relatively little is known about maritime jobs, apart from jobs linked to coastal tourism, and when the jobs are on board ship they are fairly unpopular. Yet we need to see more young people taking up these careers.

The discussions covered the future of a Vasco da Gama (VDG) initiative extended to include other topics. The presentation of the various proposals for Vasco da Gama spin-off projects for individual maritime basins pinpointed the diversity of such future actions.

As far as the Mediterranean is concerned, an “umbrella” project will include various proposals for projects aimed not only at maritime transport but also at port logistics, the management of dangerous products, and professional yachting. This could involve a range of programmes such as INTERREG or it could be integrated into a macro-regional strategy like the EUSAIR ADRION programme. In the Atlantic, Renewable Marine Energies were identified as a key sector with a promising future for blue growth and they will be included in the thematic guidelines of a future VDG. The naval academy at Varna in Bulgaria presented a project that will be proposed for the Black Sea cross-border cooperation programme funded by the European Neighbourhood Instrument.

Councillor Tiina PERHO of the Regional Council for South-West Finland, emphasised that, “No regional cluster can operate on its own. We have to continue international and interregional dialogue to find a smart way of enabling European regions to acquire specialist capabilities. Each of us has a smart specialisation strategy ready and waiting. Now it is time to put them into practice and achieve blue growth in Europe.” As part of the maritime basin approach, the CMPR’s Geographical Commissions will pave the way for the discussions required in order to create these spin-off projects.

IMG_1488The event also provided an opportunity for the signature of an agreement between the CMPR represented by its Secretary General, Eleni MARIANOU, and the Aldo Moro University in Bari represented by its Rector, Antonio Felice URICCHIO. The agreement between the CMPR and the University of Bari will establish relations between the two entities throughout the period of work leading up to the organisation of a second Vasco da Gama summer university, to be held in Taranto (IT) in the summer of 2017 (the first such event was held in Kalmar in August 2015).

Alessia CLOCHIATTI, DG Mare, European Commission, concluded the event, stating that, “each spin-off project has the potential to succeed.” She also said that, “links between the public and private sectors are also something that DG MARE will insist upon”. Three new calls for projects (“Blue Careers”, “Blue Labs” and “Blue Technology”) have recently been launched to boost blue growth, with a budget of 7.5 million euros, and an Info Day on the calls for projects will be held on 5 April in Brussels. The CMPR will be mobilising its network and tabling project proposals, particularly in the “Blue Careers” sector. This will not only capitalise on the experience gained during the pilot project but will also expand on the maritime training/education angle.

At the same time as the Vasco da Gama conference, the CPMR, through its synergies with the European Parliament, helped to organise an event that was hosted by the SEARICA intergroup. This second event included the presentation of a feasibility study by SEA-Europe and IndustriALL Europe to prepare for the setting up of a sector-based Skills Council within the maritime industry. The CMPR’s representative at the event, Sébastien PILARD, Regional Councillor for Pays de la Loire, highlighted the concrete actions taken by his region as regards training for maritime industries, including Weamec and the Compétences 2020 programme. The CMPR supports the introduction of a European Skills Council in this sector. Indeed, this is one of the actions suggested in the LeaderShip 2020 Report.

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