A row over the refusal of the Minister for Transport to recognise certificates of proficiency awarded to seafarers who take maritime training refresher courses has ended up in the High Court.
Mr Justice Brian McGovern today was told the Minister's refusal to recognise the certificates could have very significant consequences for the company behind the training and proficiency certificates and it could potentially face claims for the return of almost €1million paid out in fees.
At issue is the recognition by the Department of Transport of certificates of proficiency issued by SEFtec NMCI Offshore Training Limited (SNO) at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy, Cork which comes under the umbrella of the Cork Institute of Technology. The sea survival refresher courses cost about €800 per person.
SNO is a joint venture company between the Cork Institute of Technology and SEFtec Global Training Ireland Limited which is a world leader in the production of safety training simulators and facilites used to train off shore workers.
There is now a fear there is a potential exposure of €1million in respect of seafarers who have been trained and whose training certificates could now be potentially allegedly invalid.
Now Cork Institute of Technology and SEFtec NCMI Offshore Training LTD (SNO) have mounted a legal challenge to what it claims is the refusal of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in a Marine Notice to recognise the certificates of proficiency.
Today Mr Justice Brian McGovern admitted the case to the Commercial Court list. The case will come back before the court at the end of June.
In the legal challenge it is claimd the Marine Notice of February this year is wholly irrational and allegedly breaches EU regulations.
In an affidavit, SNO managing director and the Head of the National Maritime College of Ireland Conor Mowlds said the marine notice has arisen against a background of what can only be described as a very long, protracted, frustrating and disappointing process of engagement with the Department of Transport.
He said the only issue arising for determination now by the court is lawfulness of the Minister's refusal to recognise the certificates of proficiency awarded by SNO.
The stance taken in the Marine Notice, he said is extremely serious and he said the courses are a source of very significant income for SNO.
Mariners, he said were concerned the Marine Notice may have retrospecitvely invalidated their certificates of competency.
In the proceedings it is also claimed therE was no noitce of the Marine Notice which it said has devastating adverse consequences for the applicants and there was an expectation the Minister would not resile from the positions set out in prior practice and representations without engaging in full and meaningful consultation.