Twenty-five staff at the National Maritime College (NMCI) in Cork are to be told their jobs are still on the line, though progress has been made in a course accreditation row with the Department of Transport.
A team from the NMCI met with department officials this week, when it was agreed the Marine Survey Office (MSO) will, once the necessary requirements are in place, accredit the NMCI’s refresher course for mariners. This refresher training is mandatory for all mariners from January.
However, uncertainty remains over the 400 Irish mariners who completed the course at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, since last August. The course was accredited by the British MCO, but the Department of Transport has questioned the validity of this for Irish students. If the department is correct, it means the students have a certificate of proficiency to work outside Ireland, but not in Irish waters.
NMCI head Conor Mowlds said department officials told the NMCI team they are still “awaiting evidence”of how a British organisation can sanction a course for Irish mariners held in Ireland. An emergency general meeting was held at NMCI yesterday to decide how to respond to the department’s stance.
“We are still in limbo land in terms of the 400 people who have completed the MCO-accredited course. The next week will tell a lot,” said Mr Mowlds. “Because of this, we cannot still say if mandatory severance will be announced in the next week”.
The NMCI was forced to seek UK accreditation for its refresher course last year as, when the college applied to the Department’s Marine Survey Office (MSO) office, they were told it would take at least a year before it could consider the application.
Under time pressure, the NMCI turned to the British for ratification of the course.
The department has said it will not recognise the certificates of proficiency, which mean that under changes to maritime law, the mariners — everyone from a ship’s officers to hairdressers on a cruise ship — will not be able to work from January 2017.
The NMCI argues the UK certificates are valid in every EU state “as a consequence of the provisions of Article 3 of Directive 2005/45/EC on the mutual recognition of seafarer certificates”.
In the Dáil, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said that approval was granted in Autumn last year in respect of two of the five categories of courses requested and that final preliminary approval for the rest of the courses is in place since May.
“Similar programmes have been provided [at NMCI]. My department had a number of concerns, including legal and jurisdictional concerns, in relation to these programmes,” he said.
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