One staff member has already been let go and mandatory severance is being issued this week to as many as eight other employee at the national Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) in Ringaskiddy in a row over the certification of courses there.
The three-day refresher training programmes, which cost €800 and cover essential mariner skills such as basic sea survival and boat handling, are recognised internationally but the Marine Survey Office at the Department of Transport here are holding the NMCI certificates “in abeyance”, despite appeals for them to certify them.
Conor Mowlds, the head of the National Maritime College of Ireland, said that, in addition to the threat to jobs, the impasse also means that 400 Irish mariners who have already completed the three-day mandatory courses would be ineligible to go to sea as of next January, thereby putting their livelihoods at risk.
Mr Mowlds said the college first contacted the Marine Survey Office in February 2015 seeking a resolution to the situation and, unless urgent action is taken, people already booked to do the courses in the Ringaskiddy facility could cancel, heaping further pressure on staff.
“We have written to Transport Minister Shane Ross and have implored him to intervene,” Mr Mowlds said.
It is understood local TDs Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil and Housing Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael have been seeking a resolution to the issue.
According to the college, prior to next January, all mariners are required by law to have completed a programme of mandatory refresher training in basic sea survival, boat handling and firefighting skills, which can only be achieved by successfully completing a refresher course approved under the Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping Convention 2010, in an EU country or a country on a designated ‘white list’.
The NMCI has that approval from UK bodies and in February 2015, made a submission for approval for its refresher course to the Irish authorities, but has yet to receive formal approval.
“We are surprised and dismayed at the decision of the Marine Survey Office to hold our certificates in abeyance,” Mr Mowlds said.
“Their action puts not only the jobs of our own staff at risk, but the livelihoods of over 400 Irish seafarers already trained in good faith at the National Maritime College.”
He said the college had received strong legal advice that the Marine Survey Office is in breach of EU law and warned the NMCI, through its maritime and offshore joint venture training company Seftec NMCI Offshore Ltd, is heavily reliant on the income from the courses to guarantee jobs.