2017 was another busy year for the NWA – and its Secretary! – as we continued to push forward with important initiatives in the areas of training and vessel safety, while grappling with a number of legislative and regulatory issues affecting our membership.
As we continue to grow as an organisation, 2017 was a successful year for the NWA in terms of new membership.
A total of nine new companies joined the Association over the course of the year, taking the number of full members to 79 – and the number of registered vessels to 560.
We would like to take the opportunity again to welcome our new members: Constructex; Manor Renewable Energy; Minerva Technical Services; North West Marine; Topbond; Svitzer, Ventus Workboats; Wind Energy Marine; and World Marine Offshore.
My work as Secretary continued to revolve around the same core areas – with the bulk of my time spent representing the NWA in training, legislative and safety matters. Time was also spent supporting this activity from an administrative perspective, and working to promote the Association and its activities in the wider market.
In total, I represented the NWA in 87 meetings, taking part in discussions with numerous bodies, from the MCA, MSA and IMCA, to the Department for Transport and the G+ Safety Group.
Apprenticeships: The Learning Curve
After a slow start, we made progress in negotiations with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), finally succeeding in getting the revised Workboat Standard approved under the Trailblazer Apprenticeship programme. The Trailblazer group is now working to complete the detailed End Point Assessment for Workboat Apprenticeship so it can start to go live later in the year.
We were also able to get the ball rolling on the “Small Vessel” Engineer Apprenticeship and will be looking to pick this up again in 2018 following an initial setback.
After some delays, the Scottish Apprenticeship programme is also now set to get underway, with Stream Marine Training poised to launch their course, with start dates in 2018.
This year, the Training Record Book (TRB) is being revised to meet new Workboat Standard. We are looking into electronic options, such as having an ‘App’ based version of the TRB to increase access to the training and usability.
We would encourage all of our members to take advantage of the above Apprenticeships in light of the Apprenticeship Levy, introduced in April 2017, which places a 0.5% tax on all firms with a wage bill of over £3 million, but enables all businesses both Large, and SMEs to claim back up to 90% of training costs for approved Apprenticeship schemes.
Certificates of Competency: Progress Being Made
For many CTV operators with boats working internationally, the decision of the German transport authority, BG Verkehr, to no longer accept the Master <200GT Code Vessel, or the Master <500GT Workboat Certificate provided an unexpected headache – and occupied a lot of my time as we sought to negotiate a solution via the MCA.
Despite various setbacks, we are able to report that the MCA have reached a verbally-agreed solution to the situation. The MCA is now awaiting written confirmation from BG Verkehr before the agreement can finally be formalised. Once that confirmation has been received we will be able to promulgate full details of what steps crew members will need to take to gain the Master <500GT Near Coastal CoC which will be the minimum CoC accepted by the BG Verkehr in the German Offshore Wind farms.
Revising the Workboat Code
Work has been ongoing to finalise the Revised Workboat Code, which was resubmitted towards the end of 2017 after we were asked to re-work the Economic Impact Assessment (EI) with the MCA and DfT.
The revised code includes some notable changes to training and manning requirements – namely stability training for Masters, a three-day radar training course, and a three-day electronic chart training course. These courses are being offered together as a 5-day package by MARITAS. We have established a two-year transition period with the MCA to allow time to respond to these additional requirements.
The STCW Basic Safety courses (PST, Firefighting and First Aid) are the legal minimum requirement for anyone looking to work aboard commercial vessels under 24 metres. As from January 2017 it is a requirement that these basic courses are refreshed every 5 years. We recommend that everyone makes sure their crew have certificates that are up-to-date.
HS-OSC and Large Workboat codes take shape
The High Speed Offshore Service Craft Code (HS-OSC) was published last May, representing a significant achievement for the NWA, and paving the way for some members to launch a new class of High Speed Utility Vessel (HSUV), able to carry up to 24 industrial personnel.
Additionally, following almost monthly meetings with the MCA chairing workgroup, progress is being made with the <500GT ‘Large Workboat’ Code. A final draft was anticipated by May this year – but again revisions must be made to the EI assessment before this can be signed off. Nonetheless, we expect the code to be finalised by the end of 2018, helping to address grey areas for operators and crews of vessels between 200 and 500 tonnes, and aimed to give a high standard of vessel, acceptable to other administrations, for those working internationally, with some relaxations for those working in the UK domestic market.
Thought Leadership and Communications
With all of the above ongoing, 2017 also provided an opportunity to work on our communications, in order to better represent the NWA in front of a wider audience, and also to make sure the information we give our members is clear and targeted.
Working with Tamarindo, we have implemented a number of initiatives, including a ‘media relations’ campaign to achieve press coverage on behalf of the association, the creation of a LinkedIn profile and improvements to the way we use the website and our newsletters to keep you up to date.
I always welcome queries, thoughts and feedback from our members, and look forward to catching up with you all again over the course of the next 12 months. In the meantime, I wish you a successful 2018!