A dispute between the National Maritime College of Ireland and marine authorities is putting the livelihoods of up to 400 seafarers and over 20 lecturers at risk, it is claimed.
From January 1st next year, all mariners will be required to have completed a programme of mandatory refresher training in basic sea survival, boat-handling and firefighting.
However, the Cork-based National Maritime College of Ireland says a submission it made a year and a half ago for approval of its refresher courses has yet to receive formal approval from Irish authorities.
While the college says the UK's Marine and Coastguard Agency has recognised the certificates since last August, the Irish equivalent – the Marine Survey Office – has refused to do so.
, head of the National Maritime College of Ireland – a constituent college of the
Cork Institute of Technology
– said this rendered training done by 400 mariners in Cork as ineligible.
“We are surprised and dismayed at the decision of the Marine Survey Office to hold our certificates in abeyance,” he 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.”
Mr Mowlds said the college has placed 14 full-time staff and another 10 part-time staff on protective notice and will be discussing severance packages this week.
Approved in UK
In the meantime, he said the college had received legal advice that the Marine Survey Office is in breach of EU law and has sent an urgent letter to the Minister for Transport emphasising the need for decisive action.
Mr Mowlds said that, under EU laws, its certificates – in being recognised by UK authorities – should automatically be recognised by Irish authorities.
The staff affected are attached to the college’s joint venture training company known as SEFtec NMCI Offshore Ltd.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Transport - which is responsible for the marine - said the refresher courses have been approved by Marine Survey Office on a preliminary basis.
“This approval is preliminary, which is the usual practice of Marine Survey Office, as full approval is only given following attendance at the first course by officials from Department to ensure satisfactory delivery of the training,” the spokesman said.
“To date no such notification of the first training course has been received from National Maritime College of Ireland.”