QOL consultation continues engagement

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 41, September 2012

Public consultation on the maritime rules giving effect to the new Qualifications and Operational Limits (QOL) framework is planned to take place during October and November.

The QOL Review and the subsequent development of a new framework have already been widely shared with the maritime community. The consultation process will continue that engagement to ensure that the rules accurately reflect MNZ’s intent – to develop a world-class qualifications framework that supports a modern maritime sector.

“Recognising competence is at the core of the framework, which focuses on defining and measuring competence through practical assessment and examination,” says QOL programme manager Andrew Clapham. “This clear, logical framework will give seafarers greater flexibility to enter or move within the maritime sector in response to changing demands.”

The maritime qualifications and operating limits rules regime affects around 3,000 New Zealand commercial vessel operators and 13,000 seafarers. The current rules were made nearly 15 years ago, with much of their content carried over from pre-existing regulations from the 1950s.

Ad hoc changes have addressed isolated issues, but the rules have become increasingly out of step with the needs of today’s maritime sector. They are complex, highly prescriptive, and difficult for industry and seafarers to understand.

Issues include:

  • „„barriers to entry into the commercial maritime sector caused by outdated, inflexible rules and a focus on prescription rather than experience and competence
  • „„qualifications and syllabuses out of step with advances in technology and changes in the domestic maritime sector „„
  • operating limits that do not properly take into account modern vessel capabilities
  • increased costs for MNZ, and vessel operators and seafarers, because of complexity and over-prescription.

The new rules are aligned with international conventions – Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and STCW-F (for fishing vessels). Under these rules, seafarers and employers in the commercial shipping and fishing sectors will benefit from:

  • the removal of unnecessary barriers to entry and career progression
  • „„competency-based rather than prescriptive experience requirements
  • „„recognition of all relevant sea-going experience „„
  • qualifications that match contemporary industry needs
  • a simpler, more logical qualifications structure.

“Introducing competency-based qualifications consistent with international standards will ensure New Zealand seafarers and operators will continue to have access to international markets,” said Andrew.


A competency-based framework already supports the international STCW licences issued by MNZ, with maritime training institutions working to model syllabuses. A working group made up of MNZ, industry training organisation Competenz, training providers and industry representatives recently finished developing a competency framework for the five non-STCW Certificates of Competency (or licences) on the new QOL framework.

“These licences – Skipper Restricted Limits (SRL), Qualified Deck Crew (QDC), Marine Engineer Class 6 (MEC6), Master Yacht <24m near coastal, and Skipper Coastal / Offshore <24m – are a critical first step for those needing a stepping stone into the industry,” says Andrew. “We have also aligned the competencies developed for these licences with STCW-F.

“A real benefit of developing a competency framework is that it offers a number of different methods for a seafarer to demonstrate they are competent. The package for SRL, for example, includes a task book, on-board assessment and an oral examination, as well as an approved training course.

“The real advantage of all this is that it will enable people to enter the industry more quickly – and more competently – than the present rules, with their excessive seatime requirements, allow.”

Andrew makes the point that implementation of the new rules will be supported by significant operational improvements at MNZ to deliver efficiencies, including the introduction of online processing.

“These new rules – and the opportunities they offer – support major changes in the qualifications regime that will benefit the maritime industry. I would urge anyone with a stake in the sector to take this opportunity to read, understand and have their say.”

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