• Inland navigation workers are key drivers for inland navigation dynamics, and it is very important for inland navigation to be sufficiently appealing, especially towards young talents with entrepreneurial and innovation-oriented mindsets. Today, there is a shortage of qualified personnel at management level. In addition, the lack of qualified boatmasters can generally be observed, especially in tank vessel operation. Furthermore, a sufficient number of highly qualified personnel are needed in the emerging passenger navigation market. Ensuring the attractiveness of the sector and a high-quality education are therefore paramount.
  • Figure 1 shows the evolution of the number of apprentices in Germany in the inland navigation sector. Following a strong decrease in the 1990s, the number of apprentices in the inland navigation sector increased in Germany between 2000 and 2009 in a catch-up effect. As in other sectors, the number of apprentices decreased between 2009 and 2016 with a higher number of young people taking up university education and the economic crisis in the inland navigation industry.
  • However, for the first time in the last decade, a considerable increase followed in the years after 2016. Altogether, the evolution in the number of apprentices since the year 2000 could be explained by the economic boom (2000-2008) and recession (2009-2015) during this period of time, which also had a strong impact on the IWT industry, and which could have influenced the tendency of young people entering the industry. The period from 2016 to 2019 might not be called a boom, but it was at least a time when the inland navigation industry recovered from the financial crisis of 2009.
  • In 2019, 27 of the 405 apprentices were female. In the last years, no positive trend in the number of female apprentices is visible.


    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag)

  • Despite the increase in the number of apprentices since 2016, the percentage of employees (Employees being those workers who are subject to social security contributions) under the age of 25 gradually decreased from 10.1% in 2013 to 7.6% in 2018 before slightly increasing to 7.9% in 2019, according to data from the German Federal Employment Agency.
  • EDINNA (EDINNA is the educational network of inland waterway navigation schools and training institutes. Its aim is to achieve a more structured cooperation and a harmonized education, training and certification system for inland waterway personnel in order to ensure high quality training for staff on board vessels. See: https://www.edinna.eu/ (23. November 2020)) conducted a survey of new entrants to inland navigation training schools in 2015. Replies received from the Netherlands, Romania, the Czech Republic and Serbia showed an increase in the number of new entrants to the sector between 2009 and 2015. Even though not all EDINNA members completed the questionnaires for students on Operational Level (boatman) and Management Level (Boatmaster), schools with a relatively large number of students reported increasing numbers of students such as the Dutch boatman classes at Ijmuiden from 100 (2009) to 111 (2015) and Rotterdam from 56 (2009) to 118 (2015), the Romanian school CERONAV from 164 (2009) to 221 (2015) and the Czech school from 32 (2009) to 41 (2015). The Belgrade school saw an increase in Management Level education and a decrease in Operational Level students.
  • Results of a similar survey conducted by the CCNR in 2020 (Not all inland navigation schools provided an answer. The Covid-19 outbreak made it indeed difficult to obtain an answer from all relevant schools as databases were not always accessible by all schools during the lockdown period and while health emergencies had to be dealt with in parallel. However, despite these limitations, results from this survey could still be provided on the relevant insights and tendencies into education in IWT and the attractiveness of the sector) indicate that this positive trend was not overall sustained until 2019. However, it strongly depends on the country under study as well as the type of school concerned (university or training centres). For instance, the number of new entrants in Dutch inland navigation schools per year decreased from 294 in 2015 to 268 in 2019, while the number of registered students in the country decreased from 890 to 797. During that period of time, Polish, Czech, Slovak and French schools also reported declines in the numbers of registered students. For a Belgian school, the number of students remained more or less constant. Romania is the only country showing a clear increase in student numbers between 2015 and 2019.
  • In light of the results of the survey, it is expected that the staff shortage observed in the IWT sector will not be compensated by an increase in the number of graduates for IWT schools. The survey results also point to the fact that the IWT sector will most certainly remain male dominated in the coming years as only a few women graduate every year from inland navigation schools in Europe. As an example, over the period 2000-2019, approximately 10 women graduated from the CERONAV training centre. Similarly, very few female trainees have attended the Czech Děčín training school over the last 10 years. However, even if the number of women graduating remains very low compared to the overall number of students graduating each year, it seems that a slightly higher number of women are graduating today from inland navigation schools compared to a few years ago. In the Polish Zespól Szkól Zeglugi Sródladowej training centre, there is a relatively high number of women graduates (almost half of the graduates were women in the 2017-2020 period). The number of women graduating also depends on the kind of training and degrees offered by the school.
  • The survey results indicate that most students attend inland navigation schools in their home country. This is true for all inland navigation schools in Europe. Most students attending schools in the Netherlands are therefore Dutch nationals and most students attending schools in Romania are Romanian nationals. In western Europe, some students also come from African countries while in eastern Europe, a few students come from Moldova, Kazakhstan or even Vietnam.
  • After graduation, a larger share of students graduating from an inland navigation training centre in eastern Europe work in another country, generally in western Europe. Indeed, choosing to work abroad is generally motivated by the wage level and opportunities available in a foreign country, and wages in the IWT sector are generally higher in western Europe compared to eastern Europe (as confirmed by data in the next chapters of this report). For instance, it is estimated that 60% of the total number of students who obtain a certificate from the CERONAV training centre in Romania work abroad, mainly in Germany or in the Netherlands, while 40% work in Romania, mostly for inland navigation companies or in river and port administrations. A similar estimation is provided by the High School of Ship Transport and Industrial Crafts in the Czech Republic. This statement is also true for students obtaining their certificate in the Polish Zespól training centre. This observation is also confirmed by quantitative figures presented in the next chapters, providing evidence of a migration of inland waterway workers from east to west, often motivated by wage incentives.
  • The level of employability of students obtaining a certificate from the CERONAV training centre is very high (about 95% of students who obtain a certificate are then employed by a company in Romania or abroad). A similar level is reported by the Czech training centre. While most of the Czech and Romanian graduates follow a career in inland navigation, this is not necessarily the case for those graduating in Poland. The situation is also different when considering universities offering bachelors’ or masters’ degrees, such as the University of Žilina in Slovakia or the Volga State University of Water Transport in Russia where respectively 10% and 2-3% of students work abroad after graduation. Volga University reports that work opportunities after graduation are indeed quite numerous, secure and attractive at national level as graduates may follow, for instance, a career in transport ministries, transport authorities, education or logistics.
  • Most students qualifying from inland navigation schools in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium follow a career in the inland navigation sector. Given the important IWT activity in the Netherlands and Germany, it seems that a larger share of Dutch and German graduates remain in their home country after graduation compared to French and Belgian graduates. However, given the international character of IWT, most of them are brought to work on the European IWW network at some point or another during their career. Within freight transport, the number of students graduating in the Netherlands is quite evenly distributed among the market segments: 30% container vessels, 35% liquid cargo vessels, 30% dry cargo vessels.
  • Overall, the training centres which took part in the survey (most answers pre-dating the Covid-19 crisis) are expecting that the number of students will remain rather stable or might even increase in the coming years. For instance, CERONAV indicates that the number of persons interested in following a career in inland navigation is growing each year. In addition, given the need for more qualified staff in some specific areas, it is expected that the demand for certain qualifications will increase in the coming years, as will the number of trainees. Similarly, Dutch schools are expecting an increase in the number of students over the following years. Czech, Polish, Belgian and French schools are expecting the number of students to remain rather stable in the coming years. This will also depend on the willingness of public authorities to encourage inland navigation transport and how the sector will develop in the future. In addition, in countries where inland navigation workers are ageing, such as in Belgium or Germany, there might be further work opportunities in the future thereby having a positive impact on the number of students seeking to pursue a career in the IWT sector. The University of Žilina in Slovakia is the only school reporting that the number of students following an IWT related course is decreasing each year. The school capacity indeed decreased from 40 to 25 in 2015.
  • Most of the inland navigation schools that took part in the survey report that they have been involved in recruitment campaigns. Such campaigns can be targeting specific qualifications, launched in partnership with employers, made through mass/social-media campaigns or addressed at secondary schools’ students. Most of the respondents recognise the need to launch such communication campaigns given the shortage of qualified personnel observed in some segments of the IWT sector, and the lack of knowledge of the IWT sector by students who have had no contact with this sector at a young age. Many of the inland navigation workers often have a family member who was/is working in this sector. The objective of such a campaign is always to attract new, but also more qualified, students and inform them about the type of career opportunities available in the inland navigation sector.