Professional qualifications (QP)


The European Standard for Qualifications in Inland Navigation (ES-QIN): a European frame of reference for qualified personnel

Since 2015, the CESNI Committee approves standards related to professional qualifications in inland navigation. The standards lay down details of a new competence-based approach for deck crew members. Navigational safety owes much to competent, well-trained personnel, with interesting career opportunities and job mobility within Europe.

Fully aware of these challenges, the CCNR and the European Commission have set in motion a sweeping modernisation of the applicable rules. Their approach is now based on precisely defined competences enabling the creation of a system of harmonised professional qualifications within the EU and on the Rhine. Specifically boatmaster, helmsman or boatman qualifications obtained in one of the Member States of the EU, CCNR or a recognised Third Country, will be valid on all (connected) EU navigable waterways and on the Rhine – and directly so, without undergoing any recognition procedures or validation of experience.

It is for this new regulatory framework that the ES-QIN provides operational clarifications.


The main objectives of the standards are to:

  • foster labour mobility

  • make the profession more attractive,

  • ensure safe navigation by means of ambitious requirements in terms of knowledge, skills and fitness, and

  • enable companies and crews to adapt to technical and logistic innovation.

The ES-QIN is the cornerstone of a modern and highly qualified inland navigation sector.


This frame of reference aims to accompany inland navigation personnel throughout their career:

  • Training: the ES-QIN defines all the competences that need to be acquired by the crew member in question, by defining a common baseline and additional competences depending on activity (radar navigation, on inland waterways of a maritime nature, passenger navigation, navigation using LNG as a fuel, etc.).

  • Evaluation: the ES-QIN defines the competences that are to be evaluated to confirm what has been learned; it also lists the requirements applicable to simulators used for the examinations.

  • Certificates of qualification: the ES-QIN defines the model documents attesting to the qualification and ability (certificates) but also the procedures for taking account of the experience acquired by navigation personnel to progress in their careers.

  • Medical fitness: the ES-QIN establishes a detailed list of medical criteria for use by the medical profession in evaluating the crew members’ (physical and mental) fitness. These criteria aim to ensure the safe navigation of the vessel, and the safety of the crew, passengers and cargo in the specific context of inland navigation.


ES-QIN is available in four languages (French, German, Dutch and English). Unofficial translations into other languages are also available. 

Overview of ES-QIN content

The ES-QIN edition 2019 includes:


1) A first set of standards, the so-called “Prague Standards” adopted in 2018 (see press release) and divided into 4 main parts, as follows:

  • Part I: Standards for competences

    • Operational and management level

    • Sailing on inland waterways with a maritime character, with the aid of radar

    • Passenger navigation experts, liquefied natural gas (LNG) experts

  • Part II: Standards for practical examinations

    • Sailing with the aid of radar

    • Passenger navigation expert

    • Liquefied natural gas expert

    • Boatmaster

    • Additional module on supervision (boatmaster)

  • Part III: Standards for the approval of simulators

    • Technical and functional requirements

    • Administrative procedure

  • Part IV: Standards for medical fitness (general fitness, vision and hearing)


2) A second set of five standards on models, adopted in 2019, included in:

  • Part V: Standards for models of crew-related documents

    • Certificates of qualification (boatmaster, LNG expert, passenger navigation expert)

    • Service record book (SRB) combined with certificates of qualification

    • Practical simulator examination certificate

    • Service record book (SRB)

    • Logbook (LBK)

The standards in detail

Standards for competence

In the case of qualifications for deck crew members at operational level (boatmen, able boatmen and helmsmen) and management level (boatmasters) it is the first time that theoretical knowledge and practical skills (competencies) have been consistently defined for all European Union waterways and for the Rhine. Standards for competence also identify in detail the requirements to obtain a specific authorisation when:

  • sailing on inland waterways with a maritime character;

  • sailing with the aid of radar;

  • sailing craft using liquefied natural gas as fuel.

The same applies for passenger navigation experts, who are qualified to take measures in emergency situations on board passenger vessels, and for LNG experts, who have to demonstrate competencies when they are involved in the bunkering procedure of a craft using LNG as fuel.



The uniform competence requirements help increase  labour mobility in Europe. They have been developed by the PLATINA project for boatmasters and boatmen and have been the subject of numerous consultations with the social partners and training institutes.


Standards for practical examinations

CESNI has developed standards for harmonised practical examinations at the European level. These examinations concern both the management level (boatmaster) and the operational level (boatman, able boatman, helmsman).

CESNI/QP experts have gone further and have even developed model examinations. They can serve as tools for the examination commissions to implement a level playing field in European inland navigation.

Appropriate minimum requirements have been defined for mandatory practical examinations for the qualification to sail with the aid of radar and passenger navigation experts, as well as for handling LNG. In the case of the practical examination for boatmasters, an additional module was agreed upon for the practical examination of skills at operating level for side-entrants. This module is aimed at applicants who have not undergone any approved training programme at operational level or who have not yet demonstrated in an examination the competence that a boatman is required to demonstrate.


Standards for the approval of simulators

Consistent technical and functional requirements were defined for simulators used for assessment of boatmasters and for the authorisation to navigate with the aid of radar. These requirements support this new form of internationally recognised practical examination.


Standards for medical fitness

For the first time, detailed and consistent medical fitness criteria have been introduced. These criteria, in addition to already existing provisions for vision and hearing, also contain guidelines on how permanent or temporary unfitness can be defined. Those criteria are based on the internationally recognised list of inland navigation ailments, subject to examination for each individual case. In addition, the experts developed a model medical certificate, largely based on the CCNR’s medical certificate. The form aims to be clear and unambiguous, both for medical personnel and for the issuing authorities who will be reading it. Approved doctors may now use the adopted model.


Standards for crew-related documents

For boatmasters and experts, the CESNI agreed on both an electronic and a physical format. This electronic format is unprecedented in inland navigation. It simplifies procedures for the boatmaster and for the administration.

The electronic format has an e-seal embedded in a PDF/A document and a 2D barcode serving as a link to the European Crew Database (ECDB). Both the electronic and the physical format are designed in such a way that boatmasters will no longer need several documents to certify their competence as a boatmaster, their competence to sail on stretches with specific risks, or their competence to sail with the help of radar.



Model of certificate of qualification (boatmaster)

For crew members other than boatmasters, certificates of qualification e.g. as a boatman or as an engineer are presented in a single document combining the service record book and the certificates of qualifications. The document also carries a 2D barcode as a link to the European Crew Database.

The models of service record books (one for boatmasters and the second above-mentioned combined model) lay down harmonised instructions for the issuing authorities and for the document characteristics. They also enable the recording of service time on board in accordance with ADN requirements and the navigation time on specific stretches or on large convoys. For all the above-mentioned documents, the CESNI also identified a harmonised way to facilitate the identification of the document by a serial number.

The standards for logbooks provide for a harmonised outer appearance and uniform instructions, by setting up a simple numbering system for functions on board.

Finally, standards for the practical simulator examination certificate provide for a standardised format, certifying that a practical examination for obtaining a certificate of qualification as a boatmaster or for a specific authorisation for sailing with the aid of radar has been passed on a simulator, when the certificate/authorisation is issued elsewhere.


Implementation of the ES-QIN 2019

CESNI standards are not binding per se.

The EU, the CCNR and other international organisations or third countries will be able to apply the standards by integrating them into their respective legal frameworks.

The EU and CCNR have agreed to incorporate the ES-QIN standards in their regulatory framework. The Member States will also have to transpose them into national law so that they can be implemented on European inland waterways.


Other requirements for professional qualifications

CESNI/QP international experts have developed other requirements for the inland navigation personnel, in order to accompany the various phases of professional life.

Basic safety training for new entrants to the profession (deckhands)

Several countries do not yet have national requirements for basic safety training for deckhands. CESNI considered it useful to provide recommendations for a training covering the most common dangers on board conventional vessels. The training is intended for deckhands who are newcomers to inland waterway transport (IWT) and who do not follow a professional training.

Standard communication phrases

Future boatmen and boatmasters should be able to use standard communication phrases in various situations to prevent communication problems.

CESNI therefore identified standard communication phrases based on a free mobile phone app called LE SINCP, developed by inland navigation schools in Germany and the Netherlands in the framework of the INTERREG project “Ler(n)ende Euregio”.

In full compliance with applicable police regulations and international radio communication rules, these standard communication phrases will facilitate communication in various situations and create a safer environment on board.

CESNI/QP experts are working on the qualifications of the future, in order to help the IWT sector to:

  • Adapt to the new digital environment: support personnel who will have to operate in an increasingly digitised environment (and more generally dealing with equipment enabling an increasingly automated navigation);

  • Adapt to the energy transition: support personnel in the energy transition – for example, by adopting operating practices that respect the environment or by training sessions in the use of new methods of on-board propulsion;

  • Have more flexible crew regulations;

  • Support entrepreneurship: provide a definition of entrepreneurial competences in order to become an inland waterway transport entrepreneur.

These are several aspects that have already been identified to enable inland navigation personnel to adapt to societal and technological developments. CESNI experts will follow closely new developments and continue working on the modernisation of crew-related requirements.


Documents and frequently asked questions (FAQ)