Prospective inland waterway shipping crew members and captains can start their apprenticeship at Rhenus at any time of the year. During the course, they receive training about everything related to managing vessels and transporting goods along inland waterways as well as monitoring the vessel’s engines; they help with docking and departure manoeuvres and handling cargo and they perform the cleaning and maintenance work on the vessel’s hull. The captains’ apprenticeship also covers navigation and steering as well as business management and organisational tasks. “The practical part of the apprenticeship takes place on our vessels – our trainees get to know everything in daily operations, ranging from the engine room to the wheelhouse, and are therefore ideally prepared for their everyday work in future,” says Kerstin Gerhold, the Personnel Coordinator at Rhenus. Once the inland waterway apprentices have completed their training and passed their final examinations, they are ready to launch their careers and can even steer an inland waterway vessel once they have obtained their so-called “Unionspatent”, i.e. the general skipper’s certificate for European shipping. Various opportunities for gaining further training and obtaining more certificates are available at any time. Rhenus itself guarantees that it will give the trainees a permanent working contract once they have completed their apprenticeship.
A training ship where they can live and learn
The theoretical vocational training takes place in blocks three times a year on board the Nautical Vocational College, the RHEIN. The RHEIN training vessel, which is located at the Duisburg-Homberg city port, offers accommodation to the apprentices during this time and is an initial and further training facility for inland waterway crew members that is unique anywhere in Europe. The Federal Association of German Inland Waterway Shipping (BDB) is the organisation behind the scheme. Practical tuition in the form of workshops and exercises, following up on the theory, eating meals and organising leisure time are all combined on board the ship. “Our ‘residential school’ approach on the training vessel is very similar to their everyday working life. Many different characters live on board together and adapt to each other in a very short time so that they can work well together,” says Gerit Fietze, the Head of the RHEIN Training Vessel.
Inland waterway companies from all over Europe send their trainees to Duisburg-Homberg for their initial and further training. The BDB currently has about 300 inland waterway trainees, but only about 100 new ones join them every year. “We’re having to cope with the shortage of specialist workers too at this time. However, a job in the inland waterway shipping sector is so attractive,” says Gerit Fietze. He particularly emphasises the location in Duisburg. “We’re based at the very hub of inland waterway shipping here. We have many shipping companies, a huge inland waterway port and the vocational college, including the simulator for people to prepare for their exams, right on our doorstep here.” Kerstin Gerhold also underlines the attractive work-life balance in this career. “Inland waterway crew members have just as much time off as they work. Two weeks on board means two weeks of free time straight afterwards. When Rhenus draws up its plans, it particularly pays attention to ensuring that its employees already have their working schedules available for the whole year. This enables them to plan ahead well.”