Barge Master Qualifications

A barge or liftboat operator needs to know that their masters are competent.  Equally, a client will need to be assured that the master of the vessel they are hiring is competent.  Traditionally such competence is proved by some sort of certificate or qualification.

Currently there are no qualifications that certify that someone is competent to operate a jack-up barge.  Masters of self propelled units will have an STCW Certificate of Competence and the IMO Resolution A.1079(28) specifies minimum standards for Offshore Installation Managers (OIMs).

But neither of these covers the skills and knowledge specific to the jacking operation and the need to keep the barge or liftboat stable during elevated working.

Because a competent bargemaster needs to have a wide mix of skills, creating a qualification to certificate all of these would not be cost effective.  It would also be wasteful as many of these skills are already certificated under existing regimes (e.g. STCW).  Instead, IJUBOA’s approach is to look at this range of skills and ensure measures are in place to assess all of them.

Full competence is made up of two key elements – the practical skills to do a job and the knowledge and understanding of the principles underpinning what is being done.  Both are equally important.

And barge master skills fall into two broad categories – generic maritime skills, including crew management, and the specific skills relating to the operation of the barge.

The assessment of practical skills, whether they be generic maritime or jack-up specific are best done in the workplace by the employer. The employer is best placed to decide which skills are to be assessed  and can use the “You must be able to” sections of the IJUBOA Standards (NOS) to design their assessment strategy. The results of this assessment will be recorded in personnel records and also in the IJUBOA official log book (Blue book).  These records provide firm evidence of practical competence which clients can ask for.

The necessary maritime knowledge and understanding can be demonstrated via STCW certificates of competence and other maritime qualifications which are available.

Which just leaves the specific knowledge and understanding relating to operating the jack-up.  IJUBOA is currently developing a methodology to assess the necessary knowledge as defined in the “You must know and understand” sections of the NOS. This will take the form of an examination.  Candidates who pass this will be issued with a “Certificate of Knowledge of Jack-up Operations” which, when put alongside the records of their practical skills and maritime knowledge, will constitute the full range of evidence needed to demonstrate all round competence.

It is hoped that this certificate of knowledge will be available during the first half of 2016.  It will be accessible on line (with invigilation) and come in three versions – for large offshore operations, for smaller nearshore operations and for operations in calm water (inshore) conditions.

IJUBOA also recognised that there were jack up masters working in the field who had done the job for many years safely and successfully.  We therefore created what has become known as the official IJUBOA Blue Book. This is a hardback booklet which holds the information on the individual whose name appears at the front of the book as to what marine qualifications are held by the operator, this will of course include all STCW qualifications and other relevant qualifications. This Book  also resolved the issue of “Grand Father Rights” as it could and has been issued to many existing Jack Up Barge Masters.   In addition to this there is a page in the book that is reserved for a recognised marine warranty surveyor to endorse, after he  has witnessed the candidate operating a jack up barge safely and has answered a number of jack up barge related questions successfully.

This Blue Book has been widely taken up by the industry with some 400 books in circulation to specific jack up barge masters or jack masters and is now seen as an essential document for a barge master to hold and recognised as such by the MCA and HSE. IJUBOA is now taking this matter of knowledge and skill even further, and is working on the final stages  of a written examination where a jack up master or barge master can sit a written examination to prove his knowledge of this particular field of operation.  This qualification will be provided by IJUBOA in conjunction with the Scottish Qualification Association and the exams will be managed and set by the nautical academy of Rotterdam, STC BV, in co-operation with DNV-GL.