Marine training on the River Thames is to receive a major boost with the launch of a new skills organisation that will support crew training and development on the UK’s busiest waterway.
The Thames Skills Academy (TSA) is a new, employer-led organisation that will provide marine and ports operations training, development, and support a coherent career path for people starting their working life on the Thames. The initiative supported by the Port of London Authority (PLA), Transport for London, Tideway (who are delivering the Thames Tideway Tunnel) and the Company of Watermen & Lightermen, will facilitate and broker training, including marine apprenticeships, on behalf of employers.
The development is essential, with the PLA’s Thames Vision project showing use of the river is set to increase markedly over the next two decades for travel, moving freight and supporting major construction projects. The Vision forecasts that the number of passenger trips will double to 20 million, and freight moved between terminals on the Thames will rise rapidly back to the 2014 peak of over five million tonnes.
“Well-trained, skilled people are vital to making the most of the new opportunities highlighted in the Thames Vision,” said TSA chairman, Richard Everitt speaking at the TSA’s Fishmongers’ Hall launch. “A busier river offers both the opportunity of new jobs, but also the challenge of more complex navigation. That’s why safety will be a priority for the trainees accessing courses through the TSA.”
The catalyst for the creation of the TSA has been an increasing skills gap coupled with growing river use, and generous and timely support from Tideway. Tideway is the new independent company constructing the biggest Thames engineering project of the last century, which will deliver a much cleaner river and make extensive use of the Thames during construction too. Work is due to be completed by early 2024, but Tideway is aiming to reduce the programme by up to two years.
Chris Livett is chief executive of Livett’s Group, operators of passenger boats and barges, and has worked on the production of films including James Bond’s Spectre on the Thames. He said:
“The TSA will provide Thames operators like me with a one stop shop for potentially all our marine and afloat training needs. To navigate a boat on the Thames, whether carrying passengers or freight, you need a Boatmasters Licence with the relevant endorsements like local knowledge, towing and pushing, large passenger vessel, or high speed. The TSA will help train the next generation of Boatmasters Licence holders, supporting crew and customer service staff to get the extra skills the business needs.”
For young people coming to the river at the start of their working lives and indeed for experienced workers as they up-skill, the TSA will be a critical resource. It will make sure river workers are equipped to support and contribute directly to the growth in River use.
Andy Mitchell, CEO, Tideway said: “The TSA is key to our goal of reconnecting London and Londoners with the River Thames.
“By working with employers in the design and delivery of river training, we can continue to develop a highly skilled workforce on the Thames. This will also ensure the professionalism and competence of employees working on the river is recognised through accredited training programmes delivered by high quality training providers that meet employer’s needs.
“It is also central to allowing our industry to achieve transformational health and safety standards and giving those working on the river the best opportunity to capitalise on a reinvigorated river economy, spurred on by our work and future projects.”
The PLA is one of the founding members of the TSA, providing financial and in-kind support. Chief harbour master Bob Baker commented: The river will play an important role in addressing the transport challenges faced by a growing London. It’s a marine superhighway which can unlock the congestion on the roads and help lower emissions too. We can only realise that potential with the well trained people that the TSA will help to create. One thing I’m really excited about is the TSA’s plans to establish the first formal inland waterways deckhand qualification. This is vital as it will act as a stepping stone to the Boatmasters Licence.”
Guests at the TSA launch included not only a wide range of small, medium and large river employers, covering passenger, freight and other marine service operators, but also potential affiliate members and sponsors.