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Kester succeeds Duursema as ESO’s SG

“Every one can make a difference, but together we bring about change”                

Brussels, 26 February, 2018 (ESO) – During the New Year’s reception of the ESO on February 26th in Brussels, nestor Gerard Kester was appointed as the new SG of the ESO. He succeeds the departing Secretary General, Hester Duursema (equally managing director of Royal BLN-Schuttevaer). The chairman Christiaan van Lancker spoke praising words about the role Duursema has played for the sector. He summarised her contribution as “sublime” and predicted a prosperous future for her.


Duursema has full confidence in her successor. “Gerard does not only have an incredible knowledge base of inland shipping, but he also has a lot of heart for the sector. These are things that ESO is known for, passion and expertise. “Kester has been involved in inland navigation for decades. For example, his first job at the end of the seventies, was to ensure that women on board were allowed to count as crew members.

ESO also said goodbye to Herman Verschueren, Advisor-General DG Shipping, Exploitation and Intermodality at the FPS Mobility and Transport. Verschueren will retire after many years of involvement with IWT. We are very grateful to him for the enormous commitment to the establishment of the European inland navigation platform. Until his very last working days he has put his teeth into it.

          Christiaan van Lancker with Mr. Herman Verschueren and Mrs. Gesine Meissner

Human Capital
In line with the above, the president’s speech was dominated by the theme of “human capital”. 2017 was a historic year, when we look at the commitment that is being made to better safeguard and develop human capital. The professional qualification directive should ensure that the pool of qualified people is increased, since it concerns harmonisation of the way we test which competences. Gesine Meissner, MEP for the FDP, was our guest speaker and she stressed how difficult it was to reach a political compromise. Some countries did not want to participate at all, other countries found it difficult to fit it into the national school systems, etc .. After a few questions we concluded that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, whether it is workable and whether it delivers what we intended, namely a larger pool of qualified people working in our sector.

In addition to this important topic, the president also referred to the research together with the European employee organisation (ETF), the so-called TASCS-study. This study looks at the crew requirements, what fits with the current time and what a system should look like? The aim is to develop  a Add Newsystem flexible enough to adapt at current times and can adapt to upcoming developments such as semi-autonomous sailing.

Warning for disappearing berthing sites
Serious bottlenecks have also been identified in relation to the safeguarding of human capital. For example, the various minimum wage laws that have been implemented in Germany and France. This is causing a lot of red tape, while wages for the nautical staff are fair at the moment. The Working Time Directive is also very cumbersome. But the biggest pain at the moment is the fact that the shore infrastructure along the Rhine is deteriorating. Local communities (f.e. Colon) have no idea how inland shipping works and the importance of inland shipping for the ins and outs of their economy. Inland shipping can simply not operate without good berths and car drop-offs. There is a huge challenge to reverse this trend. Here the European IWT platform will work very closely together with the German member organisations (BDB and BDS). Because inland shipping is all about people, but then people have to be able to work and live on board.
Van Lancker concluded his speach with: “Every one of us can make a difference, but together we bring about change!”. Only joint efforts can make things move.