The closing seminar of the European Coast Guard Functions Academy Network (ECGFA NET) project was held in the House of the Estates in Helsinki on 11th July 2019. The closing seminar gathered European coast guard and maritime authorities to the final overview of the results and future of the ECGFA NET project.
The seminar day began with the welcoming of the Rear Admiral Markku Hassinen from the Finnish Border Guard and addresses from European Commission and Italian chairmanship of the European Coast Guard Functions Forum.
The main goal of the project was to strengthen and improve educational cooperation between European training authorities in the field of coast guard functions. This goal was reached through four main results. The first result of the ECGFA NET project is the European Coast Guard Functions Training Network. It enables the member organisations to benefit and learn from each other’s experience and training.
To improve the information exchange the ECGF Training Portal was created. The Portal is a platform where the network members can introduce their courses, seminars, meetings and news. In addition to improving accessibility of training, it is also the main channel for the Network’s communication.
One of the central results is the ECGF Training Exchange Programme, coordinated by SASEMAR in its second running. The programme offers the member organisations a possibility to host an expert from another organisation or send their own expert to another country for on-the-job training or a training course. Through on-the-job training, experts are able to observe and participate in the host organisation’s operational duties. The goal is to share best practices, skills and information between the members of the ECGF Training Network. Interest towards the Exchange Programme has clearly increased which has been demonstrated through a multiplied number of applications to the programme. Furthermore, both the experts and the hosts have given excellent feedback and underlined the need for the continuation of the programme.
Another important product is the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Coast Guard Functions, CGFSQF, the development of which was led by Italian Coast Guard. The framework improves the comparability of the qualifications completed in different countries and institutions, as well as enhances quality assurance and maritime security throughout Europe. The framework describes learning outcomes for 10 coast guard functions, resulting in common understanding of the content of different qualifications. By acting as a translation tool, the framework promotes mobility and interoperability in coast guard functions.
The speakers of the panel were Mr. Marco Nobile from the European Commission, Mr. Rafael Duarte from the EFCA, Mr. João Carlos Silva do Nascimento from Guarda Nacional Republicana, Mr. Wojciech Zdanowicz from the Polish Maritime Administration and Mr. Ronan Chastanet from SGMer. Panel was moderated by Mr. Isto Mattila from University of Laurea.
The main message from the panel was that in the rapidly changing world the importance of strengthening and developing cooperation becomes emphasised. The panellists told about the improvements of national cooperation in their own countries, as well as the benefits that the inter-Agency cooperation framework has brought to the field.
The panellists recognised the value of cooperation and how the project’s results will improve it. Cooperation is also a key when addressing new challenges in the field. When discussing significant future trends and challenges, the audience and the panellists raised pollution, technological development and hybrid threats to the discussion. Panellists felt that technological development and artificial intelligence are the next significant steps that should be considered in cooperation. It is clear that technological development requires cooperation between member states and EU Agencies to avoid overlap and counterproductive laws and practices.
Furthermore, while use of technology, such as augmented reality, autonomous ships and drones can bring efficiency to the field, it can also be accompanied by vulnerabilities and new threats. The discussion centred especially in cyber threats and the need of cooperation to tackle those threats. Incidentally, cyber threats have been an area where cooperation has been developing in a bottom-up manner through the European Coast Guard Functions Forum.
In the conclusion of the panel the ambitious actions and cooperation during this project were seen very valuable, and there was consensus that the results should be maintained also in the future. The EU Agencies EFCA, EMSA and Frontex have expressed tentative interest towards the results and are discussing the best ways to incorporate the results into inter-Agency cooperation framework.
ECGFA NET project is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The project is led by the Finnish Border Guard.