Press release: Educational impulses for the next generation of inland skippers

Young nautical professionals from all over Germany meet in Cologne for the fourth Nautical Workshop

Everyone is talking about the shortage of skilled workers at the moment. But there are also ways to proactively counteract this. The companies in the inland navigation sector are increasingly and specifically focusing on training and further education in order to inspire young people for this extraordinary profession. An important element in this is the Nautical Workshop, which KölnTourist Personenschiffahrt and Köln Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt (KD) are jointly organizing for the fourth time. Aspiring navigators from all over Germany will meet in Cologne on the MS RheinTreue from October 23 to November 11, 2023, in order to prepare specifically for the block instruction at the Schiffer-Berufskolleg Rhein in Duisburg. The third Cologne shipping company is also on board, as part of the workshop will take place on the MS Willi Ostermann of the steamship company Colonia.

"Promoting young talent in any form is very close to our hearts," explains Angelika Schmitz, Managing Director of KölnTourist. "The project was born out of a desire to offer the young men and women who have chosen this particular profession a space to expand and deepen their knowledge and practice in a practical environment."

In addition to theoretical training units such as engine theory, mathematics, waterway science or traffic theory, the program also includes practical learning units such as knots and splicing or excursions to the water police, the bunker boat or the shipyard. One of the highlights each year is the excursion to Niehl Harbor, where trainees practice using life jackets and dinghies, among other things. The trainees are intensively prepared for future vocational school and upcoming exams in three different one-week courses for the three apprenticeship years. Experienced navigator Patrick Gereke from Köln Düsseldorfer acts as course instructor.

Course set for the future

"When we launched the project in November 2020, there were only eight participants," recalls Christian Hentschel, the nautical instructor at KölnTourist who supervises the trainees as one of the instructors during the workshop. "For the fourth edition, we welcome a total of around 60 participants, including from Bremen, the Main and Neckar rivers, the Elbe and the Danube. We are looking forward to exchanging experiences with the young people and to passing on our knowledge and enthusiasm for inland navigation."

"We ourselves have been actively training people for years in the fields of nautical science, gastronomy and event management. We are happy to pass on our experience, because cooperation is the be-all and end-all of being fit for the future," adds Angelika Schmitz, who was one of the first women in the Rhineland to train as an inland skipper herself at the start of her career in 1992. 

The course is also set for the future in other respects. In the 30th anniversary year of KölnTourist, Angelika Schmitz is initiating a generational change. Since 2023, her son Michael Schmitz has been acting as the second managing director of the family business. Just a few years ago, he completed his own nautical training and now steers the ships of the KölnTourist fleet across the Rhine as a skipper. Michael Schmitz emphasizes: "For me, being an inland skipper is not just a profession, but a vocation. It's a great feeling to be able to pave the way for other young people to enter this exciting field of activity, regardless of whether they go on to work on a ferry, container ship, cruise ship or passenger ship."

The traditional craft of the inland waterway skipper involves three years of training. Recently, it has also become possible to train directly as an inland waterway captain in three and a half years. Both training paths take place in the dual system. As a rule, the apprentices learn the practical part of the profession on the ships of their training companies. During the annual three-month block instruction at the Schiffer-Berufskolleg Rhein in Duisburg-Homberg, subject-related instruction takes place in theory and practice. During this time, the prospective inland skippers are accommodated in the Rhine training ship in the Homberg city harbor. With the final examination, the prospective inland navigation operators become a permanent and important part of the crew in inland navigation.

KölnTourist offers boat trips and boat charters at the most important junctions on the Rhine in the Cologne/Bonn area, unforgettable and exclusive variety of experiences for a real change of perspective, plenty of deceleration and lots of good humor on one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe. A personal and individual service, delicious food from selected partners and a very good price/performance ratio round off the offer. KölnTourist is a privately run shipping company with decades of tradition and shipping expertise. The fleet is technically up to date, because the safety of the passengers is always in the center of attention. The interior of the fleet is always well maintained. With an eye on the environment and future generations, the company embarked on a journey to greater sustainability in passenger shipping some time ago. KölnTourist sees itself as a true friend and partner of its guests and lives cosmopolitanism. The employees are authentic and love what they do - with regard to their fleet, their offers, their guests and the team.

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