The move nofollows an agreement with the Berlin transport ministry and the Verdi trade union on language requirements for masters of German-flagged vessels.
The agreement basically means a victory for the union after a long row. Nevertheless, the representatives of the shipping community are determined to bring the promised number of ships back under the domestic flag.
As Verdi had demanded, masters of German vessels will in future have to possess a certain knowledge of the German language to nofollow and pass a law course.
Owners, on the other hand, achieved some flexibility in the rules governing the amount of English that might be used to explain legal issues to foreign participants in the law courses.
Owners have vowed to bring the number of merchant vessels under the German flag to 500 by the end of this year. At present the number stands somewhere between 400 and 410, according to a spokesman for VDR.
The next National Maritime Conference is planned to be held in early December, meaning that results should have been achieved by then.
Should the target not be met, “owners will face a more restrictive use of the tonnage tax like the sword of Damocles”, as one shipping expert put it.
Permission to flag out vessels while keeping them entitled to the benefits of the tonnage tax might no longer be granted as naturally as in the past, Verdi’s shipping expert Karl-Heinz Biesold suggested.
In the letters sent out to member companies, VDR asks when and how many vessels will be brought under the national flag in order to shoulder a fair share of the burden.
Basically, each owner has to have just over one sixth of his fleet under the national flag. That derives from the targeted 500 domestically flagged vessels out of about 3,200 German-controlled ships.
“As with the first reflagging campaign, it is necessary that the association can make reliable statements to the public and politicians about the effect of the measures,” the letter reads.
At the same time, Mr Biesold criticised German state governments saying they had not yet fulfilled their promise to increase training capacities at colleges and universities for officers and masters, as had been decided to find a sustainable solution to the problem of crewing shortages.