The project European Coast Guard Functions Academy Network (ECGFA NET) II, led by the Finnish Border Guard and funded by the European Commission, aims to enhance educational cooperation in the field of coast guard functions. To make this aim a reality, the project supports the ECGF Training Network and promotes the ECGF Training Portal as a tool for accessing educational opportunities offered by other European authorities performing coast guard functions.
An important part of the project is the ECGF Pilot Exchange, launched in summer 2017. In the Pilot Exchange, the members of the ECGF Training Network have the opportunity to host experts from other organisations and send their own experts to obtain skills and knowledge. This gained insight is shared with colleagues at home after the exchange. The exchange is executed as either on-the-job training or a course with specific learning outcomes. The purpose of the exchange is to share best practices and create connections among different authorities with coast guard functions all over Europe. Understanding different operation models and having vast networks are important aspects of coast guarding, especially in today's interconnected world.
Sharing of knowledge and experiences
The first ever Exchangee in the programme was a Chief Petty Officer from the Italian Coast Guard. He spent five days aboard OPV Uisko hosted by Western Coast Guard District of Finland which is part of the Finnish Border Guard. During the exchange he got to participate in onboard activities and trainings, follow the work of a SAR helicopter and visit a floating coast guard station in Porvoo. Perhaps most importantly, he also shared views with Finnish colleagues on the differences and similarities between coast guarding in Finland and Italy. He observed several operational differences between the patrolling in Finland and Italy due to differences in the maritime conditions.
All in all, the Exchangee was pleased with his time on OPV Uisko and was also happy to try sauna, Finnish sour milk and porridge. The sentiment was shared by the crew of OPV Uisko as they also felt that the exchange was a positive experience. Master of OPV Uisko gave credit for the Exchangee's initiative and hands-on approach.
"Networking on the operational level needed"
These positive experiences were shared on OPV Tursas which is another vessel of Western Coast Guard District of Finland. They hosted a Chief Inspector from the German Federal Police in late July. The aim of the exchange was to give the Exchangee a comprehensive picture of coast guarding in Finland where the challenging maritime environment sets additional demands for the work. The Chief Inspector gained insight on the special features of the equipment and the wide range of duties on the vessel.
In charge of the exchange was the 1st Mate of OPV Tursas who was the acting commanding officer during the exchange. The 1st Mate hoped that the exchange programme would continue also in the future because it offers an important opportunity for networking. According to the 1st Mate of OPV Tursas, networking on the operational level between the EU member states is needed because of the integration demands set for the common EU border and coast guard duties.
The ECGF Pilot Exchange is coordinated by the ECGFA NET II project which will end in December 2017. The vision is to grow the capacity of the exchange and offer more courses and trainings for the members of the ECGF Training Network. Even though the ECGFA NET project will reach its conclusion one day, the ECGF Exchange Programme is hoped to last for a long time.
ECGFA NET II is a project funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. More information can be found at http://www.raja.fi/projects/current/ecgfanet2 and by contacting the project e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.