Stichting ECOL - European Crane Operators License

ECOL agrees experienced operators' standards

Members of ESTA’s European Crane Operators Licence (ECOL) working group have reached agreement on one of the most important outstanding issues – how to set a standard for experienced operators without forcing them to completely retrain. 

The working group driving the project has backed a structure that it hopes will encourage experienced operators from countries that have joined the ECOL system to become ECOL qualified.

The key elements of the plan are as follows:

- crane operators with less than four years of operating experience will have to do the full ECOL training and examination.

- crane operators with four to eight years of operating experience will have to complete a three-week training, consisting of 40 hours practice and 80 hours theory, and take the examination.

- crane operators with eight or more years of operating experience will have to complete a one-week training, consisting of 16 hours of practice and 16 hours of theory, after which they will take the examination.

The working group has agreed to define “a year of experience” as a year in which the operator has proven record of operating a crane for at least 500 hours.

Klijn said: “I am very pleased with the progress we are making. There is still a lot of work to do, but agreeing a system for managing experienced operators is a big step forward.”

Gunnar Mardon – a “true rock” and friend of ESTA 

ESTA and the ECOL Working Group are very sorry to announce that our good friend and colleague Gunnar Mardon died on October 2 following a stroke.

Gunnar was Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s National Occupational Council and sat on ESTA’s European Crane Operators Licence working group where his support and expertise was of great assistance in helping up take our ECOL project to the verge of being launched.

He had over 25 years of national and international senior management and board-level experience in industry, and served as an advisor to a number of organizations regarding standards and accreditation systems applicable across national and international frameworks. Gunnar was also a partner and co-founder of SkillRecord Systems Inc., supporting skilled occupations and trades in Canada.

Fraser Cocks, Executive Director of the British Columbia Association for Crane Safety and also a member of the ECOL working group, said: “Gunnar was a true rock for all of us. He was a solid presence, always there, always willing to be of service, sharing his reasonable, balanced Gunnar views on situations.”

ESTA Director Ton Klijn added: “I have come to know Gunnar as a loyal and committed member of our ECOL workgroup who strongly advanced our project with the Canadian authorities. His contributions in our workgroup meetings will be dearly missed. 

“Our thoughts go out to his family, especially his partner Diane and their two children.”

Liebherr in boost for ECOL as final testing starts

Leading equipment manufacturer Liebherr has agreed to become an approved training centre for ESTA’s planned European Crane Operators Licence (ECOL) after talks between the two organisations in August. 

The news was strongly welcomed by ESTA and comes as ECOL undergoes its latest pilot project in Denmark. Two more pilots – or trials – are planned before the schemes goes live early in 2019. 

Christoph Behmüller of the Training Department at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen said that ECOL has long been supported by Liebherr and the crane manufacturers through FEM.  “ECOL is another important step towards more safety in crane operation. It is a great concern of ours to support and promote this project.” 

When Liebherr is ECOL “approved”, it will be able to train and test operators for the ECOL-licence and can use the ECOL logo. In addition, Liebherr’s respected crane operator course can be credited to the ECOL licence.

ECOL will also be able to use part of Liebherr’s certified e-learning system for training and re-training purposes.

The agreement means that any operator that passes the future “aligned” Liebherr training will also be eligible to receive an ECOL licence - provided the operator registers with ECOL and the organisation’s SkillRecord system that logs his or her experience

EQF application submitted

ESTA has applied to have the ECOL operator certificate registered and recognised by the Dutch NLQF qualifications framework. Through the NLQF it will be aligned with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) Level 2 across Europe. 

Validation of national training schemes underway

ESTA Director Ton Klijn is calling on European training organisations to send in their training schemes so that they can be validated against ECOL standards.

“The idea is to compare all of the national training schemes and to identify what is needed – if anything – for them to comply with ECOL standards,” Klijn explained.

For further information, contact the ESTA main office on +31 71 572 4705 or by email at

First ECOL trials completed successfully

The first trial of the new European Crane Operators Licence scheme has been successfully completed at Mammoet’s training centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. 

Four crane operators were processed through the ECOL system which involved 240 hours of training split evenly between theory and practice.

So far, three have passed – one at the second attempt – and one failed, although he will have the chance to retake the test in the near future.

The operators themselves strongly backed the ECOL project, saying that they could see great value in being able to work throughout Europe without having to be retested by local regulators in every country. 

The ECOL organisers now intend to run three more pilot projects, one more in the Netherlands plus one each in Denmark and Italy. 

Training bodies and candidates wanted

ESTA is looking for candidates plus training and examination organisations to take part in the ECOL trial pilot project in February (see story below).

Candidates can be novices that have to be trained from scratch, or operators with demonstrable experience.

To find out how to take part, please contact the ESTA/ECOL Main Office on Tel: +31 [0] 71 572 4705 e-mail:

Date agreed for ECOL pilot project

ESTA’s ECOL Working Group has agreed a date to begin trialling the project – February 1, 2018. Assuming that goes to plan, ESTA will be in a position to request the European Qualifications Framework to have the ECOL operator certificate registered and recognised at EQF Level 2 across Europe.

ECOL Foundation established

ESTA has formally established the ECOL Foundation, the body that will have the job of supervising and monitoring the system of education, examination and maintenance.

The Foundation will set the criteria for becoming an ECOL-educator and for becoming an ECOL-examination institution in this field. Only when ‘ECOL-approved' can an organisation train and test operators for the ECOL license and have use of the ECOL logo.

The foundation will also issue certificates and recognize diplomas, manage the ECOL register and organize continuing education.

Correct ECOL misunderstandings, says Klijn

ESTA Director Ton Klijn has stressed the importance of correcting misconceptions about ECOL held by some in the crane industry. He said: “It is a misunderstanding that we are proposing to retrain all of Europe’s crane operators – that is simply not the case. ECOL does not mean experienced and qualified operators, with the necessary documentation, will need to retrain to obtain an ECOL


“Any operator that has the necessary initial education and experience and can prove it ,will not have to start from scratch, but will find it straightforward to obtain an ECOL certificate, ” he said. 

Upcoming events

  • 8th of November 2018 ECOL WG Meeting

    ECOL WG Meeting, Denmark

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