Stichting ECOL - European Crane Operators License

ECOL announcements

- ISO 9001 success for ECOL project

- Germany’s GENOSK backs ECOL

- Call for clients to back ECOL licence

- Leading crane manufacturers show their support

- First meeting of ECOL Committee of Experts

- Canadians and ECOL sign MOU

- Sarens moves to become ECOL trainer


ISO 9001 success for ECOL project

August 19, 2019

ESTA’s planned European Crane Operators’ Licence has been awarded ISO 9001-2015 certification after successfully completing the required audit.

The award means that ECOL can now apply to have the licence registered and recognised by the Dutch NLQF qualifications framework. Through the NLQF it will be aligned with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) across Europe. 

ESTA Director Ton Klijn said: “This is an important and proud moment for the ECOL project and all of us that have been working so hard to make it a reality. Certification under ISO was a requirement by NLQF for classification of our training system under EQF.


“If everything goes according to plan, we anticipate an answer from NLQF on the classification of ECOL by the end of December. We will start the work on the classification process immediately.”

The ISO 9000 family of quality management standards is designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements. ISO 9001 stipulates the requirements that organizations wishing to meet the standard must fulfill.

ISO certification represents another major step forward for ECOL which is by far the biggest and most ambitious project ever undertaken by ESTA.

Germany’s GENOSK to align training with ECOL

August 8, 2019

The major German organisation GENOSK – the Cooperative for Heavy Transport and Crane Work – has agreed to align its training with the ECOL scheme. 

Meanwhile, ECOL’s awareness continues to grow with the organisation receiving 18 new requests from organisations wanting to find put more about becoming ECOL trainers or examiners.

Call for clients to back ECOL project

July 21, 2019

ESTA is planning to step up promotion of the new European Crane Operators’ Licence to the industry’s clients as part of a move to maximise acceptance of the scheme.

ECOL has already received several strong expressions of interest and informal support from companies in the oil and gas, renewable energy and civil engineering sectors and is now hoping to persuade more of the licence’s safety and business advantages.

Leading crane manufacturers backing ECOL

June 13, 2019

Four leading crane manufacturers – Manitowoc, Tadano, Terex and Liebherr – have agreed to align their training operations with the ECOL scheme and its standards, and are currently going through the registration process.

Sarens has also applied to qualify its Belgian training facility under ECOL, and Comokra from Belgium plus Fagioli from Italy are expected to follow suit.

Already qualified are the Mammoet Academy in the Netherlands and EUC-Lillebælt from Denmark.

ECOL’s Committee of Experts meets for the first time

May 7, 2019

ESTA’s European Crane Operators Licence (ECOL) project took another significant step forward in April with the first official meeting of the new organization’s Committee of Experts.

The inaugural meeting of the 9-strong experts’ committee took place during the Bauma exhibition in Munich. It followed the final meeting of ESTA’s ECOL Working Group in Denmark at the end of January and signals the ECOL project’s transition to its new and permanent management structure.

ESTA Director Ton Klijn said: “This may seem like a bureaucratic change, but it is very important. This  - and other similar developments that we will be announcing in the coming months - will place ECOL on a professional, stable and long-term footing.

“It will help to ensure that we build into the ECOL system the necessary expertise, transparency and accountability so that the industry at large can have  faith in our work and standards.”

The Committee of Experts will advise and assist the ECOL management board in its role of overseeing the day-to-day running of the ECOL system.

The nine members are: Fraser Cocks, BCACS, Canada; Thomas Crauwels, VZW Montage, Belgium; Kim Hvolbøl, DKF, Denmark; Erik Kroes, Mammoet; Pia Metsola, INFRA, Finland; Kim Poulsen, EUC-Lillebælt, Denmark; Norbert van Schaik, Siemens-Gamesa; Lion Verhagen, VVT, the Netherlands; Paul Zepf, VDMA, Germany.

Canadians and ECOL sign MoU

April 17, 2019

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between ECOL and the British Columbia Association for Crane Safety in Canada. 

The agreement will in future mean that ECOL card-holders in Europe will be able to work in British Columbia without taking any further tests, and vice versa, as the two bodies’ training standards are fully aligned.  The two organisations hope that the agreement will eventually apply to all of Canada. 

Sarens moves to become ECOL trainer

March 29, 2019

Global crane and heavy transport specialist Sarens has applied to qualify its Belgian training facility under ESTA’s new European Crane Operators Licence.

The move is another big boost for the ECOL scheme. To date, two European training facilities have become ECOL qualified – Mammoet in the Netherlands and EUC-Lillebǣlt from Denmark - with a further six at different stages in the qualifying process.

“For an international company like Sarens, ECOL is a very important project, and we want to be involved and support it,” said Stijn Sarens, the company’s key account manager and ESTA Secretary.

"Standards of crane operator training are hugely variable across Europe. ECOL will help to raise those standards to a common level. It will make the industry safer and more efficient, allowing properly qualified crane operators to work more easily in different countries throughout the EU and beyond.”

He added: “That will be good for the operators, good for companies like Sarens and good for our clients.”

ECOL’s future structure takes shape as working group meets for the last time

February 15, 2019

The new future management team of ESTA’s planned European Crane Operators Licence (ECOL) project is almost complete as the project nears its formal launch early this year. 

The final meeting of the current ECOL Working Group took place in Copenhagen, Denmark at the end of January.

The voluntary group, chaired by ESTA Director Ton Klijn, has been responsible for driving the project from its inception. It will now be superceded by the ECOL Foundation comprising a tri=partite permanent management structure featuring a Supervisory Board, a Management Board and an Expert Board.

The Supervisory Board will be chaired by Ton Klijn who will be joined by trade union representative René van der Steen from Het Zwarte Corps in the Netherlands and Steve Filipov from Terex Demag.

Confirmed members of the Expert Board to date are:

Fraser Cocks – BCACS, Canada

Kim Hvolbøl – DKF, Denmark

Erik Kroes – Mammoet, Netherlands

Pia Metsola – INFRA, Finland

Lion Verhagen  - VVT , Netherlands

Paul Zepf  - VDMA, Germany

Norbert van Schaik - Siemens-Gamesa, Germany

Kim Poulsen - EUC – Lillebǣlt, Denmark

Members of the Management Board are expected to be announced soon. 

Meanwhile, recognition of the potential value of ECOL is also gaining ground. The Copenhagen meeting heard that Sarens Belgium  have applied to qualify their training facility under ECOL and  Ton Klijn was asked to present the ECOL system to an internal meeting of lifting experts from the oil and gas giant ExxonMobil. 

Klijn also announced that ECOL has also started the process of qualifying the ECOL Foundation under ISO9001. 

Client support for ECOL grows

January 20, 2019

ESTA’s planned European Crane Operators’ Licence  is receiving growing support from major clients who see it as a way of improving performance and safety on site

ESTA Director Ton Klijn said: “There are very good signs that client organisations are beginning to see the advantages of ECOL. Informally, we have already had strong signs of support from the wind industry and I believe there is growing interest in the oil and gas sector and engineering construction sectors as well.”

Klijn’s views were echoed by Leon Schopping, a former Shell construction manager and principle technical expert for lifting and hoisting, a role in which he got to know the issues facing ESTA members well. Today he is construction/heavy lift and transport manager for contracting giant Fluor.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he said: “Personally, I think ECOL is a fantastic idea. As an industry client, we have long struggled with the problem of judging whether a crane operator is truly qualified – and qualified to do what. 

“To create one common qualification platform – as distinct from a plethora of different and varying national qualifications - will make life for a client much easier, especially if it is at a level that gives you a certain assurance that the operator knows that they are doing.

“If crane operators are “self assured” by their employers, the crane rental company, that can be a concern. Without common standards, operators are not necessarily assured to a recognized level. 

“So a common standard such as the ECOL could raise safety standards – and that is what it is all about. We are all working towards the safest possible workplace and this could be a significant improvement.”

Speaking off the record, a senior expert from the wind energy sector agreed. “The wind industry is changing and expanding – we need more and bigger cranes out in the field and we need operators that are properly qualified. 

“We have to be honest. There are currently people out there who are operating a crane who should not be. As a client, often you do not have a clue who is sitting in the crane. ECOL can help change that situation. It would be a tremendous step forward and would improve safety a lot."

ECOL agrees experienced operators' standards

January 10, 2019

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 

November 1, 2018

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

September 20, 2018

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. 

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