MARINE Department surveyors have accused their bosses of reducing standards of qualification against the interests of safety. The Professional Officers' Association has challenged Director of Marine Ian Dale to explain how a reduction in the qualification levels of surveyors can be reconciled with the department's desire for excellence. 'The Marine Department not only makes no effort to enhance its staff's professional standards, but also seeks to lower it,' the association said yesterday in a letter stating its position on the matter. 'Such short-sighted action is in complete contradiction to its mission statement to 'promote excellence in the marine service',' it said. The letter continued: 'We strongly object to the lowering of qualifications of professional surveyors. 'We suggest that the department should seriously consider upgrading all entry qualifications for professional grades to at least a relevant degree plus a professional qualification which is a bare minimum standard. 'Therefore we urge the department to put serious efforts without delay into providing more scholarships or upgrading trading opportunities to serving or technical professional staff.' The association is concerned with measures devised by the department's former boss, Allan Pyrke, to create a common grade of marine manager and lower the qualification requirements for surveyors of ships, the grade responsible for ensuring shipping safety. It said under the new proposals, qualifications from outside the British Commonwealth could be accepted, which will effectively reduce the quality of surveying standards. The petition said the department owed their staff and the public an explanation about 'these proposed changes which would seriously jeopardise maritime safety'. Mr Dale said he would gladly give a detailed briefing on the matter today. 'All these changes have already been discussed within the department,' he said. 'A lot of staff were consulted and the vast majority of professional officers agreed.'