Seafarers Competence

There is an EU directive on the minimum level of training for seafarers. The minimum standards are set by the International Maritime Organisation convention on training standards as revised from time to time.  They do not apply to warships, fishing vessels, pleasure yachts not engaged in trade or wooden ships of primitive build.

Standards for candidates for validation certificates are set out.  The rules apply to masters, chief mates, deck officers, engineer officers, chief engineer officers, second engineer officers, certain other categories forming functions in the engine room, watch, and persons responsible for radio communication.

There are special training provisions for certain types of vessels such as tankers, roll-on and roll-off passenger services.  The minimum mandatory requirements for training and qualification are provided for.  There are provisions for education and training in relation to emergencies, firefighting, medical aid for persons responsible for catering services.

Certificates are issued by competent authorities and authorise the holder to perform the role or functions provided for by the certificate.  Candidates may be required to meet continuing obligations and prove from time to time that they meet the standards of physical fitness skills and professional competence as required.

There must be procedures and processes to investigate alleged issues of incompetence, acts or omissions which may pose a threat to human life or safety of goods at sea or the marine environment.

There must be penalties and disciplinary provisions where persons without a  certificate of competence are employed.  The states must ensure all training, assessment of competence and quality standards are implemented and monitored.  Training and teaching objectives must be defined and must be benchmarked and equivalent to the levels under the STCW convention.  The quality of examinations, assessments, quality and experience must be monitored.  There must be an independent evaluation of knowledge, understanding, skill and competence.

Working Conditions

A Directive provides for improved safety at sea, and protection and health and safety of seafarers on a ship using a community port.

The Directive provides a model table with ship working arrangements and model records of hours and work.  The Directive is designed to allow application of provisions covering hours of work on ships, the ships which are not registered in the EU or fly an EU flag.

Where states receive a complaint or have received evidence that ship does nconformirm to international labour standards it must forward a report to the government of the country in which the ship is registered.  It must take measures to ensure the conditions on board which are hazardous for safety or health are corrected.  This may include a ban on leaving port until the non-compliance has been rectified.

In the event of failure to comply with the rules on working hours,  competent authority of the state is to inform the master, owner or operator the administration of the state of registration or specify the corrective step.  States may not allow the ship to leave port until the deficiencies have been complied with.  The owner or operator of the ship or representative may appeal against a detention.

The substantive standards derived frthe om International Marine Organisation and International Labour Organisation standards.  There is provision for minimum daily rests, open hours every 24 hours.  There must a be weekly rest time of at least 70 hours.

Working Hours

There are provisions providing for minimum rest periods for watch keeping personnel.  There must be at least 10 hours of rest in any 24 hour period.  The hour of rest may not be divided into more than two periods one of which shall be at least six hours long.

In exceptional necessity, states may issue a dispensation allowing a seafarer to serve on a specified vessel for a specified period up to six months without holding the relevant certificate as long as their qualifications are sufficient to guarantee normal safety requirements.

States must designate authorities to train, organise and supervise examinations, issue certificates and grant dispensation.

In order to ensure maritime safety, a common working language is required on passenger ships requiring the, flying the flag of a member state or starting or finishing in a member state, in oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas tankers.  Masters, officers, and others must be able to communicate with each other in one of several common working languages.

States must monitor seafarers serving on ships at their ports irrespective the of flag and to verify that seafarers who are required to be certified by the STCW convention are properly certified.

States must ensure the provisions and procedures on port safety and control are applied.  This is particularly required where a ship is flying the flag of a state which has not ratified the relevant convention.  Crews may be asked to prove the relevant competence.

The directive sets out grounds on which a vessel may be detained, including lack of training, non-compliant working conditions where the shortcomings represent a danger for goods, persons or the environment.

Boat Master Certificates

An EU directive provides for the harmonisation of conditions for obtaining national boat master certificates.  It applies to boat masters of inland waterway vessels including self-propelled barges, pushed convoys or side-by-side formations intended for the transport of goods or passengers.  It does not apply to boat masters or vessels or goods transport less than 20 m in length or vessels which carry more than 12 passengers.

A certificate in accordance with the directive’s minimum requirements is valid through the EU.  The requirements to obtain a certificate are set out including

  • minimum age,
  • conditions linked to physical and mental aptitude,
  • annual medical examination after 65 years of age,
  • at least four years professional experience as a member of a deck crew on an inland waterway vessel with the possibility of reduction,
  • passing of professional knowledge examinations,
  • special provision by states in relation to transport of passengers,
  • special conditions regarding navigation with radar.

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