Shipping: the recognition of seafarers’ certificates of competency in the event of a no deal

Posted in Transport The Withdrawal Agreement

The Government has produced guidance on the recognition of seafarers’ certificates of competency in the event of a no deal situation. The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STWC Convention) requires that certain crew members hold certificates of competency (CoCs) to be able to carry out their duties. EC Directive 2008/106/EC provides that CoCs issued by EU Member States will be recognised and endorsed by other EU Member States and  EC Directive 2005/45/EC provides that the CoCs of third party countries can be recognised, following an assessment process.

It is still not clear if the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (our blog post on this is available to read here) will be approved in Parliament, and therefore the possibility remains that no agreement on the terms of exit may be reached. In a no-deal situation, once the UK leaves the EU any endorsements of UK CoCs issued before the 29 March 2019 would still be valid until they expire and UK seafarers holding endorsed certificates would still be entitled to work on vessels flying the flag of the relevant EU Member State which has provided the endorsement. However, once the endorsement of a CoC expires the UK Seafarer would not be able to work on EU flagged vessels, or if the UK seafarer wanted to work on a vessel flagged in a different Member State, he or she would not be able to do so.

In the guidance on this and to remedy the situation, the Government has stated that it intends to “seek third country recognition of UK certificates by the EU under the STCW convention”. To do this, one of the EU Member States must submit a request for recognition of the UK’s certificates to the European Commission. The UK’s training and CoC certification system would then need to be assessed and approved by the European Commission, with the help of the European Maritime Safety Agency (ESMA). It is not clear how long such an assessment would take, but the Government has stated in the guidance that they expect the assessment by ESMA to be straightforward, but do acknowledge that it may take some time.

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