Seafarer certificates extended amid COVID-19 pandemic

Seafarers on board. Credit: Cai Yang/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

In response to the extraordinary seafarer working circumstances during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the majority of member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has put provisional measures in place to help seafarers secure their International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) certificates by extending their validity.

The 1978 STCW Convention sets the standards of competence for seafarers internationally. These official documents prove crew members have required competences for service at sea, are of the correct age, and have undergone medical examinations and compliance with the Convention. Before any seafarer joins a ship, he or she needs to make sure that all valid certificates are in place. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many of seafarers’ certificates expired and they are unable to renew them.

With the continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, crew changes have been suspended worldwide. Seafarers with expired certificates are prevented from working and disembarking and this adds further pressure to the transportation industry.

As such, India’s Director General of Shipping extended the validity of seafarers’ certificates expiring between 23 March and 1 October 2020 by six months to enable seafarers to continue working on board amid a three-week lockdown in the country.

Cyprus’ junior ministry for shipping has also extended Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Proficiency, which expired on or after 1 March 2020 to 1 September 2020, among other measures. Medical Fitness Certificates and Seafarer’s Identification and Sea Service Record Books have been adopted.

Meanwhile, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency has extended medical certificates by up to three months for UK seafarers who may be unable to obtain an ENG1 in ports of call in countries with travel restrictions in place due to coronavirus.

Many flag states, including the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, have issued bulletins to advise seafarers of certification extensions in place, and some have advised seafarers to present these bulletins to Port State Control (PSC) as proof of certificate extension permission.

The latest instructions and information from flag administrations and PSC organisations on COVID-19 can be found here.