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Maritime safety: Minimum level of training of seafarers

The training of seafarers plays a major role in maritime safety and in the protection of the maritime environment. It is therefore essential to define a minimum level of training for seafarers in the Community having regard to training standards agreed at international level.


Directive 2008/106/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2008 on the minimum level of training of seafarers (Recast) (Text with EEA relevance).


Minimum standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers serving on board Community vessels are fixed by the International Maritime Organisation ( IMO) Convention on standards of training, as revised in 1978 (STCW Convention). Scope

This Directive applies to seafarers serving on board seagoing ships flying the flag of a Member State, with the exception of:

  • warships or other ships owned by a Member State and engaged only in governmental, non-commercial service;
  • fishing vessels;
  • pleasure yachts not engaged in trade;
  • wooden ships of primitive build.


The Directive sets out the rules on training and the standards of competence to be met by seafarers who are candidates for the issue or revalidation of certificates that allow them to perform the functions for which the relevant certificate of proficiency is issued.

The categories of seafarer to which these rules relate are: masters, chief mates, deck officers and engineer officers, chief engineer officers and second engineer officers, certain categories of ratings (i.e. those working in an engine-room, forming part of a watch or serving on certain types of ship), and personnel responsible for radiocommunications.

For certain categories of vessel, such as tankers and ro-ro passenger ships, the Directive lays down special training provisions (required for this type of vessel). It sets out the mandatory minimum requirements concerning the training and qualifications of seafarers serving on board these specific categories of vessel. The Directive also lays down rules on education and training in management of emergency situations, fire-fighting and the provision of medical aid, and for crew members responsible for catering services.

Certificates and endorsements

Certificates shall be issued by the competent authorities of the Member States to authorise the holder to serve as stated in the document or as authorised by national regulations. These documents are issued to candidates who meet the national standards for physical fitness (particularly regarding eyesight and hearing) and who satisfy certain basic requirements regarding identity, ages, service at sea and skills (ability, task and level). Member States may issue separate certificates for radio operators. Holders of certificates are required to prove, at regular intervals, that they still meet the standards for skills and professional competence.

Endorsements may be included in certificates or issued separately. Certificates may use the format contained in the STCW code (Section A-I/2) or may depart from it (in which case they must, as a minimum, include the information required in the format). Any seafarer on board must be able to produce the original of their certificate. Member States shall also apply the necessary measures to prevent and penalise fraud and other illegal practices concerning the certification procedure.

Penalties and disciplinary measures

Member States are to establish the necessary processes and procedures to carry out impartial investigation in cases of incompetence, acts or omissions that may pose a direct threat to the safety of human life, the safety of goods at sea or the marine environment. Penalties or disciplinary measures are to be provided for and applied where:

  • a company or master has engaged a person not holding a certificate as required by this Directive;
  • a master has authorised a seafarer to carry out a function for which a certificate is required whereas they are not the holder of the required certificate, a certificate recognised by the Member States or a valid dispensation;
  • a person has obtained by fraud an engagement to perform a function or to serve in a capacity for which a certificate is required.

    Monitoring and evaluation of training

    Member States are to ensure that:

    • all training, assessment of competence certificate issue and the definition of a system of quality standards giving details of objectives and scope is continuously monitored;
    • training and teaching objectives are defined, and the equivalence of training levels with the requirements of the STCW convention are defined;
    • the quality of examinations, assessments and the quality and experience of assessors is monitored;
    • independent evaluations of knowledge, understanding, skills and competence acquisition and assessment activities are carried out at intervals of not more than five years.

    Rest periods for watchkeeping personnel

    In order to prevent fatigue amongst watchkeeping personnel, which is very often the cause of accidents at sea, the Directive includes provisions concerning minimum rest periods for watchkeeping personnel.

    All persons who are assigned duty as officer in charge of a watch or as a rating forming part of a watch must be allowed at least 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period.

    The hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least six hours long.


    In circumstances of exceptional necessity, competent authorities may issue a dispensation permitting a given seafarer to serve on a given vessel for a specified period not exceeding six months in a capacity for which he does not hold the appropriate certificate, as long as their qualifications are sufficient to guarantee normal safety conditions.

    Member State responsibilities

    Member States are to designate the authorities or bodies that are to:

    • give training;
    • organise and/or supervise the required examinations;
    • issue certificates;
    • grant possible dispensations.


    In order to enhance maritime safety and prevent loss of human life and maritime pollution, communication among crew members on board ships sailing in Community waters should be improved.

    A common working language must be established on board all passenger ships flying the flag of a Member State and on board all passenger ships starting and/or finishing a voyage in a Member State port.

    In the case of oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas tankers, the Directive requires that the master, officers and ratings be able to communicate with each other in one or several common working languages.

    Port State control

    The Directive allows Member States to monitor seafarers serving on any ship using their ports, irrespective of the flag it flies, in particular in order to verify that all seafarers who are required to be certificated by the STCW Convention are so certificated.

    Member States must ensure that the relevant provisions and procedures laid down in Directive 95/21/EC on port State control are applied, as amended. In some cases, it is necessary to assess the ability of seafarers to maintain watchkeeping standards as required by the Convention (verification of certificates). This is necessary in particular where a ship using a Community port flying the flag of a country which has not ratified the STCW Convention has been used in such a way as to present a danger for persons, goods or the environment, or has a master, officer or rating holding a certificate issued by a third country which has not ratified the Convention. In other cases, crew members may be asked to provide an on-the-spot demonstration of their competence.

    Lastly, the Directive specifies the grounds on which a vessel may be detained such as lack of training or working conditions of the crew, where it has been established that these inadequacies represent a danger for goods, persons or the environment.


  • ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
    Directive 2008/106/EC [adoption: Codecision]22.12.2008-OJ L 323 of 3.12.2008
Last updated: 18.02.2009
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