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Requirements for Certificates, Endorsements and Documentary Evidence to be carried On Board by Seafarers on a Ship

onboard ship

When considering the on-board application of the STCW Convention you must also consider the requirements of the International Safety Management code (ISM) and the provisions within the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC). Whilst the STCW applies to watch-keepers and crew with environmental and security duties the MLC and ISM apply to the master, chief engineer, officers, ratings and any other crew member on board ships of any tonnage, from a coaster to a very large tanker.

The certificates and any other documentary evidence you hold are official proof of your competency. Before joining a ship, it is your duty, and that of your employer, to check that you hold the correct certificates. Once on-board, the master and inspectors from port and flag state authorities will check your documentation. If, during the course of these inspections they find that you do not hold the appropriate certificates, or that these have expired, you will probably be discharged until you complete the training required and/or the certificates required have been revalidated.

When applying for an endorsement of recognition - You need to hold separate endorsements for each flag state; no endorsement of recognition will be granted if the original national certificate is not valid or has expired; STCW endorsements are only issued for current STCW certificates; you cannot apply for an endorsement of recognition from one party on the basis of an endorsement issued by another party; endorsements can only be issued on the basis of the original certificate; and if you have already applied for an endorsement, but this is being processed by the respective flag administration, you have a period of grace of up to three months from the date you join the ship.


Medical certificates remain valid for two years unless you are under 18 in which case it is only one year. It the certificate expires in the course of a voyage then it will remain in force until the next port where there is a recognized medical practitioner, but this period cannot exceed three months.

Certificates and Documentary Evidence to be carried On Board

  • According to STCW you should carry on board the originals of all certificates and endorsements. Photocopies are not acceptable. You need to have the following documents on you at all times:
  • National certificate of competence and endorsement
  • Certificates and documentary evidence covering specific safety or pollution prevention duties and service on board certain types of ship
  • Endorsements of recognition
  • Medical certificate (including vaccination records)

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