The Maritime Industry has evolved into an onus, safety diligent, and environment-friendly trade in recent times; however, it was not the same many decades ago. Even though many regulatory conventions were laying down laws, the industry didn’t adhere to them intently. It was only after the 9/11 terror attacks, International Maritime Organization (IMO) took the helm and brought strict rules into action. Thus the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code was implemented in July 2004, ensuring minimum security measures to be maintained on ships, ports, and governing agencies globally, making every single person or cargo to be identified before boarding the vessel. This ensured that the system becomes transparent and secure from terrorism, drug trafficking, stowaways, and other illegal activities.
Documents/Certificates to be carried before joining a ship
There are many documents and certificates a mariner must possess in order to board a ship, which are:
- Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC)
- INDoS certificate
- STCW certificates
- Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate
- Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate
- Medical Fitness Certificates (DGS approved doctors)
- Contract Letter from the Company
- TAR book for cadets
- Pre-Sea training certificate (Course-specific)
- Visa and Tickets
- Okay to Board Certificate (OKTB)
- Certificate of Competency (CoC) [depending on the rank]
Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) is a seafarer identity document issued by the statutory maritime authority appointed by the government of a country (Directorial General of Shipping in India); CDC can be procured once the candidate has completed certain STCW courses and other requirements put forth by DGS.
A passport is an official travel document issued by the government certifying the holder’s identity, entitling them to travel under the country’s protection to and from foreign countries.
Indian National Database Of Seafarers (INDoS) is a digital database of Indian seafarers used for identification and transparency in certification to avoid fraudulent activities.
Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW) is an international convention that establishes a benchmark for training and certification for all the seafarers ensuring that they are qualified to work on-board, promoting the safety of life, property, and protecting the marine environment.
The mandatory STCW training certificates required for all seafarers are:
- PST (Personal Survival Techniques)
- FPFF (Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting)
- PSSR ( Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities
- EFA ( Elementary First Aid)
- STSDSD (Security Training for Seafarers with Designated Security Duties)
There are some additional certifications required which depend on the type of ship a seafarer is boarding and are to be done accordingly; they are:
- OCTF (Basic Training for Oil and Chemical Tanker Cargo Operations)
- LGTF (Basic Training for Liquefied Gas Tanker Cargo Operations)
- BPW (Basic Training for Ships Operating in Polar Waters)
- PSSC (Passenger Ship Safety Course)
Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificates are mandatory for all seafarers, as Yellow Fever is a contagious disease, and vaccination can avoid the spreading.
All seagoing personnel must obtain medical Fitness Certificates by consulting a DGS approved doctor (whose details are available on the DGS website updated annually)
Contract Letter, which the company issues, is also important if the immigration officers are not satisfied. It also mentions the insurance details in case of any emergency.
Training and Assessment (TAR) book is provided to keep track of a cadet’s training on-board and is essential to give MMD exams to obtain the Certificate of Competency.
The pre-Sea training certificate is proof that the person has completed all the essential training requirements put up by the Maritime Training Institutes before joining the ship.
Visa and Flight tickets are usually taken care of by the company; if the company specifies obtaining a US Visa, we are supposed to book the appointments for the same.
The pre-sea training institutes usually apply the CDC on your behalf once all the mandatory STCW courses are completed. It requires a medical fitness checkup and a “fit for sea” check by the DGS-approved doctor.
The Passport can be obtained by visiting the nearest passport offices with a prior appointment.
The INDoS certificate can be obtained once all the necessary details are filled in on the website and are approved.
The STCW certificates can be procured by completing the courses with a training center approved by the Directorial General of Shipping in India; The training institutes explicate the courses through practical and theory classes, completing which there will be an examination to validate the grasp of these concepts with a minimum passing grade. After successfully clearing these exams, the certificate will be awarded a certain validity. If the validity of these certificates expires, one has to attend refresher courses for the same. As per a new Circular/Rule (DGS circular 13 of 2020 ), after completing the practical and theory classes from the training institutes, all the candidates must attend online E-learning modules which further explain the concepts in addition to the classes held and clear the online proctored exit-exam on the DG shipping platform to obtain the certificates.
Are there mandatory certificates to have ?
Yes, there are mandatory certificates without which one will not be permitted to board the vessel, it is quite similar to the ones mentioned above:
- STCW certificates
- Medical Fitness Certificates
- Visa and Vaccination Certificates
Submission of Certificates
These documents/certificates are essential for mariners, without which one will not be able to board the ship. Once onboard, seafarers are expected to submit these certificates to the captain, who verifies the validity of these certificates and keeps them safe. Coast guard or Port authorities can behest them during surprise inspections; These authorities are also permitted to test the ship’s crew about the grasp of the STCW courses and negate the certificates if the crew is found to be incompetent, leading to deportation or sometimes losing the competency certifications which will forbid him/her to work at sea.
Analysis on quantity certificates required decades and current the scenario
The Great Growling Engine of Change – Technology, has impacted every sector of social space, and the maritime industry is not naive to this. Digitization has made it easier for everyone to access documents or certificates online. INDoS has now made it mandatory for every seafarer to upload every modular course completed, pre-sea training certification and list of vessels a seafarer has previously sailed on, etc. DG Shipping has taken steps to make everything crystal clear, to avoid fraudulent certifications and scams.
After the 9/11 attacks, the shipping industry went through drastic changes in order to implement security measures resulting in numerous certifications required to board a ship. Due to lack of awareness, it got really confusing for mariners as to what courses are to be completed. This problem was tackled by integrating them; all the basic STCW courses [EFA + PST + FPFF + PSSR] now come under what is called as Basic Safety Training (BST).