This guide provides information for shipowners and operators on managing ship and seafarer certificates during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It covers ship and seafarer certificates required by the certification provisions of international regulations, such as those of International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments, and highlights the current unique compliance issues and considerations relating to ship and seafarer certificates.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had significant impacts on the global maritime trade, with restrictions designed to address the outbreak posing new challenges to maintaining normal ship and port operations. It is vital that these operations continue during the crisis to ensure that essential goods and commodities, such as energy, food and medical supplies, can be carried to the world.
Ships are required to comply with international regulations, such as those established by IMO and ILO, which are developed to ensure safe, secure and environmentally sound ship operations. Many IMO and ILO instruments contain requirements for certification, where certificates are issued to ships and to seafarers to demonstrate compliance with specific requirements. In addition to these statutory certificates, the SOLAS Convention also requires that ships are classed by a classification society which is recognised by the Administration (flag State) – unless complying with equivalent structural, mechanical and electrical standards of the Administration.
Certificates are important for continuing ship operations because they serve as prima facie evidence of compliance with the relevant international standards, and they are regularly verified during various types of surveys, audits and inspections. The expiration of ship and seafarer certificates can result in a ship being given a deficiency or even detained and unable to continue operating. It is also a condition of Protection and Indemnity (P&I) cover that ships remain compliant with applicable statutory and class requirements, demonstrated by maintaining the validity of certificates.
Some certificates require surveys and audits to be renewed, based on observed conditions on board, whilst others can be revalidated by submitting an application accompanied by supporting documents or evidence. In normal times, maintaining valid ship and seafarer certificates and keeping them in order can be a challenge, but it has now become markedly more complicated and difficult for shipowners and operators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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