Visits to Member States concerning Standards for Seafarers

Shipping is one of the safest means of transport, yet thousands of accidents still occur each year and the great majority of these involve human error. The main issues which can have an effect on the potential for human error are education, training and working conditions. Therefore, the better the education and training received by seafarers is, the safer shipping will become.

Although many seafarers operating in EU waters were educated, trained and certified in Europe, it is important to note that EU registered ships are often crewed by seafarers who are not nationals of EU Member States. This fact needs to be taken into account when determining the best ways of ensuring that crew members on board EU registered ships are appropriately educated and trained. EMSA has been given two tasks in this respect: inspections to non-EU countries and visits to Member States.

The European Commission assisted by EMSA has been given the task of verifying the levels of implementation of Union law relating to the education, training and certification of seafarers in the EU Member States. Visits to Member States for this purpose take place based on a five-year cycle as established in Directive 2008/106/EC.

The first cycle took place in 2007-2012 and the second cycle in 2014-2021. A third cycle was started in 2022 and is ongoing.

Before travelling to an EU Member State, EMSA’s inspectors conduct a detailed analysis of the relevant national provisions adopted to implement the above-mentioned Directive. After arriving in the Member State, the plan, which is previously agreed with the national authorities, involves visits to different parts of the national administrations responsible for setting-up and maintaining the maritime education, training and certification system of seafarers. Coupled with the visits to administrations are visits to the individual MET establishments. These allow EMSA’s inspectors to verify the system in place, including the quality of the systems and procedures they have set in place; their operating methods and; the human resources and equipment they have assigned to the different activities. In practice, the above not only ensures that the standards laid down in the STCW Convention and the Directive are properly implemented and applied, but also enables the different entities to identify areas in need of improvement.

When combined with the similar inspection activity carried out by the Agency in third countries in respect of the STCW , at present EMSA staff travel approximately to eight countries per year.

Maritime administrations and MET establishments in more than 80 countries are currently visited and inspected, thus covering more than 90% of seafarers operating in EU waters, as well as all others operating on EU registered ships around the world.

In support of those tasks, an STCW Information System has been developed. This system provides information on maritime administrations and MET establishments in the EU, including maritime programmes, number of students and graduates. In addition, it is already providing numerical information on certificates of competency and endorsements issued by the EU Member States. The target is to publish accurate information annually on the number of seafarers available to be employed on EU registered vessels and information on all countries where they were educated, trained and certified.

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