Information bulletin for seafarers and shipping companies: Temporary legislative changes to facilitate the extension of the validity of seafarers’ competency and medical certificates

The coronavirus pandemic affects ships’ crew changes as well as the organisation of seafarers’ training courses and refresher training courses, which may in turn have an impact on renewals of competency and medical certificates. Legislative changes aimed at temporarily facilitating validity extensions entered into force on 1 June 2020. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has decided to extend the validity of certain seafarers’ competency and proficiency certificates and may, when justified by a compelling reason, permit seafarers to continue serving on board without a valid medical certificate.

The coronavirus pandemic has made crew changes difficult or, in some cases, impossible, while restrictions on gatherings have prevented the organisation of seafarers’ training courses and refresher courses.

The Finnish Parliament has approved a government proposal concerning temporary amendments to legislation in the administrative branch of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. (External link) (External link) Against a backdrop in which seafarers working on board find themselves unable to renew their competency certificates and medical certificates are at risk of expiring, the proposed changes include measures aimed at facilitating the renewal of maritime professional qualifications.

The amendments entered into force on 1 June 2020.

Renewal of seafarers’ medical certificates

Under the Act on Medical Fitness Examinations of Seafarers (1171/2010, section 10), Traficom may, for compelling reasons, grant a seafarer a permit to temporarily serve on board without a valid medical certificate, if the medical certificate has recently expired. Such a permit is valid until the next port of call where an examination can be performed, but no longer than three months.  

In such cases the shipowner must contact the team responsible for maritime qualifications at merimiesyksikko(at)traficom.fi. Please note that this only applies to vessels flying the flag of Finland. In other cases, the shipowner should contact the flag State in question.

Extending the validity of maritime certificates of competency or proficiency beyond their expiry date

Traficom issues the Finnish certificates of competency, certificates of proficiency and endorsements attesting the recognition of foreign certificates on the basis of the STCW Convention. Traficom also issues dispensations in accordance with article VIII of the Convention.

In order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, legislative amendments have been done to allow for an extension of the validity of Finnish certificates of competency and certificates of proficiency whose expiration date falls between 16 March 2020 and 31 October 2020. The extension is valid for six months from the original expiration date, and no application is required. The amendments  entered into force on 1 June 2020.

Dispensations

Traficom has been temporarily authorised in circumstances of exceptional necessity to issue dispensations to seafarers regarding certificates of proficiency, if this does not put life, property or the environment at risk. Shipowners must apply for the dispensation and declare the circumstances of exceptional necessity.

Endorsements attesting recognition

If an endorsement attesting recognition is about to expire while the seafarer in question is on board, the seafarer or shipowner must submit an application for a new endorsement. Electronic applications are accepted.

Updates to the bulletin

Traficom will update these instructions as the situation develops and make the necessary decisions in accordance with the relevant legislation. Traficom is also actively monitoring the relevant international guidelines. These instructions have been updated 30.6.2020.

 

Enquiries: 
By email to merimiesyksikko(at)traficom.fi