Certificates of competency

Briefing for members on the UK's preparations for a 'no deal' Brexit in relation to the continued recognition of UK Certificates of Competency (CoCs) by European Union (EU) member states following the UK's withdrawal.

Brexit and UK Certificates of Competency

The purpose of this briefing is to provide members with information regarding the UK's preparations for a 'no deal' Brexit in relation to the continued recognition of UK Certificates of Competency (CoCs) by European Union (EU) member states following the UK's withdrawal.

Members will be well aware that the UK notified the EU of its intention to leave under article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty in March 2017. This triggered a two-year period during which the terms of the UK's exit are to be agreed. This period is due to end on 29 March 2019.

Subsequently, the UK and the EU agreed on guidelines for a proposed 21-month transitional period following the March 2019 exit date, during which time, most EU legislation would continue to apply. This proposed transitional period would end on 31 December 2020.

However, with a little over two months to go until Brexit, terms are yet to be agreed for the UK's withdrawal meaning that a 'no deal' Brexit whereby the UK would leave the EU without coming to an agreement and the proposed transitional period would not enter into force, is becoming increasingly likely.

In this scenario, shipping – as a transboundary industry - is likely to be disproportionately affected by any disruption caused by a no deal agreement, unless action is taken to mitigate potential negative effects. Nautilus has emphasised to government the need for timely, clear and appropriate advice and guidance to be provided to all stakeholders - including seafarers.

One particular area of concern to Nautilus members is the continued recognition of UK COCs by EU member states, and the ability of UK seafarers to continue to work on EU-flagged vessels post-Brexit.

In this regard, the government has published a technical notice to provide information about the impact of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on the recognition of seafarer certificates. It also outlines the government's approach to providing continuity for EU-trained seafarers working onboard UK-flagged vessels, and the action being taken by government to minimise risks for UK-trained seafarers working onboard UK-flagged vessels as follows:

Before 29 March 2019

At present, every country recognises the certificates of competency issued to seafarers by other EU countries. The certificates must be accompanied by an 'endorsement attesting recognition' issued by the country recognising the certificate. In the UK this recognition is issued in the form of a Certificate of Equivalent Competency (CEC).

In order for certificates issued by countries outside the EU to be recognised (third countries), a request must be submitted to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). This organisation will carry out an assessment of that country's training and certification processes which, if successful, will allow EU member states to recognise those certificates - should they choose to do so.

After March 2019 if there's no deal

In the event of a no-deal scenario, endorsements issued before withdrawal by EU countries to seafarers holding UK CoCs would remain valid for that flag until they expire. However, member states that wish to continue accepting UK CoCs would need to write to the European Commission to request assessment and approval of the UK training and certification system. Those countries would then be able to recognise UK certificates in the interim whilst the approval process is carried out.

The government has stated that in the event of a no deal Brexit it would continue to recognise all certificates that it currently recognises for the purposes of issuance of a CEC, and seek third country recognition of UK certificates by the EU.

What does this mean for our members?

Nautilus believes that it is possible to safeguard the employment of our members on EU-flagged ships regardless of whether or not a deal is reached on the terms of the UK's exit. However, in the case of a no deal scenario, it will require positive action to be taken by the UK government and EU member state governments.

Nautilus has called for the government to take action to provide certainty and clarity for our members for the years ahead and to ensure that Brexit does not create new barriers to their continued employment. We suggest that members should contact their MPs urgently to heighten the political pressure for the government to produce the necessary assurances. It would also be beneficial to remind them of the Nautilus Charter for Jobs, and the policy proposals that it puts forward for maximising opportunities for British seafarers and British ships post-Brexit.

It is worth noting that the process of gaining 'third country' recognition from EMSA can take at least three years, and in these circumstances we are advising members who have endorsements issued by EU flag states to look into renewing those endorsements early to ensure the maximum period of validity post-Brexit.

This is an issue we are taking very seriously, and members can be assured that we will do everything in our power to ensure the interests of our members are protected regardless of the outcome of negotiations.

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