Fishing certification and training
Sea fishing is a multi-million pound industry involving a variety of vessels from modern sophisticated vessels to small open boats. It is important that all fishers understand the risks involved in fishing and what to do in an emergency, regardless of vessel type.
Before you go to sea as a fisherman you must undergo statutory safety training and be issued with certificates proving you have undergone the relevant training.
The rules governing the Certificate of Competency (CoC) are based on the size or power of a fishing vessel as well as its area of operation.
In this guide you will find information on safety training for fishers, Crew Agreements, the different CoCs and details about providers of fishing industry training.
Safety training for boat workers and Certificates of Competence
If you are a new entrant to the fishing industry you must attend the following safety training courses:
- Basic Sea Survival
- Basic Fire Fighting and Prevention
- Basic First Aid
- Basic Health and Safety
All new entrants must do the Basic Sea Survival course before going to sea for the first time. The other three basic safety training courses must be done within three months of starting work as a fisherman.
Any fisherman who has two years fishing experience must attend the Safety Awareness and Risk Assessment course. You can find training and certification requirements for fishing vessel crew in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 411, which also sets out in greater detail the certification requirements for fishing vessels that are 16.5 metres in length and above. Download MGN 411 Training and Certification Requirements for the Crew of Fishing Vessels and their Applicability to Small Commercial Vessels and Large Yachts from the MCA website (PDF, 389KB).
Certificates of Competency
If you are a skipper, mate or engineer, working on fishing vessels that are 16.5 metres in length and above, or work on vessels with propulsive powers of 750 kilowatts, you are required to hold an MCA CoC.
You can only get a CoC after assessment and examination, which consists of practical, written and oral components. Apply for or renew a Certificate of Competency on the MCA website.
Certificates of Competency for personnel on fishing vessels
There are two specific CoC for deck personnel on fishing vessels:
- Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 1
- Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2
If you hold Certificates of Service, which have not been issued since 1998, they can be used as an alternative to the CoC.
The CoC does not cover work on standby, seismic survey and oceanographic research vessels. However, suitably qualified fishing CoC holders can apply for a restricted CoC for these types of vessel.
There are two specific CoCs for engineering personnel on fishing vessels:
- Engineer Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 1
- Engineer Officer (Fishing Vessel) Class 2
MGN 411 provides further guidance on the Deck and Engineer Officer requirements for fishing vessels and on a general exemption regarding the carriage of engineer officers on vessels with a propulsive power of more than 750 kilowatts operating in the limited area. Download MGN 411 Training and Certification Requirements for the Crew of Fishing Vessels and their Applicability to Small Commercial Vessels and Large Yachts from the MCA website (PDF, 389KB).
How to apply for a fishing CoC
Workers can only serve on a ship if they hold CoC or a Certificate of Equivalent Competency (CEC).
MCA only accept applications from EU countries, Iceland and Norway.
A CEC allows officers holding Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificates issued by certain non-UK countries to work as officers on UK-registered merchant ships.
In order to obtain a CEC from the MCA, you must be able to provide specific documents or evidence of qualifications to the Seafarer Training and Certification Branch. In some circumstances you may even have to prove your competency in the English language.
In order to be eligible for a CEC, there are certain criteria that you must meet.
CECs will be issued to officers holding STCW CoCs issued by other Administrations if the UK authorities are satisfied that the CoC they hold is equivalent to their standards. Apply for or renew a CEC on the MCA website.
Where GMDSS GOC is not acceptable, candidates holding a GOC will be accepted as equivalent to ROC and their CECs will be marked accordingly. To be in charge of the vessel’s radio station, the operator must hold a GOC. To keep a radio watch the operator must hold a minimum of a ROC.
To obtain a CEC there are three main areas that may be assessed:
- standards of competency
- use of the English language
- knowledge of UK Legal and Administrative Processes (UKLAP)
You may be asked to provide evidence of competency in the English Language and may be required to undertake an English oral examination. You can find details of acceptable forms of evidence in Annex 4 of Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 221. Download MGN 221 training and certification guidance - Certificates of Equivalent Competency from the MCA website (PDF, 140KB).
To ensure your CEC is issued, you must also submit the following:
- completed application form signed by the seafarer
- non-UK CoC
- passport or discharge book
- evidence of competency in English language
- two passport size photographs
- £76 fee
Download MSF 4203 Application for Certificate of Equivalent Competency from the MCA website (PDF, 47KB). Alternatively you can request an application form by calling the MCA Training and Certification Helpline on 023 8032 9231
Verification of Non-UK Certificate of Competency
In each application, the MCA will verify the validity of all non-UK CoC with the issuing administration. If the CoC is not valid, the CEC application will be rejected and the MCA Enforcement Branch will be notified.
Issuance of final certificate
MCA will issue the final certificate within 28 days of receiving the complete application.
Masters are required to pass the UKLAP 1 exam, which can be taken via:
- an oral exam - conducted by an MCA Examiner
- a written test - by arrangement with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
You can find details on the UKLAP 1 syllabus in Annex 6 of MGN 221.
After your application is processed, you will be issued with a Notice of Assessment (NOA), details of how to arrange the examination and the fee that you will have to pay. If you take the written test, you should contact the SQA once you have received the NOA. The SQA will be able to arrange for you to sit the UKLAP 1 exam at a British Consular office around the world.
Alternatively, Masters who are nationals of EU or European Economic Area states can attain the required UKLAP knowledge by completing a shipboard adaptation period of up to 36 months served onboard a UK ship.
Adaptation periods are at the discretion of the MCA and normally vary between 2 and 6 months but you will be advised on the exact duration on application.
To make a request to serve an adaptation period, you should use form MSF 4206/REV 0895, available by calling the MCA Training and Certification Helpline on 023 8032 9231 or send an email request to CEC@mcga.gov.uk.
During an adaptation period, you must sail at a lower competence level than certified and you will be issued with a temporary lower ranked CEC that is valid for up to six months. The Master of the vessel must also hold a full UK CoC or UK CEC.
If you have passed an MCA approved Business and Law (Master Yacht) Training Module it can be accepted as evidence of passing the UKLAP 1 examination. You will need to provide your original pass certificate from the SQA.
CEC application tracker
You can check the status of your application at any time by entering your application form number, date of birth and application type into the MCA’s application tracker. This will then provide you with information on how your application is progressing. Use the CEC application tracking tool on the MCA website.
Certain members of your crew must sign a Crew Agreement, which is an employment contract for a specified period of time that sets out their roles and responsibilities whilst at sea.
You will have to meet different crew document requirements according to the length of your fishing vessel.
Fishing vessels between 55 and 80 feet
If your fishing vessel is between 55 and 80 feet you must have the following crew documents:
- list of crew - forms ALC(FSG) 4 outer cover (Red and Blue), ALC(FSG) l(b) list of crew, ALC l(c) list of young persons
- official log book
Preparation of documents
You must complete and sign the outer cover of ALC(FSG) 4 in accordance with the headings on it (except for the bottom section), remembering to fill in the red copy as well as the blue.
The list of crew form ALC(FSG) l(b) must contain details of all those who are employed on board, in accordance with the column headings.
The official log book must be maintained in accordance with Statutory Instrument No. 570 of 1981 that requires:
- the outer cover and pages 2 and 3 are completed in accordance with the various headings at the time of opening the crew agreement
- the instructions on births and deaths on pages 4 and 5 are followed closely, especially with regard to the Return of Death on form RBDl
- all crew member illness and injury on board the vessel is carefully recorded in the top half of pages 6 and 7 and also on form WRIK and then forwarded to the nearest Marine Office immediately when the vessel returns to port
- all casualties are recorded in the lower half of pages 6 and 7 and also reported in part IV of form WRIK and forwarded to the nearest Marine Office immediately
- all musters, including boat drills, training and inspections of fire and life saving appliances are recorded on Page 8
- the narrative section on pages 9-12 to contain a record of every crew member who is discharged from the vessel, as well as any occurrence not otherwise recorded
Disposal of documents: list of crew
The blue copy of a document is the ship’s duplicate and must be present on the vessel each time she goes to sea.
If you are a vessel owner, you must maintain a copy of the crew list ashore. The master of a vessel should - as soon as possible and within three days - notify the owner of any changes made in the list of crew members.
The red copy of the crew list must be delivered to the Marine Office within two days of being drawn up.
The list of crew remains active for six months from the date the first name is entered. It must be closed at the end of that period, or, if the vessel is then at sea, upon the first return to port within 30 days after that time. It must, in normal circumstances, be delivered to a Marine Office within two days of closing.
Disposal of documents: official log book
When a vessel is at sea, the official log book must be kept on board at all times.
The log book remains in force for the same period as the list of crew and should be delivered to the Marine Office at the same time, in normal circumstances, within two days of closing.
If a radio log book is required, it should be delivered at the same time.
Reminders: list of crew
If you are a master of a vessel it is your responsibility to complete and maintain the list of crew, except the copy kept ashore. You must also deliver the Red copy to the Marine Office.
When the list of crew is closed, you must complete the details required on the cover and ensure that it is properly completed to show dates and places of discharge, signatures, etc.
Reminders: official log books
For any vessel of 40 feet (12 metres) or more in length, but less than 80 feet (24.4 metres), the master must ensure that the crew are properly trained in the use and location of all life-saving and fire appliances and equipment and such training must be carried out once a month. The lifesaving equipment and fire appliances must also be inspected once a month.
If there is a failure to conduct any muster, drill, inspection or training session, you must write an explanatory entry in the official log book (page 8). There are therefore no circumstances in which the columns in page 8 of the log book should be left blank.
Fishing vessels over 80 feet in length
The main difference with a fishing vessel over 80 feet in length is the number of documents that you must maintain in the Crew Agreements and list of crew. You will usually require the following documents on board:
- outer cover (Red and Blue)
- agreement - incorporating list of crew
- list of exempt persons - often not necessary
- list of young persons on board
- contractual clauses
- provisions and water
- crew copy
For all types of fishing vessel
The list of crew Blue copy is the ship’s copy and must be on the vessel each time she goes to sea. A copy of this list should be maintained by the owner ashore. The list of crew Red copy must be delivered to the Marine Office within two days of being made up.
It is the master’s responsibility to complete and maintain the list of crew and to deliver the Red copy to the Marine Office. A master must complete the details required on the cover when the book is closed.
The official log book must be kept on board at all times and remains in force for the same period as the list of crew. If you fail to conduct any muster, drill, inspection or training session, you must write an explanatory entry in the official log book (page 8).
Breach of Crew Agreements
If a seafarer’s breach of Crew Agreement leads to expenses or losses to the vessel or business, they can be deducted a set amount of wages. The maximum wage deductions are as follows:
- unauthorised absence - £100
- breach of duties under the Crew Agreement - £300
- breach of duties under a fishing vessel Crew Agreements - £200
Fishing training providers
You can access training necessary for the fishing industry via a Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) approved and supported network of training providers. These providers exist throughout the UK and deliver training courses such as:
- Basic Sea Survival
- Basic Fire Fighting & Prevention
- Basic First Aid
- Basic Health & Safety
- Safety Awareness
- Basic Stability Awareness
- Intermediate Stability Awareness
- Damage Control
- Bridge Watchkeeping - two day and five day courses
- Engine Room Watchkeeping - two day and five day courses
- Diesel Engine Course
- Care of the Catch
- Food Safety and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points training for fishers
- Sea Fishing Apprenticeship
- Basic Seamanship
Nautical colleges and training providers
Nautical colleges run courses leading to a UK Certificate of Competency for the merchant navy. You can find contact details for nautical colleges and training providers on the MCA website.
There are various organisations that can provide further information on nautical training, for example:
- The Association of Marine Electronics and Radio Colleges (AMERC) is a network of colleges, universities and private organisations providing courses and consultancies in marine radio and electronics. Read about the work and services of AMERC on the AMERC website.
- EdExcel is the UK’s largest awarding body offering academic and vocational qualifications. Read about the work and services of EdExcel on the EdExcel website.
- The International Association of Marine Institutions (IAMI) is an association of colleges and organisations involved in providing education and training for personnel in the merchant navy, towing and fishing industries.Read about the work and services of the IAMI on the IAMI website.
- International Yachtmaster Training is the world’s leading provider of yacht training services in Fort Lauderdale, USA. Read about the work and services of International Yachtmaster Training on the Yachtmaster website.
- The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) is the leading international membership body and learned society for marine professionals. Read about the work and services of IMarEST on the Imarest website.
- The Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) is the shipping industry’s central body for promoting and developing seafarer education, training and skills. Read about the work and services of the MNTB on the MNTB website.
- UK NARIC is the national agency which provides information and advice about vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications. Read about the work and services of UK NARIC on the Naric website.
- The Royal Institute of Naval Architecture (RINA) is an internationally renowned professional institution involved in design, construction, maintenance and operation of marine vessels and structures. Read about the work and services of the RINA on the RINA website.
- The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is the national body for boating, including dinghy and yacht racing, powerboat racing and windsurfing. Read about the work and services of the RYA on the RYA website.
- The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the national accreditation and awarding body in Scotland. Read about the work and services of the SQA on the SQA website.
- The Ship Safe Training Group (SSTG) provide a recruitment and training service for over 30 member shipping companies. Read about the work and services of the SSTG on the SSTG website.
- Seafish is the UK’s only cross-industry seafood body working with fishers, processors, wholesalers, seafood farmers, fish friers, caterers, retailers and the import/export trade. Seafish carries out all training courses for fishers. Read about the work and services of Seafish on the Seafish website.
MCA Training and Certification Helpline
023 8032 9231