Guidance for non-UK qualified officers on how to apply for, or revalidate a Certificate of Equivalent Competency to work on UK-registered commercial vessels.
As a non-UK officer you can apply for a certificate of equivalent competency (CEC) to serve on UK-registered vessels if you hold a STCW certificate of competency (CoC) from a country whose standards of competency and training are considered equal to those of the UK.
Find information about countries that have CoC and GMDSS certificates which are acceptable equivalents.
Your application must show evidence of your:
- standards of competency
- ability to use the English language (this may include an oral exam)
- knowledge of UK law relating to your job
Your CEC will contain the same limitations as your original CoC but in some cases there can be differences in coastal, motor ship and steamship limitations.
There are no nationality restrictions on officers or crew sailing on UK vessels, but there is a nationality restriction on masters of strategic vessels.
For yacht certificates, find a list of countries with certificates which are acceptable equivalents.
Individual applications and revalidation
Applications for CECs can be submitted by individuals or companies, but you must sign the form yourself.
Use the same form whether you are applying for your first CEC or a revalidation. Use form MSF 4203 below.
- MSF 4203 Application for a UK certificate of equivalent competency
Guidance and information notes are available below.
- MSN 1867 UK requirements for the recognition of non-UK certification leading to the issue of a CEC.
Submit the following documents with your application:
- non-UK certificate of competency
- original CEC if already held (proof of competency in English language and passport don’t need to be re-submitted if you have this)
- passport or discharge book
- evidence of knowledge of English language
- 2 passport photos
- GMDSS certificate (deck officers only)
Read the guidance notes in your application form to check you are submitting the documents correctly. MCA can accept original documents or attested photocopies for a CEC application. All photocopies must be certified as a true copy by one of the following:
- non-UK CoC issuing administration
- notary public
- MCA official
Post your application, supporting documents and the fee shown on the form to MCA:
Seafarer Training and Certification Branch
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
105 Commercial Road
MCA doesn’t accept email or fax applications.
MCA aims to process your application within 28 days of receipt. You’ll receive an email if any further information/evidence or training is needed.
Contact the Seafarer Training and Certification Branch at MCA if you’ve got any queries about your application:
Tel +44 (0) 23 8032 9254
MCA doesn’t offer a counter service.
Company applications and CRA
You can submit applications for CECs and CEC revalidations on behalf of your employees. The officer applying for a CEC must sign the completed application form.
You can also apply for a confirmation receipt of application (CRA). Regulation 1/10 of the STCW Convention (as amended) means that MCA can allow a seafarer to serve on board a UK registered vessel for a period of not more than 3 months from the time that they applied for a CEC. This is provided that they hold a valid and equivalent CoC for use on board a UK vessel until they get their CEC. Documentary proof that an application has been made to MCA must be in the form of a CRA below.
- MSF 4359 CRA
Insert your company’s address and fax number in the box provided and complete Section 1 of the CRA before submitting it with the individual’s application. Follow the process for Individual applications and revalidation. Provided all the required documents are present and correct MCA will issue the completed CRA in 10 working days from the date the application is received.
Evidence of knowledge of the English Language
To comply with merchant shipping regulations officers on board UK vessels must use a common language when operating the ship. As English is the chosen international language for communication at sea officers on board must speak, read and understand English at a level that enables them to carry out ship to ship and ship to shore communication.
If MCA is satisfied that the training and exams you took to get your original non UK CoC were carried out in English you won’t need to do a further test. You are competent in English if you can show any of the following evidence by:
- taking and passing an MCA English oral exam with an MCA surveyor on board ship or in a marine office
- satisfying the MCA that English is your ‘mother tongue’ ie your first language
- holding a STCW CoC for which the examinations and teaching were conducted in English
- holding an advanced English language certificate issued by the British Council or an International Language Testing System (IELTS) test report showing overall band of at least 6
- holding a certificate of TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) applicable for admission into US universities
- holding a Berlitz Language School level A2 (2+ in old format) certificate endorsed by the company
- passing the MCA English language test administered for MCA by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and conducted by arrangement with SQA in any British Council office anywhere in the world
- passing the Marlins test at an approved Marlins Test Centre plus the Marlins test of spoken English (TOSE) or written confirmation from your company that your spoken English is satisfactory for your job
|Capacity||Marlins Required Minimum Score||TOSE Required Level|
|Chief Officer||90%||Upper Intermediate|
|Officer of the Watch||80%||Intermediate|
|Engineer Officer of the Watch||70%||Lower Intermediate|
GMDSS Certificate (deck officers only)
Include your STCW95 endorsement when you apply for a CEC. If the certificate was issued in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania you must also include the training certificates.
Masters and skippers
All masters and skippers operating UK flagged vessels must have knowledge of UK legal and administrative processes to grade 1 examination level (UKLAP1). The level of required knowledge is outlined in Annex B of MSN 1867.
It’s mandatory that all masters of UK flagged vessels pass a UKLAP grade 1 test. Masters should make their CEC application as normal and MCA will issue a notice of assessment (NOA) to sit the UKLAP exam. Once you receive the NOA you need to book an exam date with an MCA marine office.
If it’s not possible for you to take the exam in the UK then contact SQA who’ll arrange for you to sit the exam in one of the British Council offices around the world.
Scottish Qualifications Authority
24 Douglas Street
Tel: +44 (0) 141 242 2098/9
Chief mates, chief engineers and second engineers
All chief mates, chief engineers and second engineers operating UK flagged vessels must have knowledge of UK legal and administrative processes to grade 2 level (UKLAP2). You don’t have to take an exam. It’s the responsibility of your employer to make sure you have this knowledge before you start work on board a ship.
You don’t need to submit your medical certificate when you make your CEC application but you must hold a valid medical fitness certificate ENG1 or a recognised non UK equivalent. Read MSN 1815 for details.
Contact MCA if you have any queries:
Seafarer Health and Safety Branch
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
105 Commercial Road
Telephone. +44 (0) 23 80 329 249
Fax. +44 (0) 23 80 329 251
Masters of strategic vessels
Masters of strategic vessels must be one of the following nationalities:
- UK citizen
- Commonwealth citizen
- NATO or EU national
- national of a state which is party to the European Economic Agreement [EEA]
Strategic vessels include:
- fishing vessels over 24 metres in length
- class 1 passenger ships of 500gt or more certified to carry more than 300 passengers
- product tankers