Seafarers: medical certification guidance
How to get an ENG1 or ML5 medical certificate.
As a seafarer, it’s important that you are fit for the job you are doing on a day-to-day basis, and during emergencies.
A medical examination will find out if you have a health condition that could result in you needing urgent treatment, or potentially put fellow crew or passengers’ lives at risk.
If you are employed on a ship, and it’s your normal place of work, then regulations require you to have a medical examination. This is to prove that you are in good enough health and fitness to carry out your duties.
This guide tells you which of the two medical certificates you need, how to get it, and where to find a doctor to carry out a medical fitness examination. It also tells you what to do if you fail, and want to get your result reviewed.
What is a ‘seafarer’?
The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) states:
A seafarer is any person, including a master, who is employed or engaged or works in any capacity on board a ship and whose normal place of work is on a ship.
Seafarers and other crew members: which medical certificate do you need?
You need a seafarer medical certificate (ENG1) if you are:
- in charge of a ship, e.g. ship’s captain
- serving on a merchant ship
- a seafarer
Any seafarer on board a ship must have an ENG1 (or equivalent) to work on a merchant vessel, or for any UK Certificate of Competency (CoC).
You need an ML5 medical report and certificate if you are:
- master of a non-seagoing passenger ship (Class IV or V)
- master of a commercial non-seagoing vessel
- master and crew of a small commercial vessel (under 24 metres, carrying no more than 12 passengers, going no more than 60 miles from shore)
- crew or other employee (like a steward, security guard, caterer) on a domestic seagoing passenger ship (Class VI or VI(A)).
This has to be your normal place of work.
You don’t need either certificate if you are employed:
- on a fishing vessel
- on a non-commercial pleasure vessel
- on an offshore installation while on its working station
- on-shore as your normal place of work
and/or working during a voyage on a short-term, one-off or temporary basis in roles like:
- a guest lecturer
- a research scientist
- riding crew
- a pilot
- a trainee or a volunteer on a sail training ship (carrying out non safety-critical role)
ENG 1 and Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) compliance
The ENG 1 has been MLC compliant since 2010, when the medical standards were changed. A new merchant shipping notice (MSN) was then published.
MSN 1839 is the most current notice.
This notice also applies if you want to have an independent medical review after failing the ENG1.
MCA are satisfied that the ENG1 is MLC compliant, because the medical examination and certification system meets the MLC’s requirements of:
- appointing and training approved doctors (ADs)
- validity of certificates
- your right to appeal the AD’s decision if you’re unhappy with it
- checking your ID
- the scope of the medical, such as checking your colour vision and (as of 2010) your hearing
Seafarers getting an ENG1: find an MCA AD to carry out your ENG1
Search MCA’s current list of ADs in the UK.
Search MCA’s current list of ADs overseas and in international territories.
Search MCA’s current list of Doctors who were previously approved.
All lists are updated regularly.
Seafarers getting an ENG1 equivalent: find countries whose certificates are accepted on UK flag vessels
Each country has a list of its own ADs. To get a certificate that’s been assessed as equivalent to ENG1, you must contact the relevant country’s own maritime authority. They’ll give you the locations of their own ADs.
The list updates annex A of MSN 1815, which lists the countries that can issue equivalent certificates. It’s updated as and when medical standards and systems have been assessed for equivalency.
List of ENG 1 equivalent countries
|Canada||Netherlands - List of Approved Doctors to issue Netherlands medical fitness certificates|
|Cyprus||Norway - List of Approved Doctors to issue Norwegian medical fitness certificates|
|Finland||Republic of Ireland|
|Hong Kong||South Africa|
If you are based overseas and are not in of one of the countries above, you could obtain a statutory seafarers medical fitness certificate from one the countries with a ‘List of Approved Doctors attached’. These maritime administrations have doctors based overseas that can issue statutory seafarers medical certificates that are equivalent to an ENG 1. Please note the certificate issued will not be an ENG 1 certificate.
For example Norwegian Maritime Authority have approved doctors in Italy, USA, Nigeria and more, who can issue a Norwegian Seafarers Medical Fitness Certificate.
The Netherlands Maritime authority have approved doctors in Russia, Saint-Martin, Indonesia and more, who can issue a Dutch Seafarers Medical Fitness Certificate.
*Please note: The Danish seafarers’ medical fitness certificate is only valid with a completed booklet ‘Health Certificate for Seafarers and Fishermen’, issued by the Danish Maritime Authority.
ENG1 ADs for companies and healthcare providers
See the list of ADs at healthcare providers who carry out seafarer medical examinations for employers.
MCA is legally obliged to publish the provers’ and the doctors’ names.
Find ENG1 ADs for companies
This list of company ADs is for any seafarer employed by one of the companies listed, and needs to have an ENG1 medical.
Your ENG1 or ML5 medical: what to take with you
Although you’ll be told what to take when you make your appointment, don’t forget:
- your current ENG1 certificate or equivalent
- any medication you’re taking
- any glasses or contact lenses you‘re using, and spares
- the name and telephone number of your doctor (general practitioner; GP)
- any reports or letters from your GP, if you’ve recently been to hospital or under a consultant
- an official form of ID that has a photo: a passport, a photocard driving licence, an official student pass with photo (for new entrants), a discharge book
It’s important that you tell the approved doctor if:
- you have failed the ENG1 examination
- you have been issued with restrictions
- you failed to complete an ENG1 examination with another AD
If you don’t, it can be seen as ‘doctor shopping’ - and could invalidate your ENG1.
Your ENG1 medical: What it covers and what happens
The ENG1 medical fitness certificate standards are based on these international guidelines:
- Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW)
- Internal Maritime Organization (IMO)/International Labour Organization (ILO) guidelines on medical examinations of seafarers
The most important conditions that can affect fitness are:
- heart attack (coronary thrombosis)
- problems with the heart rhythm
- home forms of heart surgery
- heart or artery disease
- lung disease causing shortness of breath
- diabetes treated with insulin (Type 1 or 2)
- unexplained loss of consciousness
- severe head injury or brain surgery
- treatment for mental or nervous problems
- alcohol or drug addiction problems
- severe deafness or difficulty communicating by radio or telephone
- eyesight or colour vision that does not meet standards
- transplants: heart, kidney or other organs; joint replacement; limb prostheses
- conditions that can cause sudden incapacity
- conditions that put you at increased risk of illness while in charge of a vessel (remote from assistance)
- conditions that limit mobility and stamina (under normal and emergency conditions)
- medication with side effects that reduce performance or alertness – and can cause complications while in charge of a vessel
During your ENG1 medical you’ll be:
- asked about your medical history by the doctor or a practice nurse
- weighed and measured
- asked to provide a urine sample
- tested on your hearing and sight (for distance, colour and near vision)
- given a physical examination (you will be asked to undress to your underclothes)
Your ENG1 medical results
At the end of the ENG1 examination, the AD will issue you with a certificate of fitness. This can certify you as:
- fit without restrictions (unrestricted)
- fit with restrictions (e.g. limiting your work to certain jobs or locations),
- temporarily or permanently unfit
If you pass the ENG1, you’ll get your certificate usually on the day of the examination.
You won’t get your ENG1 certificate on the same day if the doctor has any concerns about your fitness, and needs to get additional medical information or seek advice from MCA chief medical adviser.
You’ll get a ‘temporarily unfit certificate’ if there’s likely to be a delay in the doctor’s final decision.
What to do if you’re found ‘permanently unfit’ for your ENG1
A ‘permanently unfit’ result stands for at least five years.
If you want or need to have another ENG1 medical in the next five years, you must show clinical evidence proving the condition that caused this result has been reversed.
The AD will give you a ‘notice of Failure/Restriction (ENG 3)’ form if:
- you are found unfit, or
- your ENG1 is restricted
The ENG 3 will tell you what to do if you want to have an independent medical review.
If you want to have an independent medical review
You must contact MCA Seafarer Health and Safety Branch within one month of the ENG3 being issued.
MCA will cover the cost of your review – but you will have to pay your own travel expenses.
You will be examined by an independent medical referee.
What you need to take to your independent medical review:
- a passport or discharge book
- job description for your current or most recent job
- your restricted ENG1, if you have been issued one
- the medical paperwork relevant to your current condition or state of health, especially letters from your consultant(s) or GP
To help the referee decide if the original decision of fitness was sound, they can also ask for:
- additional testing to be done
- additional specialist opinions
The referee will take all of this information into account, and make a final assessment of your fitness.
Please note: the referee has a level of discretionary power above the AD’s, but they’re still bound by the medical fitness standards in MSN 1839.
If all the evidence supports it, the referee can issue you with a revised ENG1 certificate.
Their decision is final - they won’t overturn the AD’s original decision just because you have asked for a review.
ENG1 additional colour vision tests
Seafarers: what happens if you fail an Isihara plate screening
Contact MCA for a lantern test. This can be done in Southampton, Aberdeen, or Beverley marine offices, and City University in London.
You will need to pay any travel costs, but the lantern test is free of charge if you are a seafarer.
The AD will normally wait for the result to come back before completing the ENG1 certificate.
You’ll be issued an unrestricted ENG1 if:
- you pass the lantern test
- and have no other medical conditions that can affect your fitness to work at sea
If you fail the lantern test you’ll be issued an ENG1 with the restriction ‘not fit for lookout duties’, and the certificate will be ticked ‘not fit for lookout duties’.
You’ll get a letter from the marine office to confirm this result. Take this with you to your next and future examinations. The AD will make sure that information, and any colour vision restrictions, are on your new certificate.
New entrant deck candidates:
You’ll be unable to get a CoC as a deck officer. If you decide, after career advice, not to pursue another seafaring career, you’ll be issued an ENG3 Cat 4 ‘permanently unfit’.
Your AD will need to arrange a City University or Farnsworth D15 colour vision test for you.
If you pass either the City University or the Farnsworth D15 colour vision test you’ll be issued an unrestricted ENG1. This is if you have no other conditions that can affect your fitness to work at sea.
If you fail the City University or Farnsworth D15 colour vision test you’ll be issued an ENG1 with the restriction ‘not fit for work with colour coded cables or equipment’. It will be ticked ‘not fit for lookout duties’.
Other departments such as catering or hotel
If you fail the colour vision test you’ll be issued an ENG1 with the restriction ‘not fit for lookout duties’. It’ll be ticked ‘not fit for lookout duties’.
Maritime security guards: read the guidance for maritime security guards and their employers.
The cost of an ENG1 or ML5
The cost of an ENG1
The most you should pay for an ENG1 is £80.
If you are employed in the UK, your employer will pay this.
The £80 limit is set in regulations, and MCA review this from time to time.
If you need any extra tests (like a step test), the approved doctor can charge more. This must be agreed with whoever is paying for the ENG1 before you have the test(s).
The cost of an ML5
There is no set price for the ML5.
It isn’t regulated by MCA, as it’s considered a private transaction.
Ask your doctor how much the ML5 will cost before they complete your report.
Guidance for seafarers and other crew getting an ML5 certificate
You don’t need an AD to carry out your ML5 medical. You can print the ML5 form and certificate, or also get your form from:
Take the ML5 report form to any doctor registered with GMC (General Medical Council), and with a valid licence to practice.
The doctor will complete your ML5 certificate if:
- there are no ticks in the ‘yes’ box (this shows there might be a medical problem)
- there are no other notes on medical conditions
You can then send this with your application for issue or revalidation of a boatmaster’s licence (BML) or RYA commercial endorsement.
You won’t get an ML5 certificate if you’re found, during the medical examination, to have any type of condition which may make you unfit for service - and the box is ticked to show this.
The completed report and blank certificate will be returned to you.
What happens if your doctor can’t issue your ML5 certificate
If you want to continue with your BML or commercial endorsement application, you’ll need to complete part D of the ML5 report.
Send or take it to your local MCA marine office or the RYA, depending on which of them is dealing with your application.
This will then be reviewed by an MCA medical assessor. They’ll issue your ML5 certificate if they find you fit for sea service, but this certificate may be subject to restrictions.
Your ML5 certificate will be sent back to you through the RYA or MCA Marine office. They can decide to issue you a restricted RYA endorsement or BML. This can limit your work to certain jobs or locations, or place operational restrictions on your licence.
Seafarers with ENG1s who also need UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) medical certificates
A UKOG medical certificate isn’t equivalent to an ENG1, as they are two separate medicals which serve two different purposes:
- UKOG is an employer’s medical. Its medical standards have been produced to meet the needs and requirements of the employer.
- ENG1 is statutory - it’s required by law for all seafarers working on board a UK flagged vessel.
Seafarers who need both UKOG certificates and ENG1s
You could find one doctor to carry out both at the same time.
Contact MCA’s health and safety branch
Telephone: 023 80 329 247/ 9
Fax: 023 80 329 251
Medical Administration Team
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
105 Commercial Road
Published: 1 May 2014
Updated: 21 August 2014
- Updated with links to countries websites who's medical fitness certificates we accept as equivalent to our own (21/08/14)
- MLC regulations now in force
- Australia now added to the list of of ENG 1 equivalent countries
- First published.