Ship Certificates

Ship Safety Certificates

If a shipowner wants to trade the ship in international waters, the shipowner has to be able to prove that the ship is safe to operate. The shipowner has to obtain certificates issued after a survey of several aspects of the ship by organizations acting on behalf of, or with approval from, the Flag Country

Every ship has to carry a variety of certificates issued according to SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974) regulations and following a general format that is asserted by the IMO (International Maritime Organization). A signatory nation to these conventions and codes must ensure that ships flying their flag adhere to the regulations.

Port Authorities command to check some of these certificates at each port where the ship calls. Ship Safety Certificates vary according to ship type, but the principal ones are:

1- Safety Construction Certificate

Safety Construction Certificate is evidence that the ship has been constructed by the provisions of the SOLAS Convention (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974). Safety Construction Certificate has two versions: one for cargo ships and the other for passenger ships. Extra provisions apply to cargo ships regarding the number of watertight compartments that must be included.

The condition of the ship’s hull, machinery, and certain equipment has to be inspected every year, to keep the Safety Construction Certificate valid 

2- Safety Equipment Certificate

In the Safety Construction Certificate, the inspection of firefighting equipment is excluded because firefighting equipment and the plans for its use are the subjects of a Safety Equipment Certificate. Furthermore, Safety Equipment Certificate comprises the requirements of lifeboats, emergency radios in lifeboats, liferafts, lifejackets, signal rockets, flares, and line-throwing appliances. Navigation Charts, Nautical Publications such as notices to mariners, almanacs, first aid manuals, and the ship’s capability for being properly navigated is checked under Safety Equipment Certificate

The certificate details the maximum number of persons permitted aboard the ship at sea. This number includes both the crew and any additional people such as supernumeraries or passengers. A careful check should be made to ensure that the total number of people on board does not exceed the maximum shown on this document. If it does, then additional safety equipment may have to be purchased or hired for the voyage and permission obtained from the flag state.


3- Load Line Certificate

The Load Line Certificate is issued under the terms of the International Convention on Load Lines (ICLL) 1966. A ship’s deadweight is determined by its load-line. A ship’s maximum depth to which it is permitted to be loaded is called draught. A ship’s draught varies according to the part of the world and the time of year. When reference is being made to a ship’s deadweight without any qualification, it customarily refers to Summer Draught (Draft). The ship’s Maximum Draught (Draft) and Draught (Draft) variations are calculated according to a formula laid down in the Load Line Convention.

In 1894, load-line was introduced in the United Kingdom by the assistant of politician Samuel Plimsol who persuaded the government to pass a Merchant Shipping Act, which granted the power to the authorities to detain unsafe ships. Load-line (Plimsoll Mark) is the deepest level to which a loaded ship could sit in the water. Load-line (Plimsoll Mark) is displayed on the side of the ship by a painted circular disc. The circle is 12 inches in diameter with a line 18 inches long drawn horizontally through its center, which represents the load line. Supplementary marks have been added over the years. The International Convention on Load Lines (ICLL) was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1968. Because of Samuel Plimsoll’s involvement, the load-line is sometimes referred to as a Plimsoll Mark.

The location of the load-line is determined when the ship is built. Classification Society issues the Load Line Certificate and supervises the placing of the load-line. Load-line (Plimsoll Mark) is positioned about amidships on both sides of the ship. The Classification Society’s initials are incorporated in the load-line. Classification Societies allow shipowners to opt for a lesser draught (draft) and, if a shipowner opts for a lesser draught (draft), a lower NT (Net Tonnage) is attached to the ship. Shipowners that aim to operate their ships for carrying lightweight cargoes may choose this option because of reduced port charges. 

The safety aspect of the load-line is concerned with the ship’s FreeboardFreeboard is the measure of the ship’s hull between the water level and the load-line deck (highest continuous watertight deck). The amount of freeboard necessary for safety changes in different 

parts of the world and in different seasons.

The International Convention on Load Lines (ICLL) divided the world into zones, with Tropical being the least dangerous and Winter North Atlantic (WNA) zone is the most dangerous. Moreover, saltwater gives more buoyancy to a ship than freshwater. Therefore, a ship can be loaded to a deeper draught in freshwater, and then the ship rises to the correct draught (draft) when reaching the ocean.

A ship’s Load-line (Plimsoll Mark) has six marks:

  1. TF Tropical Zone (Fresh Water)
  2. Fresh Water 
  3. Tropical Zone (Salt Water) 
  4. Summer 
  5. Winter 
  6. WNA Winter North Atlantic

On Load-line (Plimsoll Mark), the actual mark (straight line) is the Summer Mark. On the line are placed the initials of the Classification Society that inspected the ship to determine the positioning of the mark. If a ship is employed for carrying lumber (timber) cargo, an extra load-line mark (letter L) is painted on the ship that is authorized to load deeper than ships carrying other cargoes. If the ship is not carrying lumber (timber) cargo on a particular voyage, then the maximum draught (draft) will be by the standard marks. Load Line Certificate is valid for four (4) years, subject to an annual inspection.  


4- Safety Radio Certificate

The Safety Radio Certificate incorporates all sorts of regulated communication equipment, however, shipowners are free to surpass the provisions of SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974) if they wish. Safety Radio Certificate’s requirements differ according to the size of the ship and the area in which the ship operates.

In 1999, GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) was introduced. GMDSS replaced conventional means of communicating in emergencies. Morse Code, SOS signal, and Ship Radio Officer were consigned to history. Every ship must now carry advanced electronic equipment designed to pinpoint the position of a ship in distress. 

Crew members must obtain GMDSS Certificates. If there are not enough crew members on board with unrestricted GMDSS Certificates, the ship may be prevented from sailing. For purposes of maritime safety, the world is now divided into zones A1, A2, A3, and A4. Areas nominated A1 are coastal waters and A4 the remotest parts of the world and Polar Regions. The communication equipment to be carried differs from zone to zone. Ships with the highest rating can navigate in all zones, but ships having a lower rating are not able to navigate into higher-rated zones without precise authorization.

Port State Control (PSC) Surveyors may prevent a ship from sailing if the intended voyage requires the ship to pass through a zone that is not incorporated by the Safety Radio Certificate. Safety Radio Certificate is valid for one (1) year. Furthermore, a ship requires a Radio Licence which is issued by the Flag Country. There is no general time limit applied to Radio Licence.


5- Safety Management Certificate

After many highly publicized ship catastrophes, the shipping community realized that the cause of many safety and pollution problems was poor shipboard management of the ships rather than any design or construction deficiencies. IMO (International Maritime Organization) enforced a code for securing management standards. In 1997, IMO (International Maritime Organization) introduced the ISM Code (International Safety Management Code) and by June 2002, ISM Code was mandatory for all ships. The ISM Code is implemented both ashore and onboard. Anyone operating ships must set up a Quality Assurance System that ensures the numerous SOLAS (The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea), Marpol (The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), and STCW (Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping) Conventions are implemented on the ships operated by them. 

Flag Country is responsible for appointing or authorizing inspectors to audit the ship operator’s system. Flag Country is responsible to issue a Document of Compliance (DOC) to the shore-based office and thereafter to pursue the audit onboard ship. 

If Quality Assurance System is operating thoroughly, the ship will be issued with a Safety Management Certificate (SMC) to exhibit alongside a copy of the Document of Compliance (DOC) in a noticeable place on board. The ship audit should ensure that not only is the ship being maintained properly but also that all officers and crew are fully aware of and capable of performing emergency procedures as well as their routine duties, which should now have a strong element of safety and pollution prevention.

ISM Code (International Safety Management Code) associates with the management of the ship and not to the shipowners, any certificate becomes invalid if the ship changes hands. Port State Control (PSC) authorities can detain any ship that is not complying with the ISM Code (International Safety Management Code).


6- International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPP)

Pollution of the seas by oil is not only caused by catastrophic spills following disasters, but the discharge of tank washings and water ballast from double-bottom tanks that had previously contained bunkers also pollutes the seas. 

The International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPP) validates that the ship has the required facilities for separating oil from any water that will be pumped overside. The International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPP) is valid for four (4) years

The International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (IOPP) requires that the ship has onboard a SOPEP (Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan) SOPEP (Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan) is a set of guidelines for the crew to follow in cases of any oil pollution.


7- Cargo Gear Certificate

Cargo Gear Certificate is a requirement under Flag Country’s national regulations, however, Cargo Gear Certificate is also required to complete health and safety legislation in ports. If the ship’s gear does not have a valid certificate or if an inspector checks the gear and finds that the gear is in a hazardous state, the ship concerned will not be allowed to load or to discharge with the ship’s gear until it is rectified. 


8- Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC)

Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC) was introduced in 2007. Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC) classifies and records all operations of ship-borne public health risks, together with any required control measures to be implemented. Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC) is valid for six (6) months. The Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC) renewal process required that all sections of the ship be inspected. Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC) is renewed at any authorized port. Before 2007, the De-ratting Exemption Certificate was the required sanitary document. De-ratting Exemption Certificate was a universally agreed-upon means of public health control that assisted to diminish the spread of rodent-borne viruses.  


9- Ship Security Certificate

Ship Security Certificate is issued by or on behalf of Flag CountyShip Security Certificate validates that the ship’s security arrangements comply with the ISPS Code (The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code)ISPS Code is a part of the SOLAS Convention (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974). ISPS Code was introduced in response to concerns over security and terrorism in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in the USA. Nevertheless, ISPS Code comprises two other problems piracy and stowaways.

ISPS Code works on two levels ships over 500 GT (Gross Tonnage) and Ports. A government must designate a Recognised Security Organization (RSO) to endorse the security systems that have been made in ports, on ships, and in the shore offices of shipping companies. In the United Kingdom, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has the authority to vet ships. Flag Countries have assigned the endorsement to Classification Societies. To comply with the ISPS Code, ships and ports must undergo a Risk Assessment and prepare a Security Plan. The Recognised Security Organization (RSO) analyzes the Security Plan and, after a successful inspection and audit of the port or ship, the Recognised Security Organization (RSO) issues the Security Certificate. Port Authorities may refuse entry of a ship that does not have a Security Certificate. Port Authorities may prevent ships coming from ports that have not been certified as complying with the ISPS Code. Both ports and ships are deemed to operate on a three-stage security alert. Both ports and ships operate at the lowest level until intelligence is received. Any alteration of security status within the port will have to be informed to ships promptly so that ships can react properly.


10- Grain Stability Booklet

Ships are not automatically authorized to load a bulk grain cargo. Bulk grain cargo can move almost like a liquid which could cause a ship to capsize. For a ship to be classed as Grain Fitted, the ship’s design, and the location of its permanent or temporary bulkheads, must be such that dangerously large free surfaces of grain are avoided. In some cases, the surface of the grain cargo must be overlaid by bags of grain to stabilize the surface. This is written in the Grain Stability Booklet which is issued by the Classification SocietyGrain Stability Booklet remains valid throughout the ship’s life so long as its grain fitting remains unchanged. Before the commencement of grain cargo loading, Port Authorities examine the stability details of the ship. 


11- Safe Manning Certificate

Unlike other certificates, Safe Manning Certificate requires no survey. Many Flag Countries lay down laws regarding the number and qualification of crew members. Port State Control (PSC) Surveyors check the Safe Manning Certificate if they assume that a ship is undermanned and particularly in cases where a crew member is left behind in port. Frequently, Port Immigration Authorities ask for the Safe Manning Certificate with copies of the crew list. Port Immigration Authorities cross-reference the number of crew members on board with the Safe Manning Certificate.


12- Cargo Securing Manual

Cargo Securing Manual is concerned with the safe carriage of dry non-bulk cargoes. All dry cargo ships must carry a Cargo Securing Manual which is explaining how different types of cargoes are to be secured. Each ship’s features must be taken into consideration because the Cargo Securing Manual is devoted to measuring the stresses on securing material likely to be confronted throughout bad weather.


13- Hazardous Cargo Certificate

The safety construction and equipment provisions of the several SOLAS Conventions (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974) at the most profound level are based upon the ship carrying only harmless cargoes. Nevertheless, most cargoes possess at least one hazardous nature and some cargoes are very dangerous. Ships intended for the carriage of hazardous cargoes are constructed to higher specs as regards both the material used in construction and the equipment fitted onboard. Later, shipowners apply to the Classification Society to issue a certificate validating that a ship can carry hazardous cargoes. The Hazardous Cargo Certificate may impose certain extra safeguards, such as carriage on deck only, and maybe for named substances or for classes as laid in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, an IMO (International Maritime Organization) manual describing the hazards of practically every type of cargo possible.


14- Light Dues Certificate

Light Dues Certificate is not a safety certificate but it is a tax peculiar to maritime nations that charge ships on a tariff based on NT (Net Tonnage) to cover the cost of maintaining navigational aids such as lighthouses, lightships, and buoys nearby the coast. Moreover, some maritime nations charge ships on anchorage dues and fairway dues. A ship pays light dues when it first calls at a port, consequently, the ship is exempted by Light Dues Certificate from further fees for a certain time.


15- Health Certificate

In some ports, the master has to complete the Maritime Declaration of Health Certificate and sign to obtain Free Pratique. Free Pratique indicates that the ship is granted permission to have contact with people from the shore. Customarily, the Free Pratique phrase is encountered in connection with setting when a ship is a Ready Ship for laytime starting to count. 

Today, modern ships communicate the shore by radio, provide important reassurances to the Port Health Authorities that no crew member on board is suffering from or showing symptoms of contagious disease, and ships are granted Free Pratique by radio. Nevertheless, in some ports, it is still required for the ship to fly the yellow signal flag and keep the yellow signal flag flying until the Port Health Authority gives permission. Therefore, such ports require the Maritime Declaration of Health Certificate before granting permission.


Ship Surveys and Inspections

Lloyd’s Agent: is appointed by the insurance society Lloyd’s of LondonLloyd’s Agent is an organization or port agent that is designated by the controller of agencies in the Corporation of Lloyd’s. Lloyd’s Agent’s well-known duty was to conduct regular reports of the progress of ships in and out of the agent’s region to the department in the Corporation of Lloyd’s known as Lloyd’s Intelligence. This report was published via Lloyd’s List and Lloyd’s Index. Historically, Lloyd’s of London’s appointment was just a prestige, because anyone viewing the appointment of an agent in a port with which they have had no previous contact may well be impressed by the information that the firm or company holding the Lloyd’s Agency will have been positively vetted by authorities. The most significant role is to provide the relevant surveyor expert opinion whenever a ship or any part of its cargo has been damaged to a degree that a claim against an insurance policy issued by Lloyd’s of London may be required. Lloyd’s Agent does not inevitably carry out the task itself but designates a surveyor with the relevant expertise to manage the claimed survey. 

National Inspections: the more effective national registers keep an active worldwide network of surveyors with the authority from the Flag Country concerned to board ships flying its flag and carry out inspections. National Inspections are similar to those carried out under Port State Control (PSC).

Condition Surveys: shipowners usually insure the hull and machinery of their ships with Lloyd’s of London or an insurance company, third-party risks are usually placed with Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club. Many Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Clubs carry out independent surveys of the ships they insure. Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club is concerned with the avoidance of claims for damage to cargo. Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club Surveyors are especially concerned with such items as hatches, to ensure that hatch covers are fully watertight. 

Draught Surveys: in various undeveloped ports, there are no facilities for precisely calculating the weight of cargoes as they are loaded. All ships have a Deadweight Scale that is normally included in the Capacity PlanDeadweight Scale gives a reference to tons per inch or tonnes per centimeter immersion figure. Such immersion rates are insignificantly different at different draughts (drafts). Deadweight Scale is used to discover how many tons have been loaded with enough precision to enter the amount in Bills of Lading. Draught Surveyor takes a small boat and controls the draught markings at the stem and the stern because a ship is hardly on an exactly even keel fore and aft. Draught Surveyor also checks the load-line marks on either side of the ship to discover whether the ship has more cargo on one side than the other. Mean Draught can be calculated and this has to be carried out before loading begins. After the completion of the loading operation, allowances have to be made for bunkers, stores, freshwater. Draught Surveyor takes into account the salinity of the water at the quayside and calculates the quantity of cargo that has been loaded. Usually, the shipmaster and the loading terminal officer carry out a joint survey, or an independent draught surveyor is appointed.  

Time Charter Surveyson-hire or an off-hire survey is performed, at the commencement or end of a time charter. Time charter parties have clauses that stipulate the ship to be delivered to the shipowner in “like good order and condition, fair wear and tear excepted” in other words, as it was when the time charter commenced. Customarily, time charterers take over and pay for bunkers on delivery and for the shipowner to do the same on redelivery. Normally, one of the ship’s officers attends the on-hire or off-hire surveys to look after the shipowner’s interests. Time charterers virtually always need the services of a local Time Charter Surveyor (On-Hire, Off-Hire Surveyor), which is an Independent Surveyor. Besides the quantity of bunkers, Time Charter Surveyor (On-Hire, Off-Hire Surveyor) pays particular attention to those parts of the ship that are vulnerable to damage during loading and discharging operation, such as the hatch coamingshold ladders, etc. Time Charter Surveyor (On-Hire, Off-Hire Surveyor) also checks all the relevant certificates and cargo gear. Usually, shipowners and charterers appoint their surveyor with the survey being carried by both surveyors simultaneously. These surveyors should jointly agree on the condition of the ship and the likely cause of any damage found.

Miscellaneous Surveys: there are many other circumstances where the agents may need to ask the professional opinion of an independent surveyor on behalf of the principal. Generally, every attempt should always be made to get the principal’s approval before engaging a surveyor.

Basic Certificates and Documents Required for Ships:

  1. Cargo Record Book (MARPOL II/ 15.2)
  2. Oil Record Book (MARPOL 1/ 17 & 36)
  3. International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate (MARPOL 1/ 7)
  4. Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (SOPEP) (MARPOL 1/ 37)
  5. Fuel Oil Changeover Procedures and Log Book (MARPOL VI14.6)
  6. Crude Oil Washing Operation and Equipment Manual (COW manual) (MARPOL I/ 35)
  7. Record of Oil Discharge Monitoring and Control System for the Last Ballast Voyage (MARPOL I/ 31)
  8. Oil Discharge Monitoring and Control (ODMC) Operational Manual (MARPOL I/ 31)
  9. Bunker Delivery Note and Representative Sample (MARPOL – VI/ 18.6 & 18.8.1)
  10. Garbage Record Book (MARPOL V/ 9)
  11. Garbage Management Plan (MARPOL V/ 9)
  12. International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (MARPOL VI/ 6)
  13. International Pollution Prevention Certificate for the Carriage of Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk (NLS Certificate) (MARPOL II/ 8)
  14. International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate (MARPOL IV/ 5)
  15. Manufacturer’s Operating Manual for Incinerators (MARPOL VI/ 16.7)
  16. Subdivision and Stability Information (MARPOL I/ 28)
  17. VOC Management Plan (MARPOL VI/ 15.6)
  18. International Anti-fouling System Certificate (AFS – Annex IV, reg 2.1)
  19. Declaration on Anti-fouling System (AFS – Annex IV, reg 5.1)
  20. Procedures and Arrangements Manual (P&A manual) (MARPOL II/ 14)
  21. Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) Statement of Compliance, CAS Final Report and Review Record (MARPOL – I/ 20 and I/ 21)
  22. Ozone-Depleting Substances Record Book (MARPOL VI/ 12.6)
  23. Technical file (NOx Technical Code 2.3.7)
  24. Record Book on Engine Parameters (NOx Technical Code 2.3.7)
  25. Shipboard Marine Pollution Emergency Plan for Noxious Liquid Substances (MARPOL II/ 17)