GUIDANCE ON APPLICATIONS
1 Applying for a certificate of competency
Recognition of a certificate of competency refers to a certificate that allows you to serve on seagoing vessels. The authority that issues recognitions of certificates of competency in the Netherlands is the Kiwa Register. On their site www.kiwaregister.nl, you can submit an online application. In addition to recognitions of certificates of competency, the Kiwa Register also issues Seaman’s books.
Sailing licenses for the Dutch inland waterways – such as ‘ het groot-vaarbewijs’ or ‘het zeilbewijs’ – are not issued by the Kiwa Register, but by the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (www.cbr.nl)).
There are two types of certificate of competencies: certificate of competency as a rating and certificate of competency as an officer.
It is theoretically possible to train to become a rating, but you can also become a rating by accumulating sufficient sailing time upcomin rating. This is the usual route that is followed. From a rating you can progress to become an able seafarer (AB).
As a rating or able seafarer, you always work under the responsibility of an officer. An officer is a seafarer who is allowed to be in charge of a watch. To become an officer, training is always required. Officers are trained to work on the bridge (chief officer or master) or in the engine room (engineer), or both (‘maritime officer’).
An officer’s certificate of competency expires after 5 years. You must then apply for a renewal. A certificate of competency for rating does not have an expiry date.
However, for both types of CoC’s, even if they have not (yet) expired, they may still be invalid. A recognised certificate of competency is only valid when you also have a valid maritime medical examination and valid training certificates. If your maritime medical examination or training certificates are expired, you are not authorised to sail at that time.
To apply for a certificate of competency the following documents are mandatory:
- A valid maritime medical examination;
- A valid STCW training certificate in Basic Safety Training
A seafarer’s medical examination is an examination that is carried out by a doctor who is recognised for this purpose. The list of recognised doctors in the Netherlands can be found here.
Depending on the position you wish to sail in, you must also have:
- A certificate of knowledge (i.e. An education certificate from a maritime higher education institution)
- Sailing time
- STCW training certificates (e.g. for fire-fighting or medical assistance)
- A radio operating certificate
Rood Boven Groen has detailed the requirements for sailing in a certain position in a series of flow charts. With the help of these charts, you can find the certificates of competency that you are eligible for and what you have to do to progress to a higher position.
The flow chart should be read from top to bottom and always starts from the certificate of knowledge (if required). You can see which certificates and/or sailing time you have to obtain to qualify for a particular certificate of competency. The different certificates of competency are indicated in the dark blue boxes. The higher education qualifications are shown in green and the training/courses/sailing time is in light blue.
The flowcharts can be found on our website and are divided into:
- Flowchart Rating forming part of a navigational watch & Able seafarer;
- Flowchart sailing sailing ships
- Flowchart merchant ships < 3000 GT
- Flowchart merchant navy all vessels
- Flowchart officer-engineer limited working area
To apply for a Dutch Seaman’s Book, you must be able to provide one of the following written statements or declarations:
- a statement indicating that you are enrolled at a nautical training institute (nautical college)
- a statement indicating that you are employed by a Dutch shipping company
The statement must be drawn up and signed by the training institute or by the employer. In addition to the contents of the statement, it must state:
- date of issue
- the company’s name, address, Chamber of Commerce registration number and institution code
- (highly desirable) a company logo or stamp
If you are applying for a certificate of competency for the first time, it is important to know the requirements. You can use our flowcharts to find out what qualifications (college exam certificates) and training certificates are required for each certificate of competency. The flowcharts are available to view and free to download on the website under the heading ‘Help yourself’.
Certificates of knowledge from a training institute or college: If you wish to apply for a certificate of competency for the first time based on an exam certificate, it must not be older than four years at the time of application.
Sailing time: To renew a CoC, it must be demonstrated that sufficient competent sailing time has taken place in a relevant position within the last five years.
- at least 360 days in the 5 years preceding the application, OR
- at least 90 days in the 6 months preceding the application.
A relevant function means:
- The function you wish to renew or a lower relevant function.
- That you sailed in that function while holding a valid certificate of competency for it.
Exception: On sailing vessels below 500GT, only 180 days in the last 5 years need to be demonstrated instead of 360 days.
For more information on permitted sailing time, see the section on ‘Sailing time’ later in this manual.
Training certificates: When renewing, only training certificates with an expiry date need to be included as they must be refreshed to remain valid.
Radio Operator Certificate: Nautical officers need to send their radio operating certificate with each renewal application. Although the Dutch certificate does not have an expiry date, foreign certificates that do are also required to be sent.
Often, you can upgrade your certificate of competency as you gain more experience. and sailing time. For example, you could be promoted from an officer to master. To upgrade your certificate of competency, sailing time is always required. You may also need to follow additional training courses.
It is recommended to be fully aware of the requirements of upgrading your CoC so as not to miss any opportunity.
Qualifications/certificates of knowledge: The maximum certificate of competency you can obtain is determined by the qualification or certificate of knowledge you have attained.
Sailing time: The sailing time that counts for upgrading your certificate of competency is the sailing time that has been noted in the seaman’s book since you obtained your initial certificate of competency. For example, if three years sailing time as officer is required for an upgrade to the function of master, then all the days you have sailed as an officer since you obtained your first officer certificate of competency will count.
If you have already sailed in a higher position, it may be possible to upgrade your CoC with less sailing time. For example, as an alternative to 3 years sailing time as officer, 2 years of experience may be sufficient, providing 1 of those years was sailed as chief mate (certified!). Use our flow charts or the Kiwa Register assessment matrix to see what applies.
If you have a foreign certificate as an officer, you will need a Dutch endorsement of your certificate to sail on a ship under the Dutch flag. The Netherlands only recognises certificates of competency from countries with which an agreement has been made: (https://puc.overheid.nl/nsi/doc/PUC_86961_14/4/)
Validity: An endorsement is not a stand-alone document and is only valid as long as the underlying certificate of competency is valid. The certificate of competency must be kept on board with the endorsement. When the certificate of competency is renewed, a new endorsement must also be applied for.
Radio operating certificate: In the case of nautical officers such as officer in charge of a navigational watch, chief-mates and masters, the expiry dates of the radio operating certificate and the certificate of competency may not be the same. In this case, the expiry date is the same as the earliest expiry date of the two.
Certificate of Legislation and Public Authority: This is issued after completion of a ‘Dutch law assessment’. Masters who wish to apply for Dutch endorsement must have this certificate. Two training institutes offer this law test: STC in Rotterdam and DRTC in Groningen and Vlissingen. It is now possible to take the examination online.
As a rating
Seafarers with a foreign rating certificate of competency are allowed to sail on Dutch ships with their foreign CoC, assuming that the STCW standards are met and the issuing country has an agreement with the Netherlands or is on the IMO White List. They, therefore, do not need to apply for an endorsement.
As long as you have sufficient sailing time in the last 5 years (or 6 months) you can renew your certificate of competency, even if it has expired.
If this is not the case, there are three other options below:
To renew a certificate of competency that expired less than 5 years ago:
- Obtain a new certificate of knowledge (depending on the training institute and situation, this can be done using a previously acquired competency (PAC) procedure)
- 3 months in a relevant position but not in function (as trainee), in the 6 months preceding the date of the renewal application.
- By using an ‘official certificate of competence’, 3 months of sailing time in a relevant lower position within the main crew, within the 6 months preceding the date of the renewal application. This certificate must be applied for by the Kiwa Register. This option is not suitable for everyone, as there is not a ‘relevant lower function’ for every function.
There is only one option for renewing a certificate that expired more than 5 years ago:
- Obtain a new certificate of knowledge (depending on the training institute and the situation, this can be done using a previously acquired competency (PAC) procedure).
Of course, all these options require that you present a valid seafarer medical examination and valid training certificates when applying.
Sometimes there is uncertainty about which medical certificate issued by a foreign doctor is recognized by the Dutch flag state.
Flag states typically have two lists of doctors that are appointed to carry out seafarer medical examinations for the flag state:
- A list of national doctors.
- A list of doctors in other countries. These are foreign doctors that have been appointed to carry out medical examinations in the name of the flag state.
If a doctor – either national or foreign – is appointed by a flag state, they are allowed to use the format of that flag state’s medical certificate.
Next to this, flag states may recognize each others’ medical certificates just as they may recognize each others’ training certificates or CoCs.
So medical certificates that have been issued by foreign doctors will be recognized by your flag state:
- If the foreign doctor is appointed by your flag state. The list of foreign doctors that are appointed by the Dutch flag state can be downloaded here.
- If the foreign doctor is appointed by another flag state, whose medical certificates are recognized by your flag state. The Dutch flag state recognizes medical certificates from these countries. Please note that this list is not the same and much smaller than the list of countries whose training certificates and CoCs are recognized by The Netherlands.
Moral of the story: In finding out whether a medical certificate will be recognized by your flag state, not the nationality of the doctor but the template of the certificate is leading!
2 Points to consider when applying for a specific certificate of competency
- The following applies to all certificates of competency: Your attained certificate of knowledge determines your maximum obtainable rating.
- You can apply for an initial certificate of competency up to 4 years after the issue of your certificate of knowledge. Once you have been granted your initial certificate, you do not have to present your certificate of knowledge every time you renew or upgrade your rating. It is assumed that your knowledge is kept up to date by performing sufficient sailing time and refresher training.
If you sail in the position of maritime officer, half of your sailing days are considered to be mate’s days and the other half engineer’s days. If you have one or more positions as officer of a navigational watch / chief mate or engineer on your certificate in addition to maritime officer, you will have to sail twice as many days as a maritime officer to meet the sailing requirement for the other positions.
For example, your certificate shows both the maritime officer and chief mate position. To renew the chief mate position, you will need to demonstrate that you have completed 360 days as a chief mate over the past 5 years. If in this period you have only sailed as a maritime officer, you must have sailed as a maritime officer for 2×360 = 720 days in the same period.
Conversely, to renew your maritime officer qualification, you may have sailed half of the required days as a chief mate and the other half as an engineer.
Combinations are also allowed: for example, 200 days as a maritime officer, 80 days as a chief mate and 80 days as an engineer add up to:
- 200+80+80 = 360 days as a maritime officer.
- 200/2+80 = 180 days as chief mate
- 200/2+80 = 180 days as engineer
Unlike other maritime training programmes, when finishing the Enkhuizer Maritime School (EZS) you will not receive a certificate of knowledge. Instead, after completing the theoretical part, you will receive a diploma. This diploma, in combination with a completed workbook, entitles you to a certificate of proficiency as officer in charge of navigational watch or chief mate for the sailing ships (grote of kleine zeilvaart). The certificate of proficiency is proof of completion of both the theoretical and the practical parts of the education. Both the task book and the certificate of proficiency are issued by the EZS: www.ezs.nl.
The same applies to the certificates of proficiency as to the certificates of knowledge from other education courses – you can apply for a certificate of competency up to 4 years after they have been issued.
To apply for rating forming part of navigational watch on sailing vessels, it is possible to demonstrate sailing time spent on inland sailing vessels, the so-called ‘bruine vloot’. The following documents are requested to prove this sailing time:
- A copy of the vessel’s ‘certificaat van onderzoek’ (CVO);
- Days stamped by the SAB in the ‘dienstboekje OR a sailing time declaration from the captain with signature and company details (see chapter Sailing time).
Our experience shows that based on this sailing time it is also possible to apply for a Coco for rating forming part of a navigational watch for all ships, even if this is not explicitly mentioned. We recommend ticking both positions in the application.
This option is not available for applications for officer competencies.
The rules concerning the certificates of competency for sailing ships under 500 GT are detailed in a separate regulation: Regeling Bemanning Zeegaande Zeilschepen (RBZZ) (the Regulation Crew of seagoing vessels). The most important differences compared to other certificates of competency:
Sailing time: The RBZZ does not calculate in years, but in seasons, whereby a season counts as 180 days. The sailing time required to upgrade your certificate of competency is expressed in seasons. To renew a certificate of competency you must demonstrate 1 season of sailing time in the last 5 years, which is 180 days instead of 360. The possibility to renew based on 90 days of sailing time in the last 6 months remains the same for these CoC’s.
First mate sailing on ships < 500 GT: This certificate does not exist. Instead, it is permitted to sail as chief mate on sailing ships < 500 GT with the qualification ‘officer in charge of a navigational watch’ for sailing vessels under 500 GT. The Dutch flag has issued a statement to this effect, which can be found as a download on our website.
The rules concerning the certificates of competency for sailing ships under 500 GT are detailed in a separate regulation: the Regulation Crew of seagoing vessels (Regeling Bemanning Zeegaande Zeilchepen (RBZZ)). The most important differences compared to other sailing certificates of competency:
Sailing time: The RBZZ does not calculate in years, but in seasons, whereby a season counts as 180 days. The sailing time required to increase your certificate of competency is expressed in seasons. To renew a certificate of competency you must demonstrate 1 season of sailing time in the last 5 years, which is 180 days instead of 360. The possibility to renew based on 90 days of sailing time in the last 6 months remains the same for these competencies.
First mate sailing on ships below 500 GT: This certificate does not exist. Instead, it is permitted to sail as chief mate on sailing ships below 500 GT with the qualification ‘Mate in charge of a watch for sailing vessels under 500 GT’. The Dutch flag has issued a statement to this effect, which can be found as a download on our website.
3 Sailing time
To avoid disappointment, it is important to know what requirements your sailing time must meet when applying for/renewing/upgrading your certificate of competency.
Submission using a seaman’s book or sailing time declaration
Sailing time can be submitted in two ways: via the seaman’s book (with the master’s signature) or using a sailing time declaration. A sailing time declaration can be drawn up by your shipping company.
On professional vessels
Sailing time must be acquired on professionally operated ships. If the ship on which you sail has an IMO number, then stating this IMO number is sufficient. For a ship that does not have an IMO number, KIWA will request you to provide proof of the professional nature of the ship. Documents that can be used for this are:
- ‘de Zeebrief’ or another kind of certificate of registration
- Chamber of Commerce (KvK) extract from the shipowner/operator
- Brochures, website, etc. showing the business activity
KIWA assesses whether the evidence submitted is convincing.
In the correct position
We often experience that sailing time is rejected because the position in the seaman’s book does not correspond with the position on the certificate of competency. For example, the position in the seaman’s book is higher than the position on the CoC, ‘chief mate’ is listed while at that time the person was only rated as ‘officer of navigational watch’.
Another common error is two positions being listed for the same period, for example, ‘chief-mate/engineer’. Because KIWA is unable to determine in which position the applicant sailed, the sailing time is rejected in its entirety.
When sailing time that has not been noted correctly is rejected, it is still possible to demonstrate sailing time in a specified position using a sailing time declaration signed by your shipping company for the same period.
At the back of the seaman’s book, there is a list of abbreviations for all sailing positions known in the Netherlands. To unambiguously demonstrate the position in which you sail, it is advisable to use these abbreviations.
Certificates of competency are issued by branch or industry: merchant navy, fishery, sailing or navy.
Transferring from one industry to another is only possible by obtaining a certificate of knowledge for the new industry.
If you have 3 months of sailing time in the new industry, you may use the sailing time you had already accumulated in your old industry to upgrade your competence in the new industry. For example, you have been a master on sailing ships for years and you have just attained a certificate of knowledge in merchant shipping. Based on that certificate of knowledge, you will receive your first CoC for merchant navy officer in charge of a navigational watch / chief officer. After you have accumulated 3 months of experience in this rating, you may add your previous sailing time to your merchant navy sailing time and apply for an upgrade in your merchant navy rating.
Once you have certificates of competency in different industries, the sailing time you accumulate in one industry can also be used to renew the certificate of competency in the other industry. This sailing time cannot be used to upgrade the rating in the other branch.
It is possible to renew a certificate based on experience other than sea time. The positions that qualify are listed in Article 10.7 of the Seafarers’ Regulations (see link below).
NOTE: Instead of 12 months (360 days), 24 months (720 days) experience in the last 5 years is required to renew for these positions. Upgrading your CoC is not possible based on alternative experience. https://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0032140/2019-11-15#Paragraaf10_Artikel10.7
4 STCW training
Depending on the position in which you sail, you will be required to produce several STCW training certificates when applying for a certificate of competency. These are training courses that meet the standard set out in the STCW Convention, an international treaty defining training requirements for seafarers.
Several of the STCW courses have an expiry date of 5 years. Depending on your level of competence, when you apply for a renewal, you must show valid certificates for one or more of these refresher courses, which concern safety and medical training.
In the flowcharts, you can see which refresher courses apply for each certificate of competency.
Refresher safety training
This may be one or more of the following training courses:
- Basic safety training (STCW section A-VI/1-1 to 1-4)
- Advanced fire fighting (STCW section A-VI/3)
- Proficiency in survival craft (other than fast rescue boats) (STCW section A-VI/2-1)
- Proficiency in fast rescue boats (STCW section A-VI/2-2)
For these courses, you must ALWAYS follow a refresher course to maintain valid certification.
Refresher medical training
These are the training courses:
- Medical first aid (STCW section A-VI/4-1)
- Medical care (STCW section A-VI/4-2)
When applying for an officer’s licence for the first time, a valid medical training certificate is always necessary.
The refresher requirement for this training applies ONLY to
- masters; and
- crew members responsible for the management of medical equipment on board.
Therefore, masters are required to produce valid certificates of their medical training(s) even when renewing their certificates of competency.
If you are not a master, you can renew your certificate of competency without having to provide a valid medical training certificate. However, you may still have to repeat your medical training as you are responsible for managing the medical equipment on board. Whether there is a crew member in addition to the master who has this responsibility on board, and who that is, is agreed by the master with the shipowner – so your employer will be able to inform you.
Validity of a Medical Care certificate
A Dutch Medical Care certificate is not valid if you do not also have a valid Medical First Aid certificate. Some other countries issue one certificate for both training courses under the name Medical Care. The certificate must then refer to the STCW sections for both training courses.
My STCW certificate has expired, what to do?
When your STCW certificate has expired, you may be eligible to follow a refresher training. When you have a valid certificate of competency, you can often participate with a refresher. If you don’t have this then you will have to follow the basic training. Please contact the training institute where you want to follow the refresher training.
To provide STCW-training, a training institute must be recognised by its flag state. You can find a list of recognised Dutch training institutes here on the Netherlands Shipping Inspectorate (NSI) website.
Training courses provided by a foreign training institute will be recognised by the Netherlands if:
- the institute is recognised by the maritime authorities of the country concerned; AND
- the country in question has an STCW-agreement with the Netherlands.
Click here for an overview of countries with which the Netherlands has such an agreement.
©Rood Boven Groen 2024. All rights reserved. Rood Boven Groen is not responsible for misinterpretations or errors in this publication.