Frequently Asked Questions

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Seafarer Medical Fitness Certificates

Do I need a medical certificate?

Every seafarer on a seagoing ship is required to have a certificate of medical fitness. 

The requirement does not apply to anyone employed on a fishing vessel, a pleasure vessel, an offshore installation while its on its working station. 

Guidance on who is a seafarer is given in MGN 471 (M)

Where can I find a list of UK Approved Doctors?

To view the current lists of MCA Approved Doctors (ADs) click here

Which medical certificate?

To work on any ship operating internationally, or for any UK STCW Certificate of Competency, a seafarer needs an ENG 1 or acceptable equivalent.

For small commercial vessels operating under the UK statutory Codes, and for crew member (other than the master) on some domestic passenger ships, an ML5 certificate is acceptable, but may not be internationally recognised.

Further information is in MSN 1839 (M).

Is a UK Oil and Gas medical acceptable instead of an ENG 1 or ML5 certificate?

The UK Oil and Gas medical is an industry/employer medical, not a statutory medical and so is not MLC-compliant. However, it may be suitable for someone working on an offshore vessel an an offshore worker (rather than as a member of the crew).

MGN 472 (M) gives details on substantial equivalences

What is an acceptable equivalent medical certificate?

An acceptable equivalent medical certificate for an ENG 1 is a seafarer medical certificate issued by one of the national administrations listed in MSN 1815 (M)

What does a seafarer medical cost?

ENG 1: The maximum fee for the standard medical certificate is given on the Medical Certificate page of this website. This fee is set in regulations, and is periodically reviewed. If additional tests are required (e.g. audiometry, step test) the Approved Doctor may charge extra for these, but should agree this with the seafarer or their employer before carrying out the test. If the seafarer is employed, the employer should meet the cost of the seafarer medical examination.

ML5: There is no statutory fee for the ML5 report. Check with the Doctor before they complete the report.

If seafarers renew their ENG 1 early (e.g. because it will expire while they are away at sea) can they get credit for this in the validity of their new ENG 1?

This is not provided for in existing UK regulations, in STCW Manila Amendments, or MLC, 2006. However, the principle of "credit" for early revalidation in respect of Certificates of Competency is in Guideline BI/11 of STCW Manila Amendments and we will explore with other administrations whether they think this can be applied to medicals.

Does the seafarer need to take any medical forms with them for the medical?

ENG 1:  The Approved Doctor has all the documentation. It is not possible to obtain a blank certificate in advance.

ML5:  Download and print this form MSF 4112 Rev 0916 which the seafarer should take with them to the Doctor who is completing it.

Hard copies can also be obtained from MCA Marine Offices or from the RYA. 

What else should the seafarer take with them?

The Doctor or their receptionist should give advice on what to bring when the appointment is made.  The seafarer should take any glasses/contact lenses they use (including any spares) and any current medication.  If they have recently been in hospital or under a consultant, it may save time if they take with them any reports received from the Doctor or a letter from their GP giving the outcome of any investigation or treatment. 

What ID is required by seafarers when attending for a medical?

A seafarer attending a medical examination must produce an official document which includes a photograph for example passport, which is then checked by the Approved Doctor.  The Approved Doctor must record, on the seafarer's medical records, the form of ID produced.  If the seafarer is known to the Approved Doctor the production of ID may not seem necessary for the conduct of the examination, but it may help a port state control inspector at some future date to check the validity of the certificate for that seafarer. 

Alternatives to a passport include a photocard driving licence or, for new entrants, a current official student pass with photograph. 

What is involved in an ENG 1 medical?

The doctor or practice nurse will ask questions about the seafarer's medical history. The seafarer will be weighed and measured, and will be required to provide a urine sample. There is also a physical examination, eye test (colour vision and distant and near vision) and a hearing test. 

Will the seafarer get the result on the day?

Usually, yes, but if the seafarer fails the colour vision test they may be referred for a supplementary test which may be available on the same day.  If the doctor has any concerns about the seafarer's fitness, they may refer them the their GP for further tests, in which case they may be unable to issue a certificate immediately. If there is expected to be any significant dealy in their decision, however, they will normally issue a "temporarily unfit" certificate. 

The seafarer has failed Ishihara plates screening in their medical examination. What happens next?

Deck department: The seafarer will be referred for a lantern test at Southampton or Aberdeen Marine Offices or City University in London. The lantern test is free of charge in Southampton or Aberdeen Marine Office, but is chargeable in London.  The cost of travel must be borne by the seafarer or their employer. 

The Approved Doctor should wait for the result of the lantern test before completing the certificate. If the seafarer passes, the Approved Doctor will issue the ENG 1 certificate.

If the seafarer fails, the Approved Doctor will need to consider the seafarer's role, as the restriction will normally be "Not fit for lookout duties at night. Not eligible for MCA Certificate of Competency, or Deck Rating Certificate."   However, if the person is a Deck Cadet they will be found permanently unfit, as they will not be able to complete the required training. 

Engineering Department:  The seafarer can be referred to an optometrist for a City University or Farnsworth D15 colour vision test. If the seafarer fails the Approved Doctor will issue the ENG 1 certificate with the restriction "Not fit for work with colour-coded cables or equipment" and tick "not fit for lookout duties". 

Other departments (catering, hotel, etc): The Approved Doctor will issue the certificate with "not fit for lookout duties." 

Privately contracted armed security personnel: are not considered seafarers for the purposes of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), but may request an ENG 1. Navigational duties do not form part of their role on board ship, but for clarity, if they fail the Ishihara test they should be given a restriction of "No navigational lookout duties". 

If a seafarer has previously failed a lantern test and been issued with a restricted certificate, does he/she meed to take another lantern test?

No, colour vision does not normally change significantly over time. Having failed a lantern test at any time, a seafarer cna be presumed to have the same colour deficiency, and should be failed or issued with a restricted certificate. The Marine Office conducting the lantern test should provide the seafarer with a letter recording the results or decision following the test, for the seafarer to produce at the next medical examination.


Can a seafarer appeal more than once, following successive examinations?

No if it is for the same restriction or reason for failure. 

What does "Permanently unfit" mean?

Permanently unfit is considered to stand for at least 5 years. If a seafarer wanted to undergo another medical during that time, they would need to supply clinical evidence demonstrating the reversal of the condition for which they were originally failed. 

Medical Stores

Where is the UK list of statutory treatments for medical stores?

The current M Notice is Merchant Shipping Notice MSN 1768 (M) (also an amendment notice with the same number)

Can alternative medicines and quantities be substituted for the treatments listed in the Medical Stores MSN?

In the tables in MSN 1768 (M), the items in column 2 are mandatory. The remaining columns (specifications and quantities) are recommended.

Owners and operators may, on the advice of a qualified medical practitioner or pharmacist, determine whether any additional or different quanitities, products or equipment are required, taking into account the factors identified below and any other relevant consideration the nature of the voyage and in particular: 

  • Ports of call, destination and duration; 
  • Type of work to be carried out during the voyage; 
  • nature of the cargo; 
  • number of crew

For example, anti-malarial drugs may be appropriate if a ship is operating in tropical areas. 

Where can medical stores be obtained?

Any pharmacist should be able to deal with your request, but shipping chemists (do a search on the internet) will have these stores readily available and will be familiar with the requirements and rules that apply. 

MCA will not recommend or endorse anyone in particular.

First Aid Training

First Aid Training

Information on First Aid Training can be obtained by emailing Seafarer Training and Certification Branch or by telephoning +44 (0) 2380 329231