UK notified the EU of its intention to leave under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March 2017


by Forkanul Quader (06N) 31 January 2019

You will be well aware that the UK notified the EU of its intention to leave under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March 2017. This triggered a two-year period during which the terms of the UK’s exit are to be agreed. This period is due to end on the 29th March 2019.

Subsequently, the UK and the EU agreed on guidelines for a proposed 21-month transitional period following the March 2019 exit date, during which time, most EU legislation would continue to apply. This proposed transitional period would end on 31st December 2020.

However, following the defeat in Parliament of the proposed withdrawal agreement earlier this month, and with a little over two months to go until Brexit, the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit whereby the UK leaves the EU with no transitional period remains a very real possibility.

In this scenario, shipping – as a trans boundary industry – is likely to be disproportionately affected by any disruption caused by a no deal agreement. One particular area of concern to Nautilus members is the continued recognition of UK CoCs by EU member states, and the ability of UK seafarers to continue to work on EU flagged vessels post-Brexit.

At present, every EU country recognises the certificates of competency issued to seafarers by other EU countries. The certificates must be accompanied by a ‘endorsement attesting recognition’ issued by the country recognising the certificate.

In order for certificates issued by countries outside the EU to be recognised (third countries), a request must be submitted to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). This organisation will carry out an assessment of that countries training and certification processes which, if successful, will allow EU member states to recognise the certificates issued by it – should they choose to do so. The country making the request is permitted to recognise the certificates in question while the inspection process takes place.

If the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, they would become a ‘third country’ and EU member states would be required to submit a request to EMSA to assess the UK’s training and certification before they would be permitted to issue new endorsements. This process can be long and arduous and, as has been recently indicated by the European Commission, the UK cannot expect any special treatment with regards to the timescale to carry out the inspection.

Existing endorsements would continue to be valid until their expiration, but it will not be possible to issue new endorsements or transfer existing endorsements between EU flag states.

Please be assured that Nautilus is working tirelessly in coordination with the UK, EU member state governments and, EU shipowner organisations to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent any disruption to UK seafarers working onboard EU flagged vessels in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

However, as there is still a high degree of uncertainty as to the eventual outcome of Brexit negotiations, Nautilus is advising those members who have endorsements on their CoCs from other EU member states, to renew those endorsements as soon as possible, so as to ensure the maximum period of validity post Brexit. In many instances this will require early revalidation of the UK CoC. Nautilus has been re-assured by the government that the MCA is sufficiently resourced to cope with this extra demand. You should also urge your employer to make contact with the Member State regulatory authority with a request that they continue to recognise UK CoCs after the UK leaves the EU.

Further information can be found here: or by contacting your industrial organiser.

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