Information for seafarers

Seemans throwing their hats up in the air
Seemans celebrating graduation. © CCO

The FDFA's Swiss Maritime Navigation Office issues seaman's books to crew members of Swiss nationality, but no certificates; these must be obtained abroad. The shipping companies provide six-month training internships for young sailors.

Training and certificates

Art. 66 of the Maritime Navigation Act authorises the SMNO to issue seaman's books to crew members of Swiss nationality. The applicant or, more accurately, his employer must supply proof that the request meets a need.

Switzerland has no organisation proposing, in the maritime navigation sector, courses or training that satisfy the demands of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Thus, the SMNO issues neither Certificates of Competency (CoC) nor Certificates of Proficiency (CoP) under the 2010 STCW Convention (Manila Amendments). The CoC (for all ships) and the CoP (for tankers) obtained abroad are recognised for service onboard ships sailing under the Swiss flag (upon request, an endorsement is issued).

The Swiss Maritime Navigation Office draws the attention of sailors and other interested parties to the fact that all required courses and certificates must be obtained abroad, in a country listed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as fulfilling the provisions of the STCW Convention (provisions of rules 1/7 and 1/8 must be in practice by the state member of the IMO).

Kontakt für Bord-Ausbildungen

Berufsbildungsstelle Seeschifffahrt (BBS)
Buschhöhe 8
28357 Bremen

Telefon: +49 4211 73 67-0
Telefax: +49 4211 73 67-15

Kontakt für Schifffahrtskaufleute

Zentralverband Deutscher Schiffsmakler (ZVDS)
Schopenstehl 15
20095 Hamburg

Telefon: +49 40 32 60 82
Telefax: +49 40 33 19 95

The STCW Convention

Provisions pertaining to sailors working in international commercial shipping are standardised under the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). As the Federal Assembly voted on 9 March 1987 in favour of joining the convention, its provisions have applied to Switzerland since 15 March 1988. The Convention was strengthened in 2010 with the adoption of the Manila Amendments, applied as of 1 January 2012.

The STCW Convention, List of member states

The medical certificate for seamen conforming to the STCW Convention

Anyone working on a commercial ship must have a medical certificate in conformity with the STCW Convention (STCW Code Section A-1/9), issued by a body approved by the Swiss Maritime Navigation Office. This certificate is issued for a maximum of two years.

Medical certificates issued abroad are recognised for service on merchant vessels operating under the Swiss flag, if they meet the provisions of the STCW Convention (STCW Code Section A-1/9).

Swiss service for medical examinations of merchant seamen

azb ag (Occupational Health Centre Basel)
Güterstrasse 107 (Magnet-Areal)
4133 Pratteln
Tel. +41 61 821 82 60

Information for apprentice seamen

The international shipping industry is a highly competitive labour market. For those in good health and holding a school-leaving certificate, exciting career opportunities exist in the maritime shipping industry and related branches.

Any candidate interested in a training programme (normally, six straight months at sea) must apply directly to the shipping companies, with the following documents obtained at their own expense:

  • Medical certificate according to the STCW Convention

  • The STCW "Basic Safety training" Certificate (must be obtained abroad; for course-providers, see Maritime Training Pilot)

All training as a ship's officer (on deck or in the engine room) must be done abroad. The SMNO offers a small number of internships for graduates of maritime academies.