“Forged, fake or fraudulently obtained certificates not only present an unfair challenge to the professional seafarers who have studied hard – often at considerable expense – to gain their legitimate certificates, but also pose a huge threat to safety. With yachts becoming not only bigger but also increasingly more sophisticated and technologically advanced, it is more important than ever that those who operate them are properly trained and qualified,” explains Andrew Linington, head of communications at Nautilus.
Linington provides us with some supportive figures: one inquiry into substandard shipping heard that up to 80 per cent of certificates from some of the world’s major crew supply regions were fraudulent; associated research found that 82 per cent of seafarers and employers had come across forged certificates of competency in the past five years, and of these, 41 per cent reported having detected forged basic safety training certificates, 27 per cent had reported sea service record books and 18 per cent had detected forced OOW (deck) certificates. Another study carried out for the European Commission in 2006, Linington adds, stated that almost one in ever 10 seafarers around the world had direct or indirect experience of fraudulent certificates.
"Responsibility for the issue and authentication of certificates of qualification rests with flag states and it is clear that many are failing to discharge their responsibilities." - Andrew Linington
“We have long held concerns about fraudulent seafarer certification and only this month we wrote to the UK shipping minister following an investigation into the grounding of a ship off the UK coast,” explains Lininginton. “This probe discovered that the chief officer and another officer on the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged ship had fraudulent certificates of competency issued by Panamanian Maritime Authority employees who were working in collusion with a training organisation in Turkey in what the MAIB described as ‘a sophisticated fraud that was allowed to prosper’.”
And there are serious questions to be asked of the flag states at this point, says Linington. “Responsibility for the issue and authentication of certificates of qualification rests with flag states and it is clear that many are failing to discharge their responsibilities.”
However, Linington adds there are difficulties facing Port State Control inspectors in verifying seafarers’ certificates, and the quality of certificates varies drastically. The UK MCA CoC book, for example, has no less than 30 different security features including stitching patterns, holograms, watermarked paper, colour printing, gold leaf designs and watermarked laminated photographs of the bearer. “In contrast, some other major seafaring nations continue to print their certificates on cardboard,” says Lingington.
There is a clear need to tackle this problem and push for international standards, and The Crew Report asks readers to share their thoughts below on how we can achieve this.