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Here you find the most frequently asked questions related to the German flag, arranged according to the subjects addressed by this Website

  • Do I need to rebuild a ship at a change of flag?

With a good and safe ship no major modifications are necessary. In the nautical and technical field there are only a few additional European safety requirements that go beyond the international standard. Equivalent alternative solutions are possible as well. In individual cases, the transitional arrangements for the implementation of the German and European safety standards can be agreed upon. A listing of the ship's safety standards under German flag can be found on our changing flag pages.

  • Who can help me find the appropriate person in the authorities when changing flag?

On the right-hand side of our changing flag pages are the respective "related contacts" with the contact details of the appropriate contact person and/or authority. In addition, the button “Contact details” in the top right-hand corner of this website allows an index-search by topic for the competent contact persons.

  • What is the difference between the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) and the German Maritime Labour Act (Seearbeitsgesetz)?

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is a treaty under international law to define minimum standards for working and living conditions of seafarers on a global scale. The Maritime Labour Act is the German law which implements the international standard in national legislation.

  • What has to be included in a seafarer's employment agreement for it to be consistent with the Maritime Labour Convention and the Maritime Labour Act?

The minimum contents of a seafarer's employment agreement are established in § 28 of the Martime Labour Act. For guidance, we have developed a specimen employment agreement for the German flag.

  • Who is responsible for the approval of private seafarer recruitment and placement services?

Private seafarer recruitment and placement services are supervised by the state in which they are headquartered. Recruitment and placement services need to be licensed by that state only. Seafarer recruitment and placement services based in Germany need a licence by the ship safety division of the BG-Verkehr. Further information can be found under "Recruitment of Seafarers".

  • How is a ship under the German flag to be manned?

Manning varies as do ships. According to the German Safe Manning Regulation the master has to be a citizen of an EU or EEA State, there is however no general requirement regarding the minimum crew depending on type and trade of ship. The shipowner submits a manning proposal which will be assessed by the administration. The experts in the ship safety division of the BG-Verkehr will be glad to advise you. For further information please refer to “Manning”.

  • Do German tariff agreements apply automatically to a ship under the German flag?

No, the German wage tariff agreement (HTV See) and collective tariff agreement (MTV See) apply only, if the shipowning company is a member of the tariff community of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) and in addition the individual seafarer is a member of the German seafarers’ trade union ver.di (known as double tariff). Follow the link for further information regarding application and legal implications of tariff agreements in ocean shipping.

  • What is my annual holiday entitlement and how will I be compensated for overtime and Sunday, holiday and night work as a seafarer on board a German flagged ship?

Every seafarer has a minimum annual holiday entitlement of 30 calendar days (§ 57 of the Maritime Labour Act). Depending on one's individual work performance, compensation days of Sunday, holiday and night work (§ 52 of the Maritme Labour Act) as well as of overtime are added. This compensatory time-off is often granted to be realized in combination with holidays. For example, the Manteltarifvertrag See (MTV-See) provides a generalized holidays/time-off compensation of 12,5 days/month. In this case, any of the seafarer's entitlement regarding holidays, time-off and overtime compensation is fulfilled.

  • I want to go to sea. Where can I get information?

The experts of the Berufsbildungsstelle Seeschifffahrt (maritime vocational training center) in Bremen provide comprehensive information on job opportunities in ocean shipping. The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) also supplies extensive material on training and careers at sea.

  • I hold a foreign certificate of competency and intend to work on a ship under the German flag. To whom shall I apply?

The Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH) in Hamburg is responsible for the endorsement of foreign certificates of competency on ships under the German flag. Their experts will be glad to advise you. Find further information under "Anerkennung ausländischer Bescheinigungen" (at the moment in German only).

  • How can I prepare myself for the simplified examination for maritime radio certificates ROC / GOC / UBZ at the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie (BSH)?

Bookshops have various training material for SRC and LRC on offer.

Both official catalogues of examination questions, the one for SRC and the one for LRC, have been applied since January 2011 and provide a firm base to prepare for the simplified examination for maritime radio certificates (Both catalogues have been published on the website www.elwis.de.)

For the GOC examination both question catalogues (LRC and SRC) are relevant, for ROC / UBZ examinations only the SRC question catalogue.

Participation in a refresher course held by a competent training facility of German Federal States, the German Armed Forces or the German Federal Police is recommended for those unwilling to study on their own. Find information on approved training courses under Zugelassene Lehrgänge - Seefunk (at the moment in German only).

ROC = Restricted Operator’s Certificate
GOC = General Operator’s Certificate
UBZ = UKW-Betriebszeugnis für Funker (VHF Operator’s Certificate)
SRC = Short Range Certificate
LRC = Long Range Certificate

  • Where can I be trained in ship security?

All BSH-approved training courses on ship security can be found under Zugelassene Lehrgänge - Schiffssicherheit und Gefahrenabwehr (at the moment in German only).

  • How can I get the certificate of proficiency for ship security?

Since 1 January 2014 the certificate of proficiency for ship security can only be issued to participants of an approved training course for ship security. From 1 January 2017 all seafarers will have to hold such a certificate when serving on board of ships subject to the ISPS code (i. e. all ships of 500 GT and above and passenger ships engaged on international voyages). The BSH issues certificates of proficiency for ship security for seafarers on ships under the German flag. For applications please use the appropriate form.

  • I am a seafarer and have so far served under foreign flags. How do I benefit from statutory German social security when I change now to the German flag?

Statutory social security in Germany provides a high level of security which private insurance alone cannot match. As an example, the benefits of the statutory accident insurance in case of accidents at the workplace are extremely comprehensive. Here you can find further information on the German statutory social security.

  • What must I, as an employer, observe as regards pension insurance?

Statutory social security data for German and European seafarers must be reported electronically. If non-European seafarers shall be exempted from the compulsory pension insurance scheme, the appropriate applications must be submitted to the German pension fund (Knappschaft-Bahn-See). This is where you can find the application form for the exemption from the pension insurance for non-European seafarers.

  • What do I, as a shipowner, have to consider when I want to use privately contracted armed security personnel against pirates on a German flagged ship?

You need to see that the security company that employs the armed security personnel has a licence issued by the Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle (BAFA, Federal Office of Economics and Export Control). In addition, you have to apply for an addendum to the ship security plan (SSP) at the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) as well as report the deployment of privately contracted armed security personnel to the German Point of Contact. Click here for further information on privately contracted armed security personnel.

  • Where can I get the current ISM information on topics regarding the German flag?

Our ISM circulars contain current information on safety management under the German flag. You are welcome to be added to our mailing list of the ISM circulars - please send us a short e-mail: ism@bg-verkehr.de.


  • May the container be weighed on a vehicle in accordance with Method No.1?

Yes, clause 11.1 of the circular MSC.1/1475 is to be observed.

  • How is the certification arranged for those using Method No.2?

The application of Method No.2 is an alternative to weighing the packed container. Using the calculation method, the single masses of the cargo, dunnage and securing material as well as the tare of the container have to be added up.

Those who use this method must be certified for it. A current quality certification (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 28001) or a recognition as AEO are sufficient. if the certified calculation method is included in the appropriate standards and provisions. A special certification for the determination of the gross ass of cargo containers is not required and there is also no additional approval procedure for the application of Method 2 in Germany.

For companies without a valid quality certification, Method 2 can be applied if the model procedure BG Verkehr has developed, and which is provided in our "documents" section, is adhered to.

  • Can the manufacturer specifications be used with Method 2?

It is permissible to use manufacturer specifications about the single masses of packed cargo or dunnage and securing materials. It is however strongly advised to verify the specifications periodically by weighing oneself.

  • May Method No.2 be used for sawn timber?

There are no objections to that. Only for certain cargo items, such as scrap and cargo in bulk, are Method No.2 inappropriate.

  • How can the net mass (tare) of the container be determined when using Method No.2?

You can read the container’s net mass (tare) on the container door or copy it from a list provided by the shipping company, if applicable. This also applies when the weight of an empty container is given.

Weighing equipment

  • How are the requirements for weighing instruments for determining the gross mass of a cargo container regulated?

In Germany weighing instruments used for weighing packed containers have to be of accuracy class III (IV) of the EU Directive 2014/31/EC. When using Method No.2 weighing instruments of accuracy class III have to be used .

  • Do the weighing instruments have to be verified?

Verification is not a prerequisite for the use of weighing instruments for determining the gross mass of cargo containers. The weighing instruments have to be calibrated and certified. For different use, e.g. as public scales or to determine a price, an obligation to have the weighing instruments verified may apply based on verification regulation provisions. Before the acquisition of a weighing instrument, its purpose has to be thoroughly checked.

  • Are there additional tolerances?

The gross mass has to be determined as accurately as possible. Tolerances are specified by the inaccuracies (maximum permissible errors in service) of the used weighing instrument. During an inspection both the maximum permissible errors in service of the check weigher as well as the characteristics of the inspected container will be taken into account.

Different states

  • Which law applies if the shipper packs and weighs the container in country A, but loads it onto a ship in country B?

The shipper has to work in accordance with the legislation of country A and based on SOLAS, i.e. he has to use calibrated weighing instruments of the accuracy specifications of country A and – when using Method No.2 – has to be certified in accordance with the regulation of country A. Country B has to consider the regulations in place in country A during any inspections.

Transmission of the verified gross mass

  • How should the verified gross mass be transmitted?

The verified gross mass has to be documented by the shipper in the shipping documents. The document can be part of the shipping instructions to the shipping company or a separate communication. The documentation can also happen electronically. In any case, it has to be signed by a person authorized by the shipper. When electronic transmission is used, the signature may be made with simple electronic signature. SOLAS VI/2: “Reference to documents in this regulation does not preclude the use of electronic data processing (EDP) and electronic data interchange (EDI) transmission techniques as an aid to paper documentation.”

  • What exactly means the transmission has to be “sufficiently in advance"?

The transmission of the verified gross mass to the shipping company has to be sufficiently in advance to leave enough time to prepare a proper ship stowage plan. This can vary depending on the shipping company and is to a large extent dependent on the individual size of the ship. Therefore, what exactly “sufficiently in advance” means is determined by the shipping company. Public authorities will not set any provisions regarding this.


  • How will the checks look like?

There will be random checks of the ship stowage plans regarding the loading ban of containers without declaration of the verified gross mass. In Germany the checks of the weighing are done according to professional judgment and in dependence on the checking practices of neighboring states. When checks are being conducted, they will happen sufficiently in advance to the loading process to give the shipowners the opportunity, if necessary, to correct the ship stowage plan and decide about the load.

  • Who will bear the costs of the checks?

If the random check weighing was conducted without objection, the federal government will bear the costs. Otherwise the costs will be invoiced.

Consequences in case of non-compliance with the requirements

  • What happens if the verified gross mass is not available?

The container may not be loaded and is left at its current place.

  • What will happen with the container if the check weighing demonstrates that the actual gross mass deviates significantly from the given information?

If a check reveals that the gross mass was misstated, there will be a loading ban which will be effective until the verified gross mass is available. Under private law the consequences depend on the regulations that were agreed upon with the contractual partner. In the end the master decides whether a container can still be loaded with a late submission of the verified gross mass.

  • What do I have to consider with the newbuilding of a ship under German flag?

The easiest thing is to follow our "checklist for newbuildings". This is also where you can read the relevant information about equipment, plan approval and the legal bases.

  • Where can I find information on the equipment for recovery of persons from the water?

Here you can find the most relevant information about the equipment for recovery of persons fallen over board. We have also provided some films about the appropriate equipment (Recovery Systems) for you. Our specialist Captain Lange will gladly provide advice about this topic: peer.lange@bg-verkehr.de, phone: +49 40 361 37-319.

  • How much is charged for the medical fitness examination?

The examination of fitness for sea service is free of charge for young persons under the age of 18 and for employees and self-employed persons working in the shipping business and paying contributions for the occupational accident insurance to the BG Verkehr. Prior to the examination the recognized medical practitioners establish whether applicants are entitled to cost exemption. Click here for a specimen certificate of insurance facilitating cost exemption. For young persons it is sufficient to prove their age with their official identity card.
For everyone else the charge of an examination will be approximately €100, depending on the scope of the examination. Among others, seafarers under foreign flag or those who are only insured with either health or pension insurance have to pay the examination themselves.

  • How long will my medical certificate be valid?

Medical certificates for sea service in the deck or engine department are usually valid for two years. For young persons under the age of 18 the period of validity is limited to one year.

  • May also my family doctor carry out the medical fitness examination?

No, the medical fitness examinations may only be performed by physicians who have been authorized by the maritime medical service. Please find here the up-to-date list of recognized medical practitioners.

  • Who is responsible for the approval of the ballast water plants for ships?

In Germany the Federal Maritme and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) is resposible for the approval of the plants. For further information on this click here: environmental protection regarding ballast water.

  • When will the International Ship Recycling Convention (Hong Kong Convention) enter into force?

The convention will enter into force when at least 15 states with over 40% of the of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping have entered into a binding commitment. This is not yet the case. Find here the current status of this and other conventions of the International Maritime Organization IMO (under the heading "Summary Status for each Convention").

  • Is a new authorisation form for application to be submitted, when a ship is renamed and a new civil liability certificate (CLC) is applied for?

When a ship is renamed, a new civil liability certificate (CLC) is required and must therefore be applied for. However, a new authorization form for that ship is not necessary.

  • Is the tonnage tax restricted to ships under the German flag?

No, flying the German flag is no prerequisite for the application of the tonnage tax; tonnage tax may be used regardless of flag. It is however important that the ship’s operation is managed from German territory, in particular with regard to technical and to commercial aspects.

  • Which subsidies will I get, if I operate a ship under the German flag?

There are various kinds of financial support for German-flagged ships:

1. Subsidies for reducing ancillary labour costs
The federal government reimburses the shipowner upon application the complete paid employers' contributions to the social security.

2. Subsidies for training slots
For the creation of training slots, e.g. for ship mechanics, the federal government pays up to 32.000 € as subsidies to the shipowner/employer.

3. Wage tax deduction
The shipowner is entitled to retain 100% of the wage tax due for seafarers on German flagged ships.

4. Financial support by the training foundation
The foundation "Stiftung Schifffahrtsstandort Deutschland" grants financial support for training of junior seafarers. For junior officers up to 32.000 € may be paid annually.

Please click here for further information on financial support for the German flag.