Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehrswirtschaft Post-Logistik Telekommunikation (BG Verkehr)
Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg

Kay Matthias Becker
Phone: +49 40 361 37-278
Fax: +49 40 361 37-204



Webcode for this Content: 16818584

Ships of traditional build

Not any old ship is a ship of traditional build

The public understanding of a historic ship does not always coincide with the official term „ship of traditional build“. In ship safety legislation the criterion is not the historic appearance of a ship. Rather it is important that the ship is preserved in its original condition or has been constructed as a replica of a historic original and that it is not commercially operated. According to German law ships of traditional build are:

  • Historic vessels and replicas thereof,
  • operated solely for non-profit purposes and
  • used for maintaining the maritime heritage, for social or similar purposes, and
  • having a hull length of not more than 55 m.

The legal basis for ships of traditional build is the "Schiffssicherheitsverordung" (Ship Safety Ordinance), Annex 1a Part 3.

Approval as a ship of traditional build

The ship safety division of the BG Verkehr is responsible for the issuance of a safety certificate for ships of traditional build. It considers in each individual case whether the criteria for approval as a ship of traditional build are met. Specially trained experts of the ship safety division survey each applicant. The ship safety division is supported in its assessment by the „Gemeinsame Kommission für historische Wasserfahrzeuge e. V.“ (GSHW, joint commission for historic vessels), is, however not bound by their advice.

bild traditionsschiffe 

Safe manning for ships of traditional build

Masters of ships of traditional build need not hold certificates of competency as required in merchant shipping. Depending on the ship’s length and the cruising area the Sportseeschiffer (licence for offshore cruising)- and the Sporthochseeschifferschein (licence for ocean cruising)-  are sufficient. Safe manning for ships of traditional build is regulated with the German "Verordnung über den Erwerb von Sportsee- und Sporthochseeschifferscheinen und die Besetzung von Traditionsschiffen" (Regulation on cruising licences and on safe manning for ships of traditional build).

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Status as a ship of traditional build is often controversial

Repeatedly, controversies regarding the approval of a ship of traditional build have been reported by the press. Owners of older ships often blame the responsible ship safety division of the BG Verkehr for being too restrictive in its approval practice. What are the reasons for this conflict?

Ships of traditional build are privileged compared to commercial passenger ships. Due to their design and construction these ships need not meet all safety requirements applicable to modern passenger ships. Furthermore, masters of ships of traditional build do not need the certificates of competency required in commercial shipping. Nevertheless, ships of traditional build frequently carry many passengers which are entitled to the same safety standards as applicable to commercial passenger ships. Therefore, approval as a ship of traditional build must be restricted to ships whose preservation and operation serves the maritime heritage. Otherwise passenger ships operating under normal terms would be discriminated against. Even for operators of historic ships it is important that not any old ship benefits from unfair privileges. Recently the approval practice of the ship safety division has been confirmed by several court cases.

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