BG Verkehr / Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit
Brandstwiete 1
20457 Hamburg

Oya Sönmez
Phone: +49 40 361 37-239
Fax: +49 40 361 37-204
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Webcode for this Content: 16818584

Ships of traditional build

Financial aid scheme for traditional ships published

Not any old ship is a ship of traditional build

Colloquially, a historic ship is understood to mean older ship which appears historic to the outsider. In ship safety legislation, however, not every ship that looks traditional is indeed a ship of traditional build. Rather, it is important that the ship is preserved in its original condition or has been constructed true to the original, and that it is not commercially operated.

According to German law, ships of traditional build are historic water craft whose presentation during a voyage is in the public interest. A historic water craft is, according to the German Ship Safety Ordinance (Schiffssicherheitsverordnung), a "ship built mainly with original materials which is worthy of preservation because of its build, construction, former purpose of use and rarity, and which essentially corresponds to the original condition when it was first built or to a historically significant state of build during a commercial period of use at a later time ".

The Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr can also recognize a rebuilding as a historic water craft where the combination of hull shape, propulsion and superstructures is not true to the original but where the overall appearance corresponds to a previous model which verifiably existed.

An individual equivalent to a historic water craft can also be:

  • a replica = a single reproduction of a documented individual historic model or
  • a training ship for sailing = a sailing ship of at least 24 m especially suitable for a sound training in traditional seamanship because of its size, rigging, complex ship operation as well as number of crew.

The operation of a ship of traditional build must serve non-material purposes, notably historical marine engineering and traditional seamanship must be imparted. The operators of ships of traditional build may only use the income, for example from accompanying guests, for the preservation and operation of their traditional ship.

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.

Upon application, the Ship Safety Division issues a safety certificate for ships of traditional build if

  • the ship is a historic water craft,
  • there is a public interest in the presentation during a voyage,
  • it is not a commercial ship operation (the operation of the ship serves non-material purposes, especially in regard to imparting historical marine engineering and traditional seamanship, according to its utilization concept and a verification report by a financial auditor),
  • surveyors of the Ship Safety Division or of a recognized classification society surveyed the ship and 
  • verified compliance with the provisions of the Ship Safety Ordinance

The operator is obliged to proof

  • the historic nature,
  • the original condition and
  • the history

of the ship with data, photographs and drawings. Additionally, he must also submit an expert's report if

  • the proof of the ship's history does not suffice or
  • the utilization concept is inadequate or
  • it is a rebuilding or replica.

The expert issuing the report that verifies these requirements has to be personally and professionally suited, reliable and impartial as well as approved by the BG Verkehr. The details are regulated in the relevant rules of procedure.

The safety certificate for ships of traditional build is valid for five years. In addition to the initial and renewal survey, an intermediate survey between the second and third year of the certificates term is required.

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 Sportseeschifferschein (license for offshore cruising) and the Sporthochseeschifferschein (licence for ocean cruising) (from 25 m length of the vessel with the additional entry "traditional shipping") are sufficient. Safe manning for ships of traditional build is regulated with the German "Sportseeseeschifferscheinverordnung" (Ordinance on cruising licences). It also gives detailed information about the required crew for traditional ships.

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Traditional ships on international voyages

Ship safety certificates of the BG Verkehr for traditional ships are national certificates. They do not have to be recognized by foreign states because there are no mandatory international or European regulations. International voyages require the agreement of the port state which the operator has to obtain.

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Financial aid scheme for traditional ships

Many owners of traditional ships will have to invest financially to meet the new safety requirements of the Ship Safety Ordinance. The Federal Government funds these investments with a financial aid policy, which is also meant to create an incentive to swiftly implement the new requirements. Operators of traditional ships will soon be able to apply for financial support of their projects at the "Bundesanstalt für Verwaltungsdienstleistungen" (BAV). The BAV will publish the respective application form on their website (www.bav.bund.de). The applications will be processed electronically via the system "easy-Online", but applications will additionally have to be submitted as hard copy with a signature.

Eligible for the aid will be any expenses that have become necessary under the new requirements that have entered into force on 14 March 2018 with the "Verordnung zur Änderung der schiffssicherheitsrechtlichen Vorschriften über Bau und Ausrüstung von Traditionsschiffen und anderen Schiffen, die nicht internationalen Schiffssicherheitsregeln unterliegen" (Ordinance amending ship safety provisions on the construction and equipment of ships of traditional build and other ships which do not fall under the international ship safety rules and regulations). Expenses in relation with existing rules are not eligible for this funding.

An application will be successful if the owner of the traditional ship arranged the renewal survey by the BG Verkehr within the usual time frame of this periodic survey. The survey report shows which new requirements may be funded. Along with the application, the shipowner has to submit cost estimates for the implementation of the requirements. If all required documents have been submitted, the Federal Government can support the planned conversion measures as a "Fehlbedarfsfinanzierung" (i.e. the amount is dependent on the expense as well as the financial capability of the applicant).

Questions about the application process will be answered by the BAV staff:

            Bundesanstalt für Verwaltungsdienstleistungen (BAV)
            Schloßplatz 9, 26603 Aurich
            Phone:          04941/602-678 (Montag bis Freitag im Zeitraum 9:00 Uhr bis 15:00 Uhr)
            Fax:               04941/602-81799
            E-mail:           Traditionsschiffe@bav.bund.de

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Discussions regarding traditional ships

Repeatedly, discussions regarding the approval of a ship of traditional build have been reported by the press. Some owners of older ships blame the responsible Ship Safety Division of the BG Verkehr for being too restrictive in its approval practice. What are the reasons for these discussions and what are they about?

Ships of traditional build are privileged, in legally strictly defined areas, 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 a public interest (protection of the maritime heritage). Otherwise passenger ships operating under stricter terms would be discriminated against. Even for operators of historic ships it is important that not any old ship benefits from unfair privileges. Over the last few years, the approval practice of the Ship Safety Division has been confirmed by the administrative court and the Higher Administrative Court on several occasions.

If the Ship Safety Division of the BG Verkehr dismisses an application of a ship operator to issue, renew or reinstate a certificate for a ship of traditional build, he or she can turn to the ombudsoffice for navigation with traditional ships (Ombudsstelle für die Traditionsschifffahrt). The two ombudspeople, Dr. Valerie Wilms (former member of the Bundestag and traffic expert of the party "die Grünen") and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Peter Ehlers (former president of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, BSH), mediate upon application and after a verification of the responsibility between the ship operators and the BG Verkehr as the approval authority. The procedure with the ombudsoffice does not replace an opposition proceeding and is excluded from any interim legal protection applied for at an administrative court. The ombudsoffice presents a conciliatory proposal to the parties to the proceedings which is not binding. The details of the conciliation proceedings are regulated by rules of procedure.

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