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German Flag reacts to current Corona situation

The German Flag State Administration supports seafarers and shipping companies in their Corona pandemic management and has adapted their procedures to the current situation. For example, Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Proficiency are generally extended for 6 months. Ship surveys are currently only conducted in exceptional cases.

As in March, during the Corona lockdown German Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Proficiency that would expire are all valid for 6 more months. Seafarers do not need to apply individually for an extension of validity. If mandatory refresher courses are cancelled due to the Corona Virus but all conditions for an extension of validity are met, certificates will be extended regularly for 5 years. The proof of participation in the refresher course must be submitted at a later date. The BSH kindly asks to apply for this accordingly.

Medical fitness examinations can be performed with most of the physicians recognized by the BG Verkehr (compare If a medical certificate expires during a sea voyage and a renewal is not possible in the following port due to the corona restrictions in the ports (no crew change or visit at a qualified doctor is possible), the certificate remains valid until the next port in which a medical fitness examination can be performed – at the most for a further three months. The legal basis for this is the German Maritime Labour Act, Sec. 12 Para. 6, and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), Standard A1.2 Para. 9.

Medical Refresher Courses take place – exceptions excluded. If there are any problems in this area, please contact the Maritime Medical Service of BG Verkehr (

Currently, the BG Verkehr conducts ship surveys only in exceptional circumstances. In regard to flag state surveys, shipping companies should contact the BG Verkehr to find individual solutions as to how and if upcoming surveys can be conducted. If a survey is not possible in a port due to COVID-19 safeguard measures, the German Flag can waive the survey on a case-by-case basis and after assessment of the following documents:

  1. Declaration of the shipowner explaining what circumstances / special conditions arising from COVID-19 restrictions make it impossible to conduct a survey
  2. Declaration/recommendation of the classification society responsible for the ship, including consultation of the latest class status records
  3. Evaluation of existing conditions of the classification society responsible for the ship (class conditions)
  4. Access to the report of the last inspection of the ship’s bottom, indicating IW (In-Water) or Dry-Docking
  5. Evaluation of the results from the databases of the respective port State control regime (PSC MoUs)
  6. Evaluation of the latest ISM audit report
  7. For non-convention ships (which are not subject to international conventions, such as SOLAS and others) and fishing vessels with a length of more than 24 metres: evaluation of the latest flag state reports

In these exceptional circumstances, the German flag can issue electronic short-term certificates that are valid until the date on which a survey of the ship is possible. Even in these exceptional circumstances, shipping companies must comply with all technical and operational provisions on their ships.

Currently, Port State Control in German ports only takes place due to overriding factors (please find the explanation on the website of Paris MoU ).

The German Flag has compiled its most important measures in an official statement which is available in the FAQ section regarding corona on our website:

The Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution regarding the classification of seafarers as key workers. All states must still ensure the facilitation of crew changes. Seafarers should receive vaccination against the Corona Virus as soon as possible.

Seafarers are key workers – this is the central message of UNO Resolution A/75/L.37 that was adopted by 71 member states. This fact lays the groundwork for concrete measures within the resolution, which governments, international organisations and relevant involved parties can implement. These include mostly safe crew changes, unrestricted arrivals and departures of seafarers and repatriation of "stranded" seafarers.

According to the United Nations, about two million seafarers on 98,000 merchant vessels provide for the transport of 80% of the goods in the global trade and ensure the seamless provision of medical equipment, food and other essential goods, despite the Corona pandemic.


The Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization IMO, Kitack Lim, was pleased about the adoption of the resolution. He thanked the states that have recognized seafarers as key workers. Resolving the ongoing crew change crisis is, after all, a human rights issue, says Lim.

"Two million seafarers among which are about half a million employed by European shipowners play a key role in maintaining the global logistics chain. We thank the seafarers for their hart work" says Martin Dorsmann, Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations, ECSA. In Addition, ECSA affirms their support of IMO's call to consider priority for seafarers regarding the upcoming vaccination campaign against the Corona Virus.

As of now, shipping companies can apply for their cabotage approval online via In addition, companies can now register their interest in transports online. This way, the Generaldirektion Wasserstraßen und Schifffahrt (GDWS) optimizes their service for sea cabotage.

Cabotage is about the carriage of persons or goods with ships under foreign flag in German coastal waters. A cabotage approval is required when persons or goods are intended to get transported commercially from one place to another within German territory using German coastal waters (12 nautical mile area) on ships without a European flag (except Norway).

During the application process, the GDWS checks whether EU-flagged ships are available for the intended transport (a shipping space capacity verification). If this is the case, the cabotage application is denied.

This online option for cabotage applications and registration of carriage capacity, e.g. dry cargo ships, dredgers and construction site traffic, improves the economic chances of companies with EU-flagged ships.

The new online service has been programmed by the IT department of BG Verkehr and can be found under the heading "Flag · Register".

Tips for seafarers and shipowners

The Corona virus has become a maritime issue as well. We give advice to seafarers and shipowners how to protect oneself from the virus and what to do in the event of suspected cases.

  1. The  "Medizinisches Handbuch See" by the Maritime Medical Service of BG Verkehr published in November 2019 contains direct recommendations for hygienic measures to be taken when treating possibly infected persons on board. Which include among others
    • for the person treating the patient:
      • Personal protection by wearing the personal protection equipment (PPE) on board, e.g. examination gloves, face masks covering mouth and nose as well as disposable apron
      • Hand hygiene with virucidal disinfectant (no. 18.01 of the German medicine chest) to avoid transmission of pathogens
    • for the patient:
      • Isolation measures of infected persons or those suspected of being infected and people they have been in contact with
    • for medical rooms on board
      • Hygiene measures in rooms and for facilities used for medical purposes
    • The necessary information about the procedure when contacting the radio medical advice service and cooperation with the port health authorities, including the required reporting procedures, are given in the "Medizinische Handbuch See". The "Medizinische Handbuch See" is available at Dingwort Verlag and can be ordered on its website ( The English version will be available from spring.
  2. In the event of suspected cases, contact the radio medical advice service TMAS Cuxhaven as early as possible where you will receive further advice on the treatment of the ill person.
  3. On a European level, the working group "EU Healthy Gate joint action consortium" has compiled preliminary recommendations for shipping companies when dealing with the Corona virus. Pages 2-8 of the "Interim Advice for ship operators" contain direct recommendations for cruise ships, page 9-11 for cargo ships.
  4. If there is a suspected case on board a ship that will call on a German port, please contact the port health authorities prior to the arrival. Their experts will inform you about further measures. The contact data for the port health authorities in German ports are listed on the website of the city of Hamburg.
  5. Current and detailed information about the Corona virus in general are given on the website of the Robert Koch Institute, the central institution in Germany regarding disease control and prevention, as well as on the website of the World Health Organization WHO.
  6. The latest travel notices for the countries where the Corona virus has occurred can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

New central phone number

From 1 January 2021 you can reach our "Zentrale Einsatzsteuerung" (a central deployment centre) for ship safety surveys under the central phone number +49 40 361 37-298. You can still send the application per email to

The "Zentrale Einsatzsteuerung" of the Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr receives the customers' requests for ship surveys and plans the deployment of the surveyors. With the new uniform phone number, the BG Verkehr enhances their service for shipping companies.

A medical emergency at sea – no rescue service, no hospital, no doctors. It is the master's or navigational officer's obligation to help. The newly published handbook can help to facilitate the best medical care possible in places far away from medical infrastructure.

This book from practitioners for practitioners offers compact treatment recommendations for emergencies, injuries and illnesses on board sea-going vessels.
350 illustrations and texts that are illustrative, easy to understand and, above all, aimed for application during sea voyages support medical care on board.

As a special service, educational films showing step-by-step sequences of complex treatment measures can be watched with QR Codes.

The English version of the Maritime Medical Handbook is now available at the price of 159,00 € at:

Dingwort Verlag in Hamburg.

It can also be ordered online via


German and British hydrographical service cooperate

The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) and the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) will cooperate from October 2020 on the production, maintenance and distribution of nautical charts in A0 format for German waters. These nautical charts are mainly used by the commercial shipping industry, which is obliged to equip its vessels. The faster transmission and provision of corrections for international shipping will increase the safety and ease of navigation in the German sea area.

Kooperation bei Seekarten

Due to this cooperation of the two authorities the BSH's nautical charts will reach a wider range of users than before, and both authorities will save resources due to the division of labour in production, corrections and distribution. The BSH will continue to be responsible for the chart content and its correction, while the UKHO will take over the printing and distribution of the charts and the publication of corrections. Until now, the two services have produced nautical charts for the same area independently of each other. As a result, corrections were first reported by the BSH as German Notice to Mariners, which were forwarded to the UKHO which then included them as corrections in their nautical charts. The cooperation of the services enables the direct and thus faster transmission of corrections.

Distribution and maintenance of the cooperation charts will begin on October 1 for initially five nautical charts. By the end of 2021, BSH and UKHO will extend the cooperation to all 15 nautical charts for the North Sea. To enable this, both parties coordinated the area coverage, nautical chart content, publication dates and also developed routines for correcting the nautical chart content.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has published a guidance document for ship operators. It gives advice on the best practices to protect their seafarers and how to deal with suspect cases and confirmed cases on board the ship. As the corona virus has spread globally by now, the ICS has broadened its guidance adding for example an instruction to create covers for mouth and nose. Further topics include recommendations to enhance mental health and how to procure prescription medication.

COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, has developed into a global pandemic. In order for maritime shipping to continue its operations, shipping companies should undertake measures to protect their members of crew and passengers. In the new guidance document "Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers", the International Chamber of Shipping ICS explains the right protection measures for the novel coronavirus and how to react if a case of illness or a suspect case occurs on board.

In the guidance document, it is explained how seafarers should generally protect themselves preventatively, especially with hygienic preventative measures such as regular hand washing and the right conduct when coughing and sneezing (i.e. with a tissue or into the crook of the arm). Following the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), ICS also assess that wearing masks on board in general should not be mandatory. Where it is not possible to keep the necessary distance, it is recommendatory however. The Guidance introduces different ways to create a mouth-nose cover yourself.

On their website and in Annex A, ICS provides posters that can be put up by ship operators on board their ships for information purposes for crew and passengers.  The crew should be informed about how to deal with suspect and confirmed cases. A ship-specific outbreak management plan should be developed for concrete guidance of the crew. In addition, WHO developed a guide directed in particular at authorities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Poster ICS Covid-19

Additionally, the Guidance provides specific and important advice for persons responsible for medical care on board the ship. Personal protection with suitable protective equipment, effective isolation and disinfection as well as competent care of the patients should all be equally ensured.

The Guidance identifies three groups in relation to containing the outbreak potential: confirmed cases, suspect cases and people who have been in close contact to confirmed or suspect cases. Any suspect case has to be reported by the master to the next port of call. The virus has to be verified by a laboratory. The subsequent measures are given in the Guidance.

Prior to any persons entering the ship, their health condition needs to be checked. The questionnaire in Annex C can be used for this. The Guidance discusses the pros and cons of tests prior to boarding. The so called Shipboard Self-Distancing for the first 14 days on board is recommended and explained. 

Despite the current and ongoing precautionary measures, there may be entry restrictions in ports, restrictions on crew changes and cargo operations or general delays. The Guidance also addresses this issue. A link to a regularly updated map on current port restriction is provided. A new Annex outlines under which conditions seafarers can obtain their personal prescriptions in the different countries and what needs to be done in advance to ensure that medication reaches the ship.

Worries about family, other crew members and oneself can have serious affects on the mental health of seafarers. Impeded crew changes and extension of service times on board for several months add to this. Every person deals differently with stress, isolation and emotions like fear, anxiety and worry. The guidance discusses thoroughly what can be done to deal with difficult moments and develop uplifting behaviour.

The BG Verkehr, the BSH and the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) published a circular on protection against maritime cyber risks. The practical guidance called "ISM Cyber Security" contains recommendations for shore-based and ship-based IT protective measures. With its help, shipping companies can improve their protection from cyber risks within the framework of the ISM system.

The issue cyber security becomes increasingly important for maritime shipping as a crucial part of the logistics chain. If not before, than at the latest since the attack with the malware "NotPetya" in 2017 resulting in damages of several hundred million Euros for the shipping company Maersk alone, the extent of maritime cyber attacks has become evident.

With resolution MSC.428(98), the IMO urges shipping companies to protect against cyber risks from 2021. Ship operators should integrate appropriate measures in their existing ISM systems.

The new circular "ISM Cyber Security" by the BG Verkehr, the BSH and the BSI provides an overview of the issue maritime cyber security and aids shipping companies in developing a consistent cyber risk management. As a minimum, the three authorities advise the IT-Grundschutz Profiles by the BSI for shore operations and for ship operations. These model security concepts contain specific recommendations for IT security measures on board and onshore.

Cyber security

In a new video, the Maritime Medical Service of the BG Verkehr explains how to put on and take off personal protective equipment in the right way. By following the instructions, navigational officers responsible for medical care on board can protect themselves effectively against infectious diseases. The video is now available.

How do you protect yourself when an infectious disease occurs with a person on board? This is not a new question, but the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness with seafarers once again. The "Maritime Medical Handbook" by the Maritime Medical Service, which has recently been released, gives clear answers and has now been supplemented with a new video. 

PSA-2.jpg PSA-1.jpg

The best protection against contagious infections on board is regular washing of the hands, disinfection and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, an oronasal mask and safety goggles. But even the best protective equipment is only effective if the seafarer puts it on and takes it off in the right way. The new video by the Maritime Medical Service "Putting On and Taking Off Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)" gives advice. The film takes about three minutes and explains, among other things, in which order the protective equipment is to be put on to avoid unwanted infections.

With a QR code or the direct link, seafarers can watch the video in German or English. The film is part of the "Maritime Medical Handbook", which is an essential practical guide to medical care on board sea-going vessels.


Since the video was developed after the recent version of the medical handbook had been published, the QR code could not be included in it. Users of the handbook should stick the QR code onto the pages 26 and 485. In the English version of the Maritime Medical Handbook, which will be published soon, the QR code will be included.

List of hazardous materials required

At the end of the year at the latest, ships with more than 500 GT on international voyages require a IHM Certificate (International Certificate on Inventory of Hazardous Materials) of the Flag State and an approved List of hazardous materials contained in the structure or equipment of the ship. These requirements are stipulated in Regulation EU 1257/2013 on ship recycling. Further information can be found in ISM Circular 03/2019.

Employees of shipping companies should note: Please assign a classification society or an assessor to prepare the IHM if this has not been done yet.

FAQ: German Flag about the coronavirus

We, as German Flag bear a responsibility to contain the Corona pandemic. For this, we adapt our procedures for ship certificates and ship surveys to the current situation. For seafarers facilitating measures are in place regarding certificates of competency and proficiency as well as medical fitness certificates. The most important information about this are given in an official statement by the German Flag.

In our FAQ "Corona Info", we answer all important questions about the implications of COVID-19 for seafarers and shipping companies. If you have any further questions, please mail via Feedback.

According to a survey by the German Shipowners' Association (VDR), revenue of member shipping companies have fallen by 40 % due to the Corona Pandemic. The number of ships without engagement is growing. The German Flag has easy regulations regarding laid-up ships.

Some flag states have extensive requirements for laid-up ships, e.g. changes of ship registration or extensive lay-up plans. The German Flag, however, has no such bureaucratic obligations.

Neither do laid-up ships under German flag require a separate Safe Manning Certificate. For short-term shifting of a ship from a port or anchoring place to another location, shipowners can apply for a Safe Manning Certificate that is valid for up to 48 hours with the Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr. The prerequisites for this are given under our header "Ship`s manning".

Laid-up ships

For a long time, asbestos was considered a miracle product: the natural mineral is fire resistant, an insulator, easy to process and inexpensive. But asbestos causes illness and can give rise to cancer. BG Verkehr summarized the things shipping companies have to observe when they flag-in a ship that is contaminated with asbestos.

Those who worked with asbestos in the past often used to breath in the dust and thereby the fine asbestos fibres. A possible result: malignant cancer tumours or changes in the lining of the lung. The employer's liability insurance associations recognize asbestos as a cause of a lung disease known as asbestosis, and as an occupational disease. Asbestosis is the most common cause of death among the terminal occupational diseases. There can be several decades between working with asbestos and the onset of the disease. On average the latency period is 38 years.

Since 1993, asbestos may not be produced or used in Germany, and on a European level since 2005. From 2019 all ships under EU flag from 500 GT must have an inventory of hazardous materials, which must also include asbestos. With the Regulation EU/1257/2013 the EU legally implements the provisions of the Ship Recycling Convention (“Hong Kong Convention”).

Globally, however, there is no ban on asbestos. So, there may still be asbestos present on older ships. If such a ship flags-in under the German flag, the shipowner will have to conduct a risk assessment, compile an asbestos cadaster and arrange mandatory medical check-ups for the seafarers. The prevention division at BG Verkehr has developed a compilation of the shipowner’s obligations when flagging-in a ship that is contaminated with asbestos (in German only).

In addition to this compilation, ship operators have to comply with the provisions of the international SOLAS Convention regarding the ban of asbestos on sea-going vessels. The Circular by the Maritime Safety Committee of the IMO MSC.1/Circ.1374 "Information on prohibiting the use of asbestos on board ships" provides more detailed requirements and information on the topic asbestos on sea-going vessels:

  1. On ships built before 1 July 2002, asbestos containing materials (ACMs) may be installed and approved as long as they do not pose a risk to the crew's health.
  2. On ships built on or after 1 July 2002 and before 1 January 2011, new installation of ACMs has been allowed only in exceptional cases.
  3. On ships built on or after 1 January 2011, ACMs have not been allowed to be installed (refer to SOLAS Chapter II-1/3-5).

The Circular was published in the German "Verkehrsblatt" (transport gazette) 19/2013 on 23 September 2013 in the German language and is mandatory for ships flying the German flag.

Specialists discover asbestos on some sea-going vessels during inspections at a later point in time – for example while compiling an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) in accordance with EU Regulation 1257/2013 and the Hong Kong Convention on the Recycling of Ships. In these cases, a transitional period of three years applies to carry out an asbestos abatement on board or an exchange of all of the ACMs (refer to Circular MSC.1/Circ.1374). This transitional period of not more than three years cannot be extent, not even if:

  1. during this time period the ship was temporarily flying a different flag or
  2. asbestos had already been identified three years prior on a ship that was flying a foreign flag and is now about to change to the German flag.

For questions regarding these requirements, the experts of the Machine Department of the Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr are gladly of assistance (e-mail or contact qualified engineer Holger Steinbock via phone: +49 40 361 37-217).

As of late, the Deutsche Seemanns Mission e. V. (DSM – German Seamen's Mission) offers seafarers a new service. With the web-address, the DSM operates a chat platform on which seafarers can turn to employees of the Seamen's Mission with their issues, worries and distress.

The DSM has a widely spread network with its 16 national and 14 international stations with seamen's clubs, hotels and on-board counsellors. However, the corona pandemic has completely changed the work of the seamen's missions as well. The popular facilities for seafarers had to close and the on-board counselling cannot take place in same manner as it did before either. Long counselling sessions are not possible – because of the fear of infection. Sometimes what remains is a small talk on the gangway so that the connection with the outside world does not completely break off.

In this situation, the DSM has started their chat counselling which can be accessed worldwide via the internet address Co-initiator Matthias Ristau, seamen's pastor of the German "Nordkirche", explains: "All encoded and safe, available from early in the morning till late at night". Especially now that many seafarers fear for the well-being of their families, such a service is all the more important, he says.

On the chat platform, seafarers meet professional counsellors, experienced social workers and psycho-social experts of the DSM who are most familiar with the special living situation and working environment of seafarers. was developed by a DSM team and is an additional offer for seafarers under these changing conditions of maritime navigation. This way, seafarers can be provided counselling support during straining situations right there and then and no matter where with the click of a mouse or via the smartphone. The DSM affirms: Even if the internet cannot replace personal contact, the members of staff of the German Seamen's Mission are there for the seafarers as contact partner.

New publication about handling wastewater of ships in ports

The German Flag is strongly involved in further developing environment protection in the Baltic Sea. In doing so, it also supports those involved with its practical implementation. 
HELCOM together with the BSH has developed a technical guidance for handling ship's wastewater in ports in the Baltic Sea Special Area (in accordance with MARPOL Annex IV). It is aimed at port operators, local administrations as well as communal wastewater companies and shipowners.
Further information on the topic can be found at:

Validity of MED certificates during the current transitional period and after

The United Kingdom left the European Union on the 1st of February 2020. Because of the agreed transitional period until the 31st of December 2020, for now there will be no legal changes for products that have to comply with the EU Marine Equipment Directive .

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) published transitional rules for the conformity assessment as well as recognition of marine equipment on board ships flying a European flag in case of a "No-Deal-Brexit".

Read more on the topic.

The new sulphur limit of 0.50 % m/m has been in force since the 1st of January. The limit in the SECAs remains at 0.1 % m/m. Only ships with an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS) may use fuel with a higher sulphur content. Port State Control verifies compliance with this new regulation.

From now on, Port State Control inspections under the Tokyo and Paris Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) will check for the compliance with the new sulphur limits for sea-going vessels. Since 1st January 2020, only ships with Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS), so called scrubbers, may be operated with high sulphur heavy fuel oil. All other ships have to use fuel with a sulphur content of not more than 0.50 % m/m. In the SECAs, which include the North and Baltic Sea, a sulphur content of not more than 0.1 % m/m has been in place for a while now.

From 1st March 2020, the provisions will become even stricter:
Non-compliant fuel may only be carried on board if an EGCS is fitted. In cases where non-compliant fuel cannot be obtained, a Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report (FONAR) has to be submitted to the flag state and the responsible authority at the next port of call.

Oil record book

At its 73th session, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) agreed that it was not necessary for the Port State Control authorities to take a ‘practical and pragmatic’ approach, since compliance with the new limits from the date of coming into force was expected. Therefore, ParisMoU and TokyoMoU have agreed that they will enforce the requirements in terms of the application without exception. This also includes the carriage ban of non-compliant fuel from 1st March 2020. More on this in their press release.

From 1 August, the BG Verkehr will survey ships under a foreign flag requiring a Certificate of Equivalence in German ports only. One reason being that the amount of surveys has escalated, another is the large expenditure of travel time to and from ports abroad.

Every ship without SOLAS certificates for international voyages only operating in German coastal waters requires a Certificate of Equivalence of BG Verkehr. This is supposed to ensure a comparable safety standard to German-flagged ships in coastal shipping. In practice, mostly offshore transfer vessels need a Certificate of Equivalence. The legal basis for the certificate is the Ship Safety Ordinance section 9 paragraph 6.

© DOTI / Matthias Ibeler

The BG Verkehr only issues Certicates of Equivalence after a survey on board the respective ship. The amount of surveys has escalated in recent years. In 2015/2016 the surveyors of the BG Verkehr left from Hamburg to 47 equivalence surveys – from January 2017 until June 2019 this number has risen to ten-times as many to 433 surveys.

In view of the unchanged number of surveyors as well as expenditure of travel time to ports abroad, the BG Verkehr will offer equivalence surveys in German ports only from 1 August. This change of survey practice regards both initial as well as renewal surveys.

Additional limits for wastewater discharge

In our section on "Environmental protection", the current information is given about requirements regarding the discharge of wastewater from passenger ships in the Baltic Sea. 

The German flag is always available for you - on 365 days of the year. You can reach our specialists under the phone number +49 3190-7777 for all questions about maritime shipping under German flag

The maritime 24/7 hotline is offered by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, BSH. In addition, the stand-by service of the Ship Safety Division of BG Verkehr is also available. More information is given under "Contact Details".

Hotline (klein)