These Guidance Notes, together with Resolution A.1047(27), contain the detailed mandatory requirements specified in the Merchant Shipping (Safe Manning, Hours of Work and Watchkeeping) Regulations 1997 and give guidance on the application of the Regulations with respect to the safe manning of UK-registered ships and other ships when they are in UK national waters.


1.) The Safe Manning, Hours of Work and Watchkeeping Regulations 1997 place clear responsibilities on companies owning or operating UK-registered seagoing ships, and other ships whilst in United Kingdom waters, to ensure that their ships are manned with personnel of appropriate grades who have been properly trained and certificated. Regulation 14 of Chapter V SOLAS lays down specific requirements for safe manning in order to ensure navigational safety. The numbers of certificated officers and certificated and non-certificated ratings must be sufficient to ensure safe and efficient operation of the ship at all times. Regulation 14 of SOLAS Chapter V states that all ships to which SOLAS Chapter I applies, (i.e. ships on international voyages - cargo ships of 500 gt or more and all passenger ships,) are required to hold a safe manning document. Owners or operators of cargo ships below 500 gt may also find it advantageous.

2.) The owner or operator of a United Kingdom registered ship is required to make an assessment of the numbers and grades of personnel necessary for safe operation. These should be sufficient to ensure that:

2.1) the required watchkeeping standard can be maintained and that personnel are able to obtain sufficient rest;

2.2) personnel are not required to work more hours than is safe in relation to the safety of the ship;

2.3) the master officers and ratings can perform their duties in accordance with the framework of operational guidance in section A-VIII of the STCW Code;

2.4) the master, officers and ratings are not required to work such hours or under such conditions which may be injurious to their health and safety.

3.) Proposals based on the assessment should be submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) which, when satisfied that the proposed manning levels are adequate, will issue a safe manning document. Application to the MCA for a Safe Manning Document should be made by completing form MSF 4227/ REV 0607

4.) Previously, the UK Administration specified minimum numbers of certificated officers and the grades of certificates which should be held for different types of ships and power levels, and in some cases the numbers of ratings. The 1997 Regulations take a less prescriptive approach. The responsibility to ensure that ships are safely, sufficiently and efficiently manned rests with owners and managing operators. Guidance on determining appropriate manning levels is given in Annex 1 of IMO Assembly Resolution A.890(21) as amended, below.

5.) In order to avoid possible problems at a later stage, owners and operators are recommended to consult with seafarers' representatives and the MCA on their proposed manning when new ships are at the design stage and in advance of registering existing ships in the UK.

6.) In the event of any disagreement between the owners and official seafarers' representatives regarding manning levels, the MCA will consider any views put forward and may require a revision of the manning levels, if so justified. In such cases, it may be necessary to arrange for some form of practical demonstration of the ability of the crew to carry out the essential tasks in the context of the principles of safe manning. Similarly, in the event of any change in the equipment, construction or use of the ship, which may affect the safe manning level, the owner or operator should make an application for the issue of a new safe manning document.

Specialist ship types

7.) Offshore support vessels present special problems because of the diverse nature of their operations and the conditions under which they are required to operate. Owners are particularly reminded of the restrictions placed on working hours under the Regulations and should set manning levels accordingly.

8.) Shipowners and operators must ensure that the master, officers and ratings on tankers, and the master, officers, ratings and other personnel on ro-ro passenger ships have completed the training required by the Regulations which is specified in sections A-V /1 and A-V /2 of the STCW Code. All crew members on high speed craft must have completed the training required under the STCW High Speed Craft Code, and masters and officers having an operational role must hold a Type Rating Certificate as required by the STCW Code. On passenger ships generally, the need to handle large numbers of passengers unfamiliar with the marine environment must be taken into account in determining manning levels. Personnel should be appropriately trained and certificated and owners and operators must give particularly careful attention to the requirements for minimum numbers of trained crew to take charge of survival craft.

Safe manning documents

9.) When the MCA has agreed proposals regarding manning of a particular ship, a safe manning document will be issued for that ship in a format which complies with the requirements of SOLAS. It should be retained on board and be available for inspection whenever required by an authorised person.

Associated Documents

Merchant Shipping (Safe Manning, Hours of Work and Watchkeeping) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/1320).

MSN 1767 (M) - Hours of Work, Safe Manning and Watchkeeping - Revised Provisions from 7 September 2002

IMO Resolution A.918(22) Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP)

Regulation 14 - Ships' Manning


© Crown Copyright.