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Finland plans to extend seafarer certificate validity due to COVID

Finland’s government is proposing that the validity of fixed-term ships’ crew certificates of competency and certificates of proficiency be extended due to the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic. A derogation permitting a special dispensation from certificates of proficiency required on a vessel would also be extended. The derogations would be temporary. The Government tabled a bill to amend the relevant statutes on 18 February 2021.

The bill provides that certificates of competency and certificates of proficiency expiring by no later than 30 June 2021 would continue to be valid without further application for six months following their original dates of expiration. Over the same period, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom, could grant a dispensation from the requirement for certificates of proficiency at the shipowner’s request. The qualifications and dispensations would thereby expire on or before 30 December 2021.

Finland says the changes in ships’ crew qualifications seek to ensure continuity of shipping and maritime industries in the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. They also seek to secure an adequate number of qualified seafarers during the epidemic.

The bill also proposes an amendment of the qualification requirements for medical examiners of seafarers and railway doctors under the Act on Transport Services. These requirements would be clarified to exclude individuals whose rights to practice as a physician were limited in a manner that restricts service as a railway doctor or medical examiner of seafarers.

The proposed amendments are intended to take effect as soon as possible. Section 109 a of the Transport Services Act and subsection 4 of section 13 of the Act on Ships’ Crews and the Safety Management of Ships would remain in force until 30 June 2021.