Poland has garnered attention as a stress-free flag state in which to register a vessel. However, due to its STCW status, the nation’s crew requirements are far less welcoming. This is an issue that many boat owners may not – but should – be aware of when registering a vessel here.

Poland is strict in its endorsement of crew, particularly those of commercial vessels. The main reason for this is the nation’s ranking as a White List STCW Convention member. To keep in accordance with the STCW Code , the Polish Minister strictly controls the endorsement of crew for Polish vessels. And herein lies the issue…


Why is it so troublesome to gain crew endorsement for a Polish vessel?

Since its inception, the STCW Convention has set out to improve maritime safety by standardizing the training and assessment of crew globally. However, the STCW member flag states themselves are responsible for oversight, including the endorsement of training institutions and courses.


The nation’s authorities are also responsible for reporting the actions they have taken to implement the provisions set out in the STCW Code to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). If all of the above is done so meticulously, the flag state achieves STCW White List rank.


Only around ⅔ of the STCW member Parties are on the White List currently – of which Poland counts itself as one.


As such, the crew of Polish vessels can expect to be held to the highest STCW standards in regard to safety. Not only must they possess all the relevant experience, but endorsed qualifications and a track record of competence to match.


The exact qualifications required should be specified on the yacht safety certificate of the vessel. Failure to possess the correct documentation will result in a crew member not being endorsed. Therefore, being unable to crew a Polish vessel – or deemed doing so illegally if caught without it.


Additionally, Polish crew at the management level are expected to pass an exam in Polish maritime law. In many cases, this exam is conducted in Polish, making studying for and passing it a challenge for aspiring crew of any other nationality.


To whom do the regulations apply?

Naturally, the type of qualifications required by Polish crew varies depending on their role and the vessel type, size, power, and purpose. For example, the crew of recreational vessels are not subject to the same stringent requirements as those of commercial vessels. However, at the minimum, it’s likely that the completion of STCW-accredited basic safety courses is stipulated.


Exceptions do apply to certain types of arrangements, too. Generally, under Polish law, a charter is considered a commercial vessel. But bareboat charters (where a vessel is rented for a fee) are an exception to the rule. However, even a bareboat charter may be deemed a commercial vessel under certain circumstances.


For example, if it is used for fishing, crewed by paid parties, or chartered for the purpose of sailing training. Speaking of which, training crew members do not need to possess any qualifications. However, they do count as passengers, of which there should, generally, be no more than 12 on board a Polish vessel.


Notably, when sailing under the Polish flag, every crew member – including any of foreign nationality – is subject to these regulations. Similarly, the waters sailed don’t affect the expected qualifications of a Polish vessel’s crew, either.


So, if you’re planning on registering a yacht in Poland and chartering or using it commercially elsewhere, you’re not off the hook. In fact, in this case, it’s even more likely that you’ll be asked for Polish documentation. Foreign authorities – especially those within the EU – will likely request documentation in order for you to operate legally there.


Think Twice Before Registering a Commercial Vessel in Poland

As far as boat registration goes, Poland is considered one of the easier and more affordable flag states in which to complete the process. Thus attracting a large number of boat owners to its shores.


However, one must think twice when registering a vessel in Poland, especially if they plan on using it for commercial purposes. Though straightforward enough for highly qualified crew and recreational vessel owners, experiential sailors and crew – or those possessing invalid certification – are likely to suffer considerable setbacks in getting endorsed.


Also, Beware of Non-STCW-Compliant Institutions and Courses

Similarly, those looking to gain certification with the aim of crewing a Polish vessel must take note. There are many crew and sailing training courses on offer that don’t meet the STCW Code. Ensure the training school or instructor you wish to learn at or with is STCW-accredited.


Otherwise, you may be unable to crew a Polish vessel – or any flying the flag of an STCW White List member, for that matter.


At Lorrendraair, we can assist with requesting endorsement and information regarding requirements from the relevant maritime authorities on your behalf.


As of writing, it’s reported that Poland is potentially negotiating new laws that would make it easier for crew possessing certification currently out of the scope of endorsement and foreign management crew to get endorsed. However, it awaits to be seen how, if, and when these events will unfold.