What is a Seaman’s Book & Why is it Important?

Jan 06, 2023 · 9 mins read ·

Maritime Industry, Career Guides
drawing of a galleon in a sketch book

From passenger vessel crew to tanker ship seamen, it is estimated that there are more than two million seafarers working on merchant ships today.

Depending on what type of ship they have, shipowners require distinct seafarer qualifications and skills.

Seafarers like you gain your experience by getting on board different types of ships during your service. Each of those ships have varying tasks which harness your skills that can grow your skill sets over time.

In the maritime industry, shipowners or recruiters heavily rely on the presented skills of their applicants to decide if they'll hire them eventually.

So as a seafarer, how can you prove your experience and skills to land a job?

Your seaman’s book is the answer.

Read on and we'll discuss how it works and why it matters when searching for your next seafarer post.

What is a seaman's book?

A seaman’s book, also known as a seaman's record book or service book, is a continuous record of your service as a seafarer – containing details of where, when, how, and which vessel you have served on.


This document will certify your status as a seaman as per The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended 1995 and 2010.

The seaman's book also provides a travel document that can be used with a passport and, in some cases, in lieu of a passport.

It looks much the same and is of the same size, but serves a very different purpose.

It is important to remember that every seafarer must carry this document while on board as this serves as an official and legal record of sea experience.

The master of the vessel will sign this each time a seafarer is signed off from the vessel certifying his experience on board.

This is one of the most important documents, along with a passport and STCW-2010 certification, while traveling on board.

You must also note that the seaman's book is a mandatory document, for any port-of-entry that requires a crew transit visa.

Why is a seaman's book important?

As in many countries like the Philippines, a seafarer needs a seaman’s book to prove that they've worked on board merchant vessels and cruise ships.


In some other countries, it is mandatory to have one for tax purposes, government benefits and so on.

The information found in a seaman’s book is important not only for a seafarer's record, but also for the government, prospective employers, and other members of the maritime industry.

These details include:

  • Recent photograph of the seafarer,
  • Name,
  • Age and gender,
  • Identification marks,
  • Nationality and address,
  • Service book identification number (unique),
  • Date and place of birth,
  • Date of record issuance and expiry,
  • Issuing authority’s name and rank.

This book is also vital when eyeing for a promotion. This document will be the proof of the experience a seafarer gained all throughout his or her service.

A seaman's book also includes company name, rank, date and reason for discharge.

It mentions relevant details about a seafarer's career such as voyage summaries, promotion records, visa endorsements, official notices, and vessel skill sets.

This information in the book is complete and provides a very clear picture of how a seaman's career has progressed.


Courtesy of the IMO #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare Campaign

How to apply for a seaman’s book?

There are certain steps you should take to apply for one. Since this book plays a very important role in your career, it must be processed through proper means and channels.

Here's how you can get your seaman's book:

  1. Identify and find the authority in your country that supplies this document.

This may be a common authority across different nations, like in countries such as the ones in the European Union, as the majority of vessels and seafarers sail between these countries on a regular basis in consideration of their proximity.

2. Apply with these necessary documents.

This is generally proof of residence, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the employer, educational certificates etc.

You should note that the book may be known by different names depending on your region. It is recommended to consult with your local maritime authority to correctly identify the document you should apply for.

This document will vary depending on domestic, international and naval seafarers. It may also be processed through an online mode in selected countries.

3. Attend a Class 1 medical examination at your locally appointed medical facility.

This ensures that you are fit for life at sea. It is usually conducted by naval doctors to provide a comprehensive and thorough check-up.


4. Attend a compulsory police verification process.

This may either be conducted at your home, or you may be required to go to the relevant authorities.

This step is mandatory and will be conducted thoroughly to assess that you have no prior criminal background and that your identity is established.

The complete process from application, verification, to receipt of the document may take between 10 days to a month. See to it that you apply well in advance before your scheduled voyage.

Once your seaman's book has been issued, it is important that you regularly check the document to ensure that it is still valid.

Your seaman's book is legal and valid only for a fixed duration. It depends on the country of issuance but is generally 5 to 10 years long.

Once the book expires, the same process is done for a re-issuance.

It will be considerably faster this time since there is already a record of a successful application.

One reason a seafarer like you might need to apply for a new seaman's book is if the existing one is completely filled up within the validity period.

The process remains the same, except that the seafarer now applies for a seaman's book extension and not for a new book.


What is a seaman’s book and why is it important? Conclusion

A seaman’s book will contain a seafarer's personal details and summary of his or her career while on board.

As this will serve as a portfolio of experience from working on different types of ships, this can be used as proof and basis not only for getting a new seafarer job but also for promotion later on in life at sea.

To know and learn more about the shipping industry, we can definitely help you with that!

Here at Martide, we'll gladly assist you in landing your next seafarer post.

We’re always looking to recruit skilled crew members, like you, on behalf of our maritime industry clients. (Ready when you are!)

Sign up for free and create your profile or log in to your Martide account anytime to start your career with us.

Don’t forget that you can also start your journey and apply for any of our vacancies using our free mobile app.You can also download the app from Google Play and from the Apple Store for iPhones and iPads.

Nathaly Seruela

Nathaly Seruela

Former content writer at Martide.