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Maritime safety: registration of persons on board passenger ships

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Maritime safety: registration of persons on board passenger ships

The aim of this directive is to enhance the safety and possibilities of rescue of passengers and crew aboard passenger ships operating to or from European Union (EU) ports and to ensure that the aftermath of any accident which occurs can be dealt with more effectively.


Council Directive 98/41/EC of 18 June 1998 on the registration of persons sailing on board passenger ships operating to or from ports of the Member States of the Community [See amending acts].


This directive seeks to improve the safe transport of passengers by sea. Its aim is to ensure the number of passengers on board does not exceed the number for which the ship and safety equipment has been certified, and to facilitate search and rescue activities following an accident. The directive does not apply to warships, troopships and pleasure yachts.

All persons on board passenger ships departing from a port located within the European Union (EU) must be counted prior to departure of the ship. The number of passengers must be communicated to the master of the ship and to the company’s designated passenger registrar or to a shore-based company system performing the same role. Before a passenger ship departs, its master must ensure that the number of persons on board does not exceed the number the ship is permitted to carry.

Where a passenger ship departs from an EU port to undertake a voyage of more than 20 nautical miles, certain passenger information (surname, first name, sex, age and any information provided concerning the need for special care or assistance) must be collected and communicated to the company's passenger registrar within 30 minutes of the ship’s departure. EU countries may lower this 20 mile threshold.

Passenger registration and information is also required in respect of ships which depart from a port located outside the EU but which are bound for an EU port, regardless of whether the ships are flying the flag of an EU or a non-EU country. EU countries may grant exemptions or derogations in accordance with the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (1974 SOLAS Convention), but only under the conditions laid down in this directive.

Each company responsible for operating a passenger ship must:

  • set up a system for the registration of passenger information. The system must meet the following functional criteria: readability, availability, facilitation (the system must not cause undue delay for passengers embarking and/or disembarking) and security (protection of data against destruction, loss and unauthorised access);
  • appoint a passenger registrar responsible for keeping and transmitting the information.

EU countries may grant certain exemptions or derogations concerning passenger counting and registration for:

  • ships operating exclusively in protected sea areas;
  • regular services of less than one hour between port calls;
  • regular services in an area where the probability of wave height exceeding two metres is less than 10 % and either the entire voyage is less than 30 miles from departure or a public service obligation exists for outlying communities.

The registration systems set up in accordance with this directive must be approved by EU countries, which are responsible for checking that they function correctly.

This directive allows for subsequent amendments so that any relevant changes to the SOLAS Convention may be taken into account.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 98/41/EC


1.1.1999Article 5: 1.1.2000

L 188 of 2.7.1998

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2002/84/EC



OJ L 324 of 29.11.2002

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 98/41/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

Last updated: 19.08.2011