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Ship inspection and survey organisations: legal framework

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Ship inspection and survey organisations: legal framework

This Directive creates a harmonised legal framework for organisations carrying out the inspection and certification of ships as well as their relationships with the competent authorities of Member States.


Directive 2009/15/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on common rules and standards for ship inspection and survey organisations and for the relevant activities of maritime administrations.


This Directive establishes a harmonised legal framework to be applied to relationships between Member States and the organisations which are authorised to carry out inspections, surveys and the certification of ships.

Authorisation of recognised organisations

Member States should ensure that their competent administrations implement the provisions of international conventions concerning the inspection and certification of ships in order to comply with the obligations imposed by these conventions.

A Member State may only entrust duties of inspection, survey, allocation or renewal of certificates for ships flying its flag to recognised organisations. However, duties relating to the issue of the cargo ship safety radio certificate may be entrusted to private bodies having sufficient expertise and qualified personnel and which are approved by a competent administration.

A Member State may not refuse authorisation for recognised organisations. It may however decide to limit the number of organisations to be authorised on the basis of objective and non-discriminatory criteria.

Recognised organisations from third countries may offer their services to the competent administrations of Member States. In this case, they may request that the principle of reciprocal treatment for recognised organisations located in the European Union (EU) be applied.

Working relationships

When a Member State authorises a recognised organisation, it sets up a “working relationship” between its competent administration and the organisations acting on its behalf. This relationship should be governed by an official written agreement or equivalent legal arrangement.

The agreement or equivalent legal arrangements must contain a minimum number of provisions relating to financial liability, periodical audit of duties carried out by the recognised organisation, random and detailed inspections of ships and the compulsory reporting of information about the class.

The approved organisations may, according to the terms of the agreement or equivalent legal arrangement, be required to have a local representation on the territory of the Member State on behalf of which it performs its duties. This may be a representative with a legal personality under the law of the Member State.

The Commission shall be informed by the Member State of the working relationship which has been established. The Commission shall subsequently inform the other Member States thereof.

The Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS) shall assist the Commission.

A Member State may decide to suspend or withdraw authorisation for a recognised organisation if it considers that the organisation no longer meets the conditions to fulfil its duties.

Monitoring the duties performed by recognised organisations

Member States should ensure that recognised organisations acting on their behalf carry out their duties effectively and should monitor the organisations every two years. Member States and the Commission are to be informed of the results of these monitoring activities.

When carrying out the monitoring of ships as port States, Member States shall inform the Commission and other Member States if:

  • a valid statutory certificate has been granted to a ship which does not fulfil the relevant requirements of international conventions;
  • a ship carrying a valid class certificate fails in any way.

Only cases of ships representing a serious threat to safety and the environment or showing evidence of particularly negligent behaviour of the recognised organisation shall be reported. The latter shall be kept abreast of the case concerned in order to take the necessary corrective measures.


This Directive and Regulation No 391/2009 repeal Directive 94/57/EC as from 17 June 2009.

Key terms of the Act

  • Ship: a ship falling within the scope of the international conventions.
  • International conventions: the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1 November 1974, (SOLAS 74) with the exception of chapter XI-2 of the Annex thereto, the International Convention on Load Lines of 5 April 1966 and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 2 November 1973 (MARPOL), together with the protocols and amendments thereto, and the related codes of mandatory status in all Member States, in their up-to-date version.
  • Organisation: a legal entity, its subsidiaries and any other entities under its control, which jointly or separately carry out tasks falling under the scope of this Directive.
  • Class certificate: a document issued by a recognised organisation certifying the fitness of a ship for a particular use or service in accordance with the rules and procedures laid down and made public by that recognised organisation.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2009/15/EC



 OJ L 131 of 28.5.2009

Last updated: 25.09.2009