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Medical treatment on board vessels

Medical treatment on board vessels

Seagoing vessels are workplaces which, because of geographical isolation, present heightened risks to the safety and health of workers on board. Vessels should have adequate facilities, regularly checked, so that workers can obtain the necessary medical treatment at sea.


Council Directive 92/29/EEC of 31 March 1992 on the minimum safety and health requirements for improved medical treatment on board vessels



It aims to ensure minimum safety and health systems are in place to improve medical treatment on board vessels.


Each EU country should ensure that vessels registered in that country, or flying its flag, carries medical supplies. The detailed requirements depend on the category of vessel and the details listed in the annexes to the directive. In addition:

  • every vessel should carry a watertight medicine chest for each of its lifeboats;
  • every vessel of more than 500 gross tonnes, with a crew of 15 or more, on a voyage of more than three days, must have a suitable sick bay in which medical treatment can be given;.
  • every vessel with a crew of 100 or more on an international voyage of more than three days must have a doctor on board.

Any vessel transporting dangerous substances must carry appropriate antidotes. Ferries must in any case carry a minimum of antidotes (as outlined in Annex II) to allow for the fact that the carrying of dangerous substances may not be known in advance unless the regular crossing is under two hours. All available antidotes must be detailed on a checklist.

The owner is responsible for providing the medical supplies. The captain, or a delegated representative, is responsible for the management of supplies, which must be kept in good condition and replenished systematically at the owner’s sole expense.

The medical supplies must be accompanied by instructions as to their use, including information relating to the use of the required antidotes.

Professional maritime training must include basic first response medical training in the event of an accident or serious medical emergency. The captain, or the delegated worker responsible for medical supplies, must receive special training at least every five years.

Centres must be designated to provide workers with free medical advice by radio, including from doctors trained in the special conditions prevailing on board ship.

EU countries must ensure that annual inspections are carried out to check that medical supplies comply with the directive.


It came into force on 10 April 1992.


Following the COVID-19 outbreak and introducing measures to cope with the impact of the crisis, the European Commission adopted:

Communication from the Commission — Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 92/29/EEC



OJ L 113, 30.4.1992, pp. 19-36

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003



OJ L 284, 31.10.2003, pp. 1-53

Directive 2007/30/EC



OJ L 165,27.6.2007, pp. 21-24

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311, 21.11.2008, pp. 1 54

Successive amendments and changes to Directive 92/29/EEC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 08.05.2020