As a matter of policy, Malaysian flagged vessels plying their trade within Malaysian waters are encouraged to employ local crew. However, merchant shipping laws do not prohibit the use of foreign crew on board a Malaysian flagged vessel working in foreign waters. This is due to a general acceptance that many states have their own cabotage ruling that requires vessels trading in their waters to employ state nationals.

Part III of the 1952 Merchant Shipping Ordinance governs the merchant shipping requirements in respect of rules relating to the qualifications of officers and seamen. Section 71(e) of the ordinance stipulates rules providing for the recognition (subject to certain conditions) of specified competency or proficiency certificates issued by other countries, and declares that such certificates shall have the same force and effect as if they had been granted in Malaysia and the application to such certificates of all or any of the positions and regulations relating to competency, efficiency or authorisation certificates issued in Malaysia.

Thus, in accordance with the 1978 Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention (as amended) and the ordinance, ship officers already holding a certificate of competence issued by a foreign authority must obtain a recognition certificate issued by the Marine Department. Recognition certificates are currently issued to ship officers holding certificates of competence issued by a state that has entered into an agreement with Malaysia.

The Marine Department is known to issue temporary recognition certificates in the form of an acknowledgment letter to holders of certificates of competence issued by a foreign state where discussions are underway for a permanent agreement between that foreign state and Malaysia providing for a formal recognition of foreign-issued certificates of competence. These acknowledgment letters are temporary in nature and are subject to conditions imposed by the Marine Department.

For further information on this topic please contact Rajasingam Gothandapani at Shearn Delamore & Co by telephone (+60 3 2070 0644), fax (+60 3 2078 5625) or email ([email protected]).