Certification of operators is a flag state matter, but different categories of operator are recognised and the requirements for each is contained in Article 47 of the ITU Radio Regulations. Some of the categories in the ITU regulations cover non-SOLAS vessels and only four relate specifically to most commercial ships.
These four categories of certificates, which are also part of GMDSS rules, in descending order of requirements are:
- First-class radio electronic certificate.
- Second-class radio electronic certificate.
- GMDSS General operator’s certificate (GOC).
- Restricted operator’s certificate (ROC).
Those holding the last two certificate types are considered as operators only. The GMDSS General Operator’s Certificate is a non-technical qualification, designed for navigating officers. It is normally awarded after a ten-day course and examination. Most ships must have two or more crew holding GOCs with the ROCs only recognised for ships limited to coastal service.
Courses leading to certification are offered at many marine schools and other training establishments but not all will be recognised by all flag states. Crewing departments should confirm whether a certificate will be recognised before allocating crew to ships and seafarers will also need to check if a certificate from a training establishment is recognised by the state issuing their certificates of competency.