Catalogue description Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Registers and Statistics of Passes and Renewals of Certificates of Competency of Masters and Mates

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Details of BT 317
Reference: BT 317
Title: Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Registers and Statistics of Passes and Renewals of Certificates of Competency of Masters and Mates

This series contains registers kept by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen recording passes and renewals of certificates of competency for masters and mates for foreign-going and home-trade vessels.

The registers contain the following details: Date application received; Number of certificate of competency; Name of seaman; Grade; Port of examination (where the examination was held); When (examination was held); Port sent to (Marine Office certificate was sent to and Date (Certificate was collected from the Marine Office).

The registers also record replacements for lost certificates of competency. Some of the registers contain examination passings in Steam and Compass Deviation, and statistical tables of the numbers of candidates who attempted the various examinations to become masters, mates and engineers.

Date: 1913-1977

Entries in the registers of certificates are in chronological order and are not indexed.

To access information about the issue of a specific certificate, it is necesssary to know when it was issued (or reissued). This can be found in the card index system maintained by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, which dates from 1917, now preserved as BT 352. The index is arranged alphabetically by officer's name and the numbers of the certificates isssued to that person are included on the index card.

There are several abbreviations used in the grade column of the registers. These are: Mstr (Master); 1M (First Mate); 2M (Second Mate); SS (Steamship); OC (Officer's Certificates) and Ex C (Extra Master's Certificate).

As far as can be established there have been three numerical series in operation for masters and mates for the period 1850 to 1945.

Masters and mates certificate numbering 1850-1945 (The dates indicate when the numerical sequence commenced):

First series:

  • 1 to 34999: Masters and mates: foreign competency, 1851 Jan 1;
  • 35000 to 54999: Masters service, 1850 Dec;
  • 55000 to 69999: Mates service, 1850 Dec;
  • 70000 to 78999: Masters service, 1851 Apr;
  • 79000 to 80999: Mates service, 1852 May;
  • 81000 to 99999: Masters and mates: foreign competency, 1868 Oct;
  • 100000 to 119999: Masters and mates: home trade competency, 1855 Mar;
  • 120000 to 134999: Masters: home trade service, 1855 Apr;
  • 135000 to 150000: Mates: home trade service, 1855 Apr.

Second series:

  • 01 to 0500: Yacht masters, 1873 Sept;
  • 0501 to 045000: Masters and mates: foreign competency; 1875 July.

Third series:

  • 001 to 0021000: Masters and mates: foreign competency; steamships, 1881 Apr;
  • 21001-: Masters and mates: foreign competency; steamships, 1927 May.

A single numerical series seems to have existed for engineers from approximately 1862 to 1945.

Each of the statistical registers of passings and failings of certificates of competency is divided into yearly quarters. Each page relates to a particular port where the examination was taken. The ports are organised within each quarter alphabetically.

There are three tables on each page one for each category of examination: Foreign Trade, Home Trade and Engineers. Each table presents a statistical trend of the number of examinations taken per annual quarter and of those the number that were passes and failures. Each register has a section which shows the number of candidates who completed the examination on a weekly and monthly basis.

Each table presents information on the subjects on which the candidates were examined. These were: Extra Master; Master; First Mate and Second Mate. Each of these examinations was conducted in three parts: Written, Oral and Signals. It is possible to calculate the number of candidates who took the examination in any given week within each quarter.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, 1872-1992

Physical description: 16 volume(s)
Access conditions: Open
Administrative / biographical background:

An order of 1845 authorised the institution of a system of voluntary examinations of competency for those intending to become masters and mates of foreign-going British merchant ships. The Mercantile Marine Act 1850 made the system compulsory and the Merchant Shipping Act 1853 extended it to masters and mates of home trade vessels.

The legislation was consolidated in the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. This Act specified that every British foreign-going ship should be provided with suitable qualified and certified personnel. There were two types of certificates: those for foreign-going vessels and those for home trade passenger vessels. The foreign-going certificate enabled the seaman to sail on any foreign-going vessel whereas the home trade certificate restricted the seaman to home coastal waters.

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