Guidelines for the medical examination of seafarers differ considerably among seafaring nations. Some nations follow the guidelines recommended by the authorities (ILO,IMO), others have composed their own.
A harmonization of these guidelines among seafaring nations has long been the objective of professionals within maritime medicine and a good deal of effort has been made to draw up a new set of guidelines that will enable medical examiners to reliably select seafarers with the safety of the vessels and their crew as the main objective. A natural goal would be to encourage all seafaring nations to adopt the guidelines, something that would enhance the quality of the selection process and make the validity of the medical certificate universal.
A discussion on the proposed new set of guidelines – chiefly elaborated by Tim Carter and associates – was the issue at a joint meeting with ILO and IMO in September 2011.
The purpose of the Meeting was to complete the revision of the guidelinesleading to the issue of medical certificates, pursuant to the relevant requirements set out in the MLC, 2006, and the International Convention on STCW, 1978, as amended; and to consider the guidance relating to the ships’medicine chests, especially as regards quantities of equipment and supplies, so as to complete information contained in the latest edition of the International Medical Guide for Ships (IMGS)and facilitate compliance with the requirements of the relevant international conventions.
After having reviewed the proposed guidelines for medical standards in detail and made a number of minor corrections and amendments, the Meeting accepted the proposal and forwarded it to the IMO and ILO councils for approval.
With reference to the imperfect mandate, the Meeting decided to postpone the discussion on issues regarding the medical chest until a new issue of IMGS has been presented.
For seafaring nations that routinely follow recommendations of medical standards, an approximation to the guidelines will come naturally. It remains to be seen how many of the nations with deviant guidelines – e.g. Norway - will adopt the new rules and thus contribute to the long awaited harmonization.