Crew members

Crew members are natural persons working on board ships, who operate the ship or service passengers in the performance of their duties. Crew members shall be entered in the crew list and a seafarer’s employment contract shall be concluded with them.

Nevertheless, the following persons are not regarded as crew members:

  • persons who perform checking, loading, maintenance, repair or cleaning duties or other duties of the same kind on board a ship during the ship’s stay in port;
  • persons who perform pilotage;
  • persons whose principal place of employment is on shore but whose duties require irregular short-term stays on board ships.

A dispute concerning whether a person should be regarded as a crew member or not is settled extra-judicially by the Estonian Transport Administration who shall consult the relevant representative organisations of operators and crew members.

The definition of crew member is given in § 4 of the Seafarers Employment Act.

Registration of employment of crew members and applying for Estonian personal identification code

Who must register employment of crew members, and when?

Employment of crew members must be registered in the employment register by the employer.

Any crew member must be registered in the employment register by the time he or she begins work on a ship.

In order to apply the special tax regime for labour taxes, established on the basis of the package of legislative amendments that entered into force on 1 July 2020, crew members must be registered in the employment register under “Contract of employment with crew member benefit”, provided that they are deemed eligible for special tax treatment.

More detailed information about registration of employment in the employment register is available on the Tax and Customs Board website.

Why is registration of employment necessary?

Registration of employment will give individuals access to various services provided by the Republic of Estonia. The data in the employment register will be the basis for social guarantees related to employment in Estonia, such as old age pension, unemployment insurance benefit, health insurance (if available), etc., and for verification of performance of work-related obligations.

Also, registration of employment is necessary in order to apply the special tax regime for labour taxes in relation to crew members.

How can employment be registered?

Instructions for registration of employment are available on the Tax and Customs Board website.

In order to be able to register employment, crew members must have an Estonian personal identification code.

In addition, the ship’s IMO number is also required for registration of employment of crew members in the employment register under “contract of employment with crew member benefit”.

What is the Estonian personal identification code and what is it needed for?

The Estonian personal identification code is a unique 11-digit code given to individuals by the Republic of Estonia, which will remain unchanged throughout an individual’s life. This code is generated on the basis of the sex and date of birth of the individual, enabling identification of persons. The Estonian personal identification code is necessary to use various services provided by the state.

On the basis of the personal identification codes of crew members, the employer can enter them in the employment register.

How can aliens apply for the Estonian personal identification code?

All crew members on ships flying the Estonian flag are entered in the Estonian Register of Seafarers notwithstanding their state of residence.

When crew members who are foreign nationals are entered in the register of seafarers, they will each be given an Estonian personal identification code. According to the law, the Estonian Transport Administration (formerly the Maritime Administration) shall give a personal identification code to a person whose personal identification code must be entered in the register of seafarers, on the basis of an application by that person.

In order to apply for a personal identification code and for being entered in the register of seafarers, a crew member must submit an application to the Transport Administration on Form A-IA (35.36 KB), together with a fully legible copy of an identity document. The application must be sent to the Seafarers’ Certification Department of the Transport Administration, using the e-mail address mdb@transpordiamet.ee.

The application can be submitted by the crew member himself/herself or by his/her employer together with the applications of other crew members. The application must have the applicant’s signature. If the applicant cannot sign the application digitally, the form may also be signed by hand on paper and sent to the Transport Administration as a scanned document (PDF).

The Transport Administration will form a personal identification code for the applicant in the e-services environment of the Population Register and send an e-mail reply to the application submitted on the required form, containing the personal identification code. On the basis of the personal identification code thus received, the employer will enter the crew member in the employment register.

Crew members must be entered in the employment register by the time they commence work, i.e. the date on which the employment relationship with the employer begins. Thus, the application for formation of a personal identification code and entering the crew member in the register of seafarers should be submitted as soon as employment on a ship flying the Estonian flag is agreed upon, so that the necessary procedures could be completed on time.

The application for provision of a personal identification code and for the crew member to be entered in the register of seafarers will be satisfied within five working days.

Alternatively, crew members may apply for a personal identification code at the Estonian foreign mission in a foreign country. For this purpose, an appointment must be made at the nearest consulate and an application must be submitted on the spot. Crew members must then forward the personal identification code thus provided to the employer, who will enter the crew members in the employment register.

More information about applying for a personal identification code in accordance with the general procedure is available on the website of the Ministry of the Interior.

Clarification of the exemption from the requirement for obtaining a residence permit or a visa for seafarers


According to the Police and Border Guard Board, foreign nationals on Estonian-flagged ships do not need a residence permit, a visa or a registration of short-term working.

An Estonian-flagged ship is conditionally deemed to be part of the territory of the Republic of Estonia. In accordance with the Aliens Act of Estonia, the general requirement for a residence permit or a visa applies to a third country national staying in Estonia, but as an exception the law in the Republic of Estonia does not require obtaining a residence permit or a visa for aliens staying or working on ships flying the national flag of Estonia. As a result, aliens may stay and work on Estonian-flagged ships without a residence permit or a visa.

Also, pursuant to subsection 44 (4) of the Aliens Act, an alien who is a crew member may be permitted to Estonia as a transit passenger if the purpose of the entry into Estonia is to commence or terminate employment as a crew member on board of a ship at an Estonian port or the commencement of employment on board of another ship at an Estonian port or in cases provided for in a treaty for transferring to a ship in another state or returning to the country of origin.

A more detailed procedure for an alien who is a crew member to be allowed to disembark and embark as a transit passenger is established in Regulation of the Government of the Republic No. 268 of 13 August 2002 “Procedure for permitting crew members to enter Estonia”. A crew member is permitted to Estonia on the basis of a travel document and a visa complying with international requirements and recognised by Estonia (subsections 268 (1) and (2) of Regulation No. 268). A visa is not required for a crew member who has been issued a seafarer’s identity document by a country that is a party to the ILO convention concerning seafarers’ national identity documents (ILO 108 or ILO 185), or who is a citizen of a foreign country that has entered into an agreement with Estonia on visa-free travel. Pursuant to subsection 2 (3) of Regulation no. 268, a crew member himself or herself, or also the master of a ship or the ship’s agent, shall provide evidence to establish the circumstances of entry (for instance, the ship’s crew list in addition to a recognised travel document).

If an alien crew member wishes to stay in the territory of an Estonian port or the territory of the county adjoining the port while his or her ship stays at that port, he or she shall have the right to do so, in accordance with Regulation No. 268 of 13 August 2002 by the Government of the Republic, on the basis of a travel document complying with international requirements and recognised by Estonia.

If the purpose of entry into Estonia of an alien crew member is not to be a transit passenger returning to the country of origin, or if the seafarer wishes to exit the territory of the county adjoining the port while his or her ship stays at that Estonian port, he or she shall have one of the legal bases for entry into and stay in Estonia listed in section 43 of the Aliens Act.

In case an alien wishes to take up residence in Estonia, he or she shall have a residence permit.

Meremees laeval

Last updated: 12.09.2021