10 Things Seafarers Must Remember Before Signing Off From Ship

29 April, 2022

10 Things Seafarers Must Remember Before Signing Off From Ship

Signing in and signing off are two major events in the life of any seafarer. The day when you sign off is probably full of mixed emotions – joyous, hectic, and sentimental at the same time. A few days before the signing off might be full of persistent packing, sleepless nights, and a perpetual sense of euphoria for seafarers! However, in the midst of all the adrenaline rush, you might tend to forget about the important things that should be taken care of before you sign off from your ship.

In the excitement to return home, taking care of documents, money, or other things becomes secondary. Thus, in order to ensure that you enjoy the sign-off process without being tense about the documentation and other important things, we have put together some points below. This checklist will help you prepare for your sign-off smoothly.

10 things seafarers must remember before signing off from ship

1. Passport and CDC

When obtaining from the master, the two most crucial documents for any seafarer – passport and CDC – should be thoroughly verified. Check the physical conditions and look out for any damage to avoid any complications at the airport.

The stamp indicating the sea service must be checked in the CDC. A sailor must never forget that it is impossible to do any personal or professional task related to one’s marine career without these two booklets.

2. Important certificates

At the time of joining, many documents are handed over to the master including yellow fever certificate and STCW certificate. You should check and collect these documents. Just like the passport and CDC, these documents are also an important part of a seafarer’s essential paperwork. 

Travel tickets must be double-checked for accuracy. Examine the travel schedule, including boarding, departure and arrival times, seating information, and all other elements of the trip. Cross-check your name on the ticket – it must be the same as it shows on your passport. Also, note down the company’s agent’s number that might be helpful in case you have any queries.

Also read: 14 Things to know and carry before joining a ship

3. Cash

Money might be the most important thing that seafarers want to get in their hands while signing off. Any outstanding balances or cash advances must be counted and received (along with the payslip). Having a little money in hand is always useful to spend a little of those hard-earned dollars. 

4. Official packages

Sometimes, you might be handed over a package by the captain and asked to deliver it to the company. In such cases, you will be responsible to hand it over safely to the concerned person. Check it properly for any tampering or damage so as to avoid any blame afterward for unseemly wear and tear.

5. Unofficial packages

It might happen that a crew member hands you over a package to deliver to their family or friends. Explain to them politely that there is always the possibility of being interrogated for carrying something that does not belong to them. Keeping that in mind, you can ask to see the contents of the packaging to be sure that there are no illegal substances.

6. Sea service letters

From the master of the ship, obtain your sea service letter and testimonial spanning your tenure of service for the ongoing contract. Check the letter for appropriate signatures and stamps. Examine the dates, COC number, and statement of conduct and sobriety to ensure they are complete and accurate. Get all the documents sorted before a day of signing off.

7. Research about local laws

There are huge chances that you might sign off in a foreign country. In such a case, you need to know about the local laws so that you don’t get into any trouble. You can ask your agent for any information that may be of importance to you.

8. Do some travel preparation

To avoid having to rummage through all of your paperwork if an authority (airport, customs, etc.) requests a certain document, have everything handy and ready in your hand luggage. Keep photocopies of all your paperwork because you never know when you’ll need one.

Keeping all your important documents is also a good practice in case your main luggage gets lost in transit. Also, check your baggage weight onboard itself. Almost always, the galley department includes a weighing scale, so be sure your luggage does not exceed the allowed weight (it’s generally 40 kilos for foreign travel, with the maximum on one bag capped at 23 kilos).

9. Handing over report

When you complete your contract and sign-off, another sailor will begin his/her contract. You won’t have the time to give last-minute explanations to the reliever regarding the duties and responsibilities. Thus, you should prepare handing over notes well in advance. As an officer, it becomes your responsibility to make the on-signer feel at ease with duties. Take out some time and clarify any doubts that the on-signer might have. 

How do you sign off a ship?

Usually, during a normal contract, an officer has more or less a contract of 6 months or 9 months so when the officer finishes the contract, the company arranges the sign-off so new seafarers can join.

Below is the process of sign off:

  1. At the time of joining the ship, every seafarer submits original documents including Passport, CDC, letter of appointment, COC, health book, and a lot of other documents. These documents are submitted to the Master/Captain of the ship.
  2. The seafarers signing off are called by the Master to collect all their documents and do the needful verification. Thus, you will be informed by the company and asked to collect flight tickets and some cash from the Master/Captain during your voyage home.
  3. You should check all the documents and sign wherever required.
  4. Also, clarify that nothing is missing or inaccurate in the prints.
  5. After all the formalities are done, a tug boat will arrive to take you to the port.
  6. From the port, you will meet the agents who will then take you to the airport from where you can catch your flight back home.


The day of your sign-off is an important day as you’ll be heading back to your family along with a lot of memories collected onboard. To keep the emotions intact and ensure that your sign-off will be free from worries, it is essential to take care of the above-mentioned things. 

P.S. If you have any doubts related to joining Merchant Navy or scaling up in your career path, contact us and we’ll guide you!

Reference: Marine Insight

Click here to follow our Social Media Account to get updates like this