Certificate of Discharge for Seamen

by John MacFarlane 2016

Certificate of Discharge

Certificate of Discharge for Seamen issued April 16, 1917 to R. Child, an American Able Seaman who had served in the S.S. Coaster engaged and discharged in Vancouver BC. (Photo from the Nauticapedia collection.)

The Merseyside Maritime Museum website states "Certificates of Discharge were introduced following the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, which required a Certificate of Discharge and Character to be signed by both the seafarer and the master at the end of each voyage. Originally individual paper certificates that were issued when signing off from each voyage, they were eventually replaced by the Continuous Certificate of Discharge, a passport sized, hard backed book, usually with a blue cover, that could record many individual voyages."

The Certificate of Discharge for Seamen was issued to merchant seamen on their discharge from a ship to record their service, and an assessment of their conduct and ability. The recipient of this certificate was rated as "VG" or "Very Good". This was actually the only acceptable rating as any other would have been considered as lower quality and therefore unacceptable. The certificate was essential to the seaman’s potential for gaining a billet in another vessel.

For many years, it has been the practice for the Master to enter his opinion of a seaman’s conduct and ability in that seaman’s discharge book, together with information about the ship, the period of service and the seaman's position. The sections of the Canada Shipping Act which authorize or require these discharge book entries, Sections 183 and 184, stipulate that discharge book entries for conduct and ability shall only be made if requested by the seaman. Canadian discharge books have recently been reprinted and the space for conduct and ability entries deleted so as to comply with Convention 22 of the International Labour Organization.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2016) Certificate of Discharge for Seamen. Nauticapedia.ca 2015. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/CertofDischarge.php

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