Getting a Seaman's Discharge Book

You may know it as a Seaman's Service Book or a Seafarers Identity Document. Either way, as a British seafarer you will need to get a Seaman's Discharge Book (SDB) to work on a UK-registered ship or yacht.

Information in this guide explains who needs a seaman's discharge book, the application process, and fees. Find out when and why you may also need to get a British Seaman's Card (BSC) instead, or as well.

Application for a Discharge Book (SDB)

You can download Form MSF 4509 which is the application for a discharge book and British seaman’s card (Rev 1118).

Applying by Post

The cost to apply for a discharge book is £55. The same fee of £55 also applies if you need to get a British Seaman’s Card.

Charges will be higher if you choose to apply through the 24-hour premium service. In this case, the current cost is £105 for each separate application or £160 for both.

Form MSF 4509 contains details on how to pay the fees (e.g. by credit card) and where to post the application.

Applying in Person

You can also choose to make an application in person at the nearest Marine Office. The cost to apply in person for a British Seaman’s Card or a discharge book is £105 each or £160 for both of them.

Note: You would need to have an appointment at a Marine Office to apply in person. There is a list of telephone numbers written on the form.

What is a Seaman’s Discharge Book

A seaman’s discharge book contains a full record of career experience and certification of its owner. As a seafarer, you would need to have a discharge book if (either):

  • You have British citizenship and work on ships or on large yachts.
  • You are not a British citizen but you are employed on a ship or a large yacht registered in United Kingdom.

Note: Seafarers use their Seaman’s Book to record career certification and experience. But, this kind of seafarer identification document does not replace a passport or visas needed to work on a ship or a yacht.

You would not need to have a discharge book if you are employed:

  • By the Crown and not usually employed as a master or a seaman.
  • On a pleasure boat and you do not receive any pay.
  • On a vessel that does not go to sea or on an unregistered ship.
  • Specifically for the alteration, construction, repair, or testing of a ship.
  • To ‘test’ the ship, its equipment, or machinery (only) in United Kingdom coastal waters.
What is a British Seaman’s Card

A British Seaman’s Card (BSC) is a document accepted internationally. Possession of a valid card allows British seamen to land at foreign ports without the need for a visa.

You would need to be a British citizen to apply for a British Seaman’s Card (BSC). But, you would not need to get one if:

  • You are working in a ship that belongs to a general lighthouse authority.
  • You receive little or no pay (cadets would be allowed to apply for a BSC).

You can get extra help with an application by contacting the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Telephone: 029 2044 8844
List of phone call charges.

Seamans Discharge Book Application Fees in United Kingdom