Marine chemists frequently asked questions

Responses to FAQs are prepared by NFPA technical staff to assist candidates for registration as a Marine Chemist Trainee and applicants for initial certification as a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist.

The responses do not necessarily represent the official position of the NFPA or its Technical Committees and the Marine Chemist Qualification Board. In addition, the responses are neither intended, nor should be relied upon, to provide professional consultation or services.

What is a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist?

A Certificated Marine Chemist is an individual who is a holder of a valid Certificate issued by the National Fire Protection Association in accordance with the, Rules for the Certification and Recertification of Marine Chemists, (the Rules) establishing the holder as a person qualified to determine whether construction, alteration, repair, lay-up, or shipbreaking of vessels, which may involve hazards covered by the Standard for the Control of Gas Hazards on Vessels, NFPA 306, can be undertaken with safety.

The United States Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require that a Certificate issued by a Marine Chemist be obtained before hot work or fire producing operations can be carried out in certain spaces aboard a marine vessel. In complying with both the U.S. Coast Guard and OSHA regulations, the Marine Chemist applies the requirements contained in NFPA 306. This standard describes the conditions that must exist aboard a marine vessel. A survey by the Marine Chemist ensures that these conditions are satisfied.

In addition, a Marine Chemist, by virtue of his or her training and continuous professional upgrading through the Certification program administered by the Marine Chemist Qualification Board, (MCQB) is able to perform similar evaluations in workplaces other than marine vessels and shipyards where an unsafe environment exists for workers or hot work is contemplated on a system that might contain residues of a flammable or combustible product.

Who can be a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist?

Applicants for initial certification as a Marine Chemist must be citizens of the United States. However, under special or unusual circumstances, and after consultation with the President of the NFPA, the MCQB may consider foreign nationals for certification.

Who certificates Marine Chemists?

Marine Chemists are initially certificated by the MCQB. The MCQB also re-certificates Marine Chemists every five years in accordance with the Rules.

Is a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist an employee of the NFPA?

No. Certificated Marine Chemists are not employed by the NFPA. A Certificated Marine Chemist can be employed by a shipyard, work with several other Marine Chemists under a single company name or provide services to the maritime and shipbuilding and repair industry as a sole proprietor. Marine Chemists are not compensated by the NFPA.

The NFPA does not compensate or reimburse Trainees for any fees or expenses incurred while training to become a Certificated Marine Chemist.

Are there physical requirements that must be met to be a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist and Marine Chemist Trainees?

The job of a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist is a physically demanding activity. The NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist may enter and visually inspect confined spaces on marine vessels, in shipyards and in marine terminals. Marine Chemists and Marine Chemist Trainees need to be physically able to perform the tasks associated with these tasks. The Rules require that an applicant for initial certification; and for recertification (every five years) is physically fit and free of debilitating illness and injury that could inhibit him or her from effectively performing the duties of a Marine Chemist. A person who is registered as Marine Chemist Trainee may be asked by the MCQB or by a Marine Chemist Trainer to provide evidence of a satisfactory medical evaluation by a licensed physician or a licensed physician’s assistant.

The criteria that the licensed physician or physician assistant will assess are (but not limited to):

  • Work in extreme temperature (heat and cold) for extended periods exceeding one hour.
  • Safely move about on slippery, sloping, uneven and unstable surfaces.
  • Safely enter, move about within and egress cargo tanks, cargo holds and other confined spaces that may involve maneuvering over 6 ft (1.8 m) ship framing; climbing up and down 30 ft (9.1 m) vertical ladders and 80ft (24.3 m) stairways.
  • Safely move between spaces and into/out of compartments on marine vessels that can involve stepping over a door threshold or coaming of 24 inches (61 cm) in height; moving through restricted openings or man holes of 24 inches by 24 inches (61 cm X 61 cm), crouching (lowering height by bending knees); kneeling (placing knees on ground); and stooping (lowering height by bending at the waist).
  • Manipulate mechanical devices using manual and digital dexterity, and strength to open and close watertight doors that may weigh up to 55 pounds (25 kg).
  • Perform visual inspections and surveys that can involve the use of hand tools such as spanners, valve wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, pliers.
What academic qualifications does an applicant need to complete to be eligible for initial certification as a Marine Chemist?

Each Applicant shall have at least a Bachelor's Degree from a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of Education of the United States or accrediting agency of another country as acceptable to the MCQB. Work shall include the following college level courses intended for science majors with a final minimum passing grade of 2.0 out of a 4.0 grading scale for each required course:

  • Two semesters or three quarters of general inorganic chemistry with labs.
  • Two semesters or three quarters of organic chemistry with labs.
  • Two semesters or three quarters of advanced chemistry with labs, (e. g. analytical chemistry, instrumental analysis, quantitative analysis, etc.)
  • One course in industrial hygiene sampling and analysis.

In addition to the above academic requirements each applicant must successfully complete a self‐study program related to safety and maritime issues pertinent to the Marine Chemist profession and submit a thesis to the MCQB outlining the applicant’s knowledge on a subject related to the science of marine chemistry.

The MCQB can consider other professional achievements as equivalent to any or all of the academic qualifications.

What are the professional requirements necessary for someone to be certificated as a Marine Chemist?

Each applicant shall have a working knowledge of the construction of all common types of vessels including hull and superstructure compartmentation systems, machinery spaces, cargo handling systems, and piping systems.

Each applicant, while a trainee, shall have completed at least twelve (12) months of supervised training that is under the direct supervision of at least (3) Marine Chemist Trainers.

A trainee is required to complete a minimum of 500 hours of supervised training during which the trainee shall participate in the testing, visual inspection and Certificate-writing activity associated with the issuance of not less than two-hundred and fifty (250) Marine Chemist Certificates.

Each applicant shall have completed at least three (3) years of full-time employment in marine construction or repair as a shipyard competent person or equivalent type of employment, or in another marine transportation or industrial environment that is acceptable to the MCQB and specified in the Rules.

The MCQB can consider other professional achievements as equivalent to any or all of the professional requirements.

How long does a Marine Chemist Trainee have to complete the requirements for initial certification as a Marine Chemist?

Trainees must complete all requirements for initial certification, except for the personal interview with the MCQB within six (6) years of the acceptance of the application for registration by the MCQB. Failure to meet the six-year requirement shall cause the registration to be terminated. After termination for this reason, a Trainee may be reinstated at the discretion of the MCQB. At the time of reinstatement, the MCQB shall determine the previous training it will accept, if any, and specify the Trainee’s remaining requirements for certification.

What are the fees or expenses associated with becoming a Marine Chemist Trainee; and a Marine Chemist?

To become a Marine Chemist Trainee there is a non-refundable fee of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) that must be submitted with the registration application.
Trainees can also incur expenses associated with required academic course work and required field training. These fees and related expenses are the responsibility of the trainee and are not refundable or reimbursable by the NFPA.

There is a non-refundable initial certification application processing fee of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) that is required to be submitted with the initial certification application. There is a non-refundable application processing fee of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) that is required to be submitted with a Marine Chemist’s application for recertification every five (5) years.

How do I get more information about becoming a NFPA Certificated Marine Chemist?

The Marine Chemist Directory includes the Rules for Certification and Recertification of Marine Chemists, which explains the training and certification requirements in detail. To obtain a copy of the Directory and application forms, contact NFPA's Marine Field Service at +1 617 984‐7418 or Email: