The new rules governing professional maritime activity, including new rules on the nationality of crew members, but excluding those with the functions of commander or master of ships or vessels, were published in the state journal on Thursday and come into force on 1 January

The purpose of the new rules, the government states in the legislation, is "to promote maritime work with national [Portuguese] citizens, safeguarding equality with citizens of other Member States of the European Union and of the European Economic Area.”

The threshold also encompasses citizens of Portuguese-language countries, to enable the Portuguese language to be the working language on board.

Only in "duly justified exceptional cases" may the threshold not be met, according to the legislation.

The legislation also provides for new standards relating to the recruitment of crew for vessels and fishing boats and the capacity of vessels, with the imposition of fines between €200 and €44,000 for slight or serious offences carried out by individuals or legal persons.

The new rules apply to seafarers carrying out their activity on board trading, fishing, local traffic, auxiliary and towing vessels, and offshore research or exploration platforms under a Portuguese flag.

The professional activity of seafarers, which is currently regulated by 2001 legislation, is classified by the new law into a smaller number of categories; new categories have also been created that, according to the government, "make it possible to meet the needs resulting from the activity, in order to boost" access to the profession.

"In order to promote workers' mobility if there is a shortage of manpower, the principle of flexibility between categories is enshrined,” it states, citing the fact that crew working on deck will be able to transfer between different functions and stressing that the aim is also to foster more training.

The rules now published do not apply to vessels registered in the International Register of Madeira Ships, which are governed by a special regime published in 1989, nor to naval ships, vessels sailing exclusively in non-maritime indoor waters, recreational craft not used for commercial purposes, wooden ships built using traditional or primitive methods, and vessels in service with the security forces as a part of their mission.