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STCW Designated Security Duties (PDSD) Course for Cruise Ships

Online MCA Approved Maritime Security (ISPS) Designated Security Duties Course for Crew & Staff of Cruise Ships & Passenger Vessels With Security-Related Duties (IMO Model 3.26)

Course Introduction

The aim of this Online Proficiency in Designated Security Duties Course, also referred to a Vessel Security Duties (VSD), is to provide those undertaking Designated Security Duties onboard Cruise Ships or Passenger Vessels with the essential education and training meeting with the Knowledge, Understanding and Proficiency (KUP) requirements, the 2010 Manila Amendments, and the requirements of Section A-VI/6, paragraphs 6 to 8 of the STCW Convention and Code, and Table A-VI/6-2, and the International Ship and Port Facility security (ISPS) Code.

Course Features

  • 100% Online Course & Assessments
  • Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) Approved
  • Fully STCW ISPS Recognised Course
  • Fully Compliant with IMO Model 3.26
  • This Course is IMO Whitelisted
  • No Expiry on the Official Course Certificate
  • Comprehensive Set of Course Notes to Keep
  • Learning Confirmation Exercises Throughout
  • Interactive Learning Materials
  • Rapid Turnaround on Course Certification
  • Flexible Learning at Your Own Pace
  • Course Tailored for this Specific Sector
  • Take Online or Offline (See Brochure)

About the Course

The fully online UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (STCW ISPS) Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD) Course is a mandatory training prerequisite under STCW ISPS for members of a Ship’s Crew or Staff who report to the Ship Security Officer and have been assigned specific security responsibilities onboard the ship. The course provides learners with the requisite knowledge to meet mandated instruction requirements under STCW, the MNTB KUPs, IMO Model Course 3.26, and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) guidelines.

Customised Designated Security Duties Training for Vessels

Please Note: Our Designated Security Duties (PDSD) Course is customised exclusively for crew and staff operating aboard Cruise Ships & Passenger Vessels. Additionally, we offer tailored versions of the Designated Security Duties Course designed for specific sectors. Therefore, if you belong to one of these vessel categories, we recommend selecting the appropriate course version from the provided links below for optimal relevance and effectiveness.

Awarding Body

The Designated Security Duties (PDSD) Course is fully approved by the UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and holds international recognition and acceptance. It encompasses the 2010 Manila Amendments and aligns with the requirements of Section A-VI/6, paragraphs 6 to 8 of the STCW Convention and Code, as well as Table A-VI/6-2.

Course Learning Outcomes

The Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD] Course approved by the UK DfT MCA aligns with the Learning Outcomes established by the Merchant Navy Training Board [MNTB].

  1. Know why ship security is important and knows the roles and responsibilities of the organisations and individuals involved.
  2. Know what constitutes a security risk, threat and vulnerability to the ship, its personnel, cargo, and operations.
  3. Understand the capabilities and limitations of security methods, equipment, and systems.
  4. Know how to maintain the measures in a ship security plan and related requirements.
  5. Maintain the effectiveness of security arrangements, procedures, and equipment at the three security levels, considering their limitations.

Course Duration

The duration for the online Designated Security Duties (PDSD) Course is 6.5 to 8 hours. This time variance is allowed in order to accommodate learner’s different reading speeds. It must be noted that the minimum time requirement must be achieved along with successful completion of the official assessments to complete the course. This is a requirement of taking this MCA Approved course.

Official Assessment

Upon completing the five Learning Outcomes within this online PDSD Course there is an official assessment that must be successfully completed. This is a requirement under the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) to acknowledge your understanding of the course subject matter. You must achieve a minimum score of 70% to successfully pass the course. The assessment is made up of true or false response questions, and multiple choice questions that are randomly selected from two large banks of questions. There is more information provided on assessments within the FAQs section of this course page. This is also an ‘open book’ type of assessment, and it is permissible for you to use any notes you have made, as well as the official course notes.

Taking Online or Offline

You have the option to complete the course entirely online, as expected. Additionally, we offer an offline capability through an app, accessible via Google Play or the Apple App Store. You can download the course to the app and study even while at sea or in areas with poor internet connectivity. Once you return to land or a location with good signal quality, you can upload the course to the system and synchronise it with your user area on the LMS []. For further information on accessing the course(s) offline, please reach out to us at

Pre-Requisites of Attendance

There are no pre-requisites for attending this online course.

Course Brochure

You can download a copy of the course brochure using the button in the top banner area.

Bulk Purchases

To make enquiries regarding bulk purchasing and associated discounts, please contact us at

  • The Development of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
  • Understand the relevant international conventions, codes and recommendations relating to Maritime Piracy & Armed Robbery against Shipping.
  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of relevant Bodies and Organisations.
  • The roles and responsibilities of Contracting Governments, Designated Authorities, and Recognised Security Organisations.
  • The Security Roles & Responsibilities of Crew and Port Security Personnel.
  • Measures and Procedures for Maritime Security [MARSEC] Levels.
  • Recognition of weapons, dangerous substances, and devices.
  • Recognition of persons who may pose a threat to the security of the ship.
  • Identifying techniques used to circumvent security measures.
  • The handling of Sensitive Security-Related Information [SSRI] and Communications.
  • Identifying security threats including Maritime Piracy & Armed Robbery against Shipping.
  • Security methods, equipment & systems.
  • The Ship Security Alert System [SSAS].
  • The Ship Security Plan [SSP].
  • The provisions for maintaining security.
  • Criteria for setting Maritime Security [MARSEC] Levels under the ISPS Code.
  • Actions to prevent weapons, dangerous substances and devices being brought on board.
  • Guidance and measure for Anti-Piracy and Anti-Armed Robbery.
  • Responses to Emergency Situations including Maritime Piracy & Armed Robbery against Shipping.
  • Physical Searches & Non-Intrusive Inspections.
  • Crowd Management & Control Requirements.
  • Emergency Drills & Exercises.

Official MCA Approved (STCW ISPS) Proficiency in Designated Security Duties Certification

Security Encrypted PDF Certificate

Upon successful completion of the online course, verification of Learner ID, and the associated official Assessment, learners will receive an electronic security-encrypted version of their official course certificate (in secure PDF format). Certificates are typically emailed to learners within 24 to 48 hours of confirming the course results, or on the next working day if the course is successfully completed on a Friday.

Hardcopy, Embossed Stamped Certificate

Learners have the option to request an embossed stamped, hardcopy certificate to be sent to their home address. It is important to note that VIRSEC bears no responsibility for any loss or delay of the certificate once it has been dispatched to Royal Mail. If a Carrier Service is requested, relevant charges will apply, and all payments must be made before the certificate is dispatched.

Certification Renewal

Currently, under the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, there are no expiry dates placed on the (STCW ISPS) Proficiency in Designated Security Duties course certificates. Learners are not required to undergo refresher or re-certification of this course unless mandated by their employing company.

Expedited Course Certificate Service

In cases where learners require expedited certificate processing, such as after office hours, on weekends, during holidays, or under other circumstances, a surcharge of £49.95 GBP (+VAT) will be applied and sent via Secure Payment Link. Please note that all payments must be settled before the certificate is dispatched.

  • Is this course Approved by a Flag State?

    Yes, the fully online Proficiency in Security Awareness or PDSD Course, is fully Approved under the UK Department for Transport, Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA). The course complies with the requirements placed upon it by the STCW Convention & Code, the International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, and meets with the Knowledge, Understanding & Proficiency (KUP) requirements laid out by the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB).

  • I have left it to the last minute to take my course and need my certificate out of hours, what happens next?

    VIRSEC are not responsible for you leaving your course until the last minute, and you run the risk of not receiving your certificate in the time needed. Certificates take up to 48 hours during the working week to turn around, and should this fall over a weekend, you may not receive the certificate until the next working day [holidays excluded]. If you require your certificate to be expedited, you may request this from VIRSEC, but we are under absolutely no obligation to do this and there will be an additional charge applied.

  • I am an experienced mariner and/or an officer, does this make a difference?

    No, we do not take into consideration your time served, nor your rank. This is an ISPS Course, and there is an acceptable minimum time set by the relevant Awarding Body and Governing Bodies. If you abuse this, or do not meet with any of these requirements, you will fail the course regardless of the score achieved in the Assessment(s). You will be required to re-take the course and associated assessments.

  • What happens if I don’t take long enough on the course?

    If you complete the course in an unrealistic time (too quickly) we will have no alternative but to fail you. It is important that you treat this like you would any officially Approved course taught in a classroom environment. The fact that it is online is not reason to abuse the requirements. As stated in other FAQs, we do allow a slight variance in timings due to individual reading speeds.

  • Can I take breaks, or do I need to complete the course in one sitting?

    You can take a break from the course at any time of your choosing. We also recommend that you have regular breaks and often build reminders into our courses. It is strongly recommended that if you are going to take a significant break, we recommend that you log out. The system will remember your progress so you may continue from that point when you log back in.

  • Is there a minimal time limit I must spend on this course?

    Yes, under the relevant Agencies and Conventions, the Security Awareness is an 8-hour course. This excludes any video content we have included [for interest], viewing of any websites linked from the course or documents also linked from the course.

    We are allowed a slight variation in timings due to individual reading speeds, but we will fail you if you exceed the allowed variance. Please note that the Course Notes are purely there for reference and revision, and any time spent reading these do not count towards your time spent on the course. This is also covered in the course itself, so make sure you spend the time necessary to study properly.

  • How do I receive my certificate when I pass?

    When you complete the course correctly and pass the Official Assessment, we will verify your time spent on the course, your submitted ID, and your Official Assessment. Once we are satisfied, we will email you a secure, encrypted PDF of your certificate that you must print off and sign. These PDFs are security encrypted to prevent any tampering with information placed on them, and so you must print them off to sign with as black pen.

  • What happens if I don’t have access to an Invigilator?

    If you do not have access to an Invigilator, you must inform VIRSEC, and we will arrange for you to attend an online Remote Invigilation Session. This is a free of charge service we offer our learners, but you must make yourself available for the relevant session. You can arrange a Remote Invigilation Session by completing the online form accessed from the menu on the VIRSEC website under Online Forms. Please note that failing to attend an arranged Remote Invigilation Session may result in a charge for any subsequent requests.

  • Do I need an Invigilator when taking my Official Assessment?

    Yes, for the Designated Security Duties there is a requirement for an invigilator to be present during your Assessment only. This can be the Master, Ship Security officer or other Officer ranked member of the crew. They will be required to complete the Online Invigilator Verification Form on our website [also linked from the course itself]. They must complete this form and be present at your Assessment. If you do not have access to an invigilator, please see the following question.

  • Do I need to submit any documentation?

    Yes, you are required to submit an official form of ID such as a scan of your passport, driving licence, or other official photo ID. This is to ensure you are who you state yourself to be, and so we can use this ID to collect the relevant information that will populate your official course certificate. It is very easy to do and will only take you around five (5) minutes to do.

  • Do I need to attend a Test Centre to take my assessment?

    No, the course is 100% online and you are required to adhere to the strict requirements outlined in the course explanation as well as any requests made of you during the course such as completing and submitting your online Learner Verification.

  • What happens if I fail the Assessment?

    If you fail the Assessment, you may retake it again straight away, or whenever you wish within the 6-month licence applicable to your course [licences commence the day the course is purchased, not the date they are accessed].

  • Is there an Official Assessment after the course?

    On the Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD) Course, there is an Assessment on completion of the five Learning Outcomes. You must achieve a minimum score of 70% to successfully complete the Assessment.

  • Do I need to take notes on the course?

    No, VIRSEC provides you with a comprehensive set of Course Notes that you can download at the start of each of the Learning Outcomes. You can also use these notes to research any answers when taking the Official Assessment at the end of the course.

  • Is this course Internationally recognised?

    Yes, this course is fully compliant with the Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping (STCW). Any country that is signed up to the ISPS Code and STCW Convention should accept our certification. We have to date provided our courses into 130 countries worldwide.

  • Is VIRSEC open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for Support?

    Learners are able to purchase courses and take them 365 days a year, 24 hours a day as we are an online company, with access to both our e-Commerce website and Learning Management System [LMS]. However, the company is open during the hours listed on its website [0900 to 1700 hrs GMT/BST Monday to Thursday, 0900 to 1500 hrs Friday, Closed Saturday & Sunday and Bank Holidays]. Support requests may be made but will be managed during these listed office hours.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Jana B.

I would like to thank the whole VIRSEC team for creating such an amazing online course. I didn't know what to expect, but after going through the whole course, I would highly recommend it to every seafarer. The course is well structured and provides time & pace flexibility and comfort which I really appreciate. I am amazed at the extent of the information I have gained and I highly doubt I would get the knowledge in such a scale by doing any other classroom PDSD course. I am fascinated by all the additional literature in PDF format, links, and videos. Thanks to them I can revert to this interesting and for all mariner’s necessary topic anytime and study it in even more detail. Thank you.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Elwin G.

Materials that used is good and very informative, i really like that you make the presentation very good to understand and to follow. Thank you. for sure gonna recommend this to others.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Viktoria H.

Organized, very easy to see through the lessons, very well explained, useful PDF information provided and professionally designed time wise for crew who might take this course throughout busy season. Thank you for providing a stress free online course and an enjoyable experience.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Andra I. P.

Many, many thanks for sending me the Certificate in such a short time, I am very grateful. I did enjoy the training (content and display), I am happy with the knowledge I gained but most of all I appreciate the Excellent Customer Care. It is so reassuring to know that you can be assisted so quickly when needed, to be acknowledged when sending an email. I will gladly recommend the platform when the opportunity arises. A huge 'Thank you'.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Gabriela B.

I would recommend this course to anyone needing a deeper understanding of security awareness. It is thorough and provides great films to watch if you need deeper understanding of the material. The links to websites with extra information are very helpful and will also be handy in instances where clarification and on hand references are needed.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Mark V. K.

How do you make a course like the PDSD tolerable let alone interesting? It’s very difficult! Virtual Training Centre have given it a good shot. The course is well laid out and easy to follow, and if you make a mistake, then go back and try it again, it’s the best way to learn. When I called them to clarify some points that I had, they were clear, helpful and polite. I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again if I needed to.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Bride P.

This was a professional and very well developed course! I’m full of new knowledge and feel the examples were useful to learn more. Plenty of information and easy to use online material – well done! Thank you for a great course!

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Erin T.

This is my second time completing a course by VIRSEC, and I have had a great experience once again! The course outline and setup is amazing, informative and easy to comprehend. I would highly recommend VIRSEC!

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Jessica H.

I found the course really clear and easy to follow. The use of buttons, images and videos really breaks up the large amount of information they provide. The interface is simple to use and the whole process was really straightforward.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Elliott P.

This was a great course! Due to my circumstance and COVID-19, this way of conducting the course was perfect. The course itself was well set out and the methods of learning, videos and examples etc. was great. Highly recommend the course to anyone considering it.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Sigrid S.

I was unsure of making the decision to do this course online instead of in an actual classroom, turns out I do not regret my final decision as this course succeeded my expectations. I also made a minor mistake when I purchased the course, but after contacting them through email asking if it was possible for them to help me; they had it fixed in 10 minutes! I only have good words to say about this whole experience with VIRSEC.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Willem B.

I would have done this course long ago if I knew how helpful it would be. I have been a professional yachtsman for 5 years with only a PST. It seems like this course is far under-rated and under-marketed. I would make sure that I do more of these courses which are similarly helpful in the future.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Maia L-S.

The course itself is cleverly constructed to go over important points more than once. The customer service I received was instant and helpful. Most importantly, I don’t feel like I just got the certificate, I feel that I have a good understanding of all subjects covered by this course. I will recommend it to all my colleagues.

PDSD Testimonial Reference by: Tatum B.

The course was very creative, it kept you interested. It was simple to use and the break reminders really helped me navigate through the course especially having an immense amount of information to get through.