In 2012, amendments to the 1978 International Convention on Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, the STCW Convention, were adopted by all countries being parties to the Convention. It aimed at enhancing training and certification requirements applicable to seafarers, shipowners, training institutions and maritime administrations by updating and setting the necessary global standards to train and certify seafarers to operate technologically-advanced ships. These amendments enter into force on 1 January 2017.
In view of concerns having been expressed that some Parties may not manage to issue STCW-2010 certificates in accordance with the requirements by the 1 January 2017 deadline, the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee has addressed the issue and agreed that a practical and pragmatic approach should be taken during inspections in the first six months of implementation. This will allow flexibility where seafarers fail to provide certificates issued in compliance with STCW-2010. In response to the issue, Paris MoU has also advised its member states to take such a harmonious approach during port state controls until 1 July 2017. Nevertheless, certain port state controls may adhere strictly to the new requirements of the Convention during inspections that may cause delays to the ship. Members are advised not to be complacent on the "grace period" given the fact that it takes time for training, assessment of competence and knowledge, and the final issuance and endorsement of certificates.
The five years' implementation period of the Manila 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention will imminently end in January 2017. All seafarers on active service must comply with all the 2010 amended STCW requirements and be in possession of a valid STCW certificate covering the functions performed on board. It includes certificates of competence, endorsements, certificates of proficiency, and any documentary evidence showing that a requirement of the Convention has been met. The provisions are aimed at ensuring necessary global standards will be in place to train and certify seafarers to operate ships with modern technology. It thus embraces the main purpose of the Convention – to promote safety of life and property at sea and maintain clean oceans.
There are two parts of the STCW Convention:
Mandatory provisions to which specific reference is made in the annex to the STCW Convention and which give, in detail, the minimum standards required to be maintained by Parties in order to give full and complete effect to the provisions of the STCW Convention and, in
Part B [non mandatory]
Recommended guidance to assist Parties to the STCW Convention and those involved in implementing, applying or enforcing its measures to give the STCW Convention full and complete effect in a uniform manner.
Important changes include the following (courtesy of the IMO)
- Address MLC 2006 fatigue issue of watch-keepers with revised requirements on hours of work and rest – minimum 10 hours' rest in any 24 hours' period; and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as updated standards relating to medical fitness standards for seafarers.
- New certification requirements for able seafarers.
- New requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic charts and information systems (ECDIS).
- New requirements for marine environment awareness training and training in leadership and teamwork.
- New training and certification requirements for electro-technical officers.
- Updating of competence requirements for personnel serving on board all types of tankers, including new requirements for personnel serving on liquefied gas tankers.
- New requirements for security training, as well as provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained to cope if their ship comes under attack by pirates.
- Introduction of modern training methodology including distance learning and web-based learning.
- New training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters.
- New training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning Systems.
Seafarers holding STCW certificates (excluding GMDSS Radio Operator Certificates) are required to demonstrate continuous competence by undertaking refresher training every five years. The training involves sea survival and firefighting which must be completed in order to revalidate an STCW certificate. The changes to STCW also contain continuous competence requirement for holders of Certificate of Proficiency in Fast Rescue Boats.
Certificates are important as they are the main evidence at hand to prove that the level of maritime education and training, length of service at sea, professional competence, medical fitness and age all comply with the STCW standards. Every party to the Convention has to ensure that certificates are only issued to those seafarers who meet STCW standards.
A new entrant or those who hold STCW-95 certificates need to successfully complete the relevant training courses, and indicate competence in and knowledge of the tasks to obtain the STCW certificates. The majority of training courses are shore-based while smaller parts are onboard the ship including drills. Coupled with the fact that the STCW-2010 has stricter requirements that prevent fraudulently issued certificates, the major responsibilities are put on the issuing and endorsing parties.