International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW)
Adoption: 7 July 1978; Entry into force: 28 April 1984; Major revisions in 1995 and 2010
The 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level. Previously the standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, usually without reference to practices in other countries. As a result standards and procedures varied widely, even though shipping is the most international of all industries.
The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers which countries are obliged to meet or exceed.
The 1995 amendments, adopted by a Conference, represented a major revision of the Convention, in response to a recognized need to bring the Convention up to date and to respond to critics who pointed out the many vague phrases, such as “to the satisfaction of the Administration”, which resulted in different interpretations being made.
The 1995 amendments entered into force on 1 February 1997. One of the major features of the revision was the division of the technical annex into regulations, divided into Chapters as before, and a new STCW Code, to which many technical regulations were transferred. Part A of the Code is mandatory while Part B is recommended.
Dividing the regulations up in this way makes administration easier and it also makes the task of revising and updating them more simple: for procedural and legal reasons there is no need to call a full conference to make changes to Codes.
Another major change was the requirement for Parties to the Convention are required to provide detailed information to IMO concerning administrative measures taken to ensure compliance with the Convention. This represented the first time that IMO had been called upon to act in relation to compliance and implementation – generally, implementation is down to the flag States, while port State control also acts to ensure compliance. Under Chapter I, regulation I/7 of the revised Convention, Parties are required to provide detailed information to IMO concerning administrative measures taken to ensure compliance with the Convention, education and training courses, certification procedures and other factors relevant to implementation.The information is reviewed by panels of competent persons, nominated by Parties to the STCW Convention, who report on their findings to the IMO Secretary-General, who, in turn, reports to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) on the Parties which fully comply. The MSC then produces a list of “confirmed Parties” in compliance with the STCW Convention.
STCW Convention chapters
Chapter I: General provisions
Chapter II: Master and deck department
Chapter III: Engine department
Chapter IV: Radiocommunication and radio personnel
Chapter V: Special training requirements for personnel on certain types of ships
Chapter VI: Emergency, occupational safety, medical care and survival functions
Chapter VII: Alternative certification
Chapter VIII: Watchkeeping
The STCW Code
The regulations contained in the Convention are supported by sections in the STCW Code. Generally speaking, the Convention contains basic requirements which are then enlarged upon and explained in the Code.Part A of the Code is mandatory. The minimum standards of competence required for seagoing personnel are given in detail in a series of tables. Part B of the Code contains recommended guidance which is intended to help Parties implement the Convention. The measures suggested are not mandatory and the examples given are only intended to illustrate how certain Convention requirements may be complied with. However, the recommendations in general represent an approach that has been harmonized by discussions within IMO and consultation with other international organizations.
The Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code were adopted on 25 June 2010, marking a major revision of the STCW Convention and Code. The 2010 amendments entered into force on 1 January 2012 under the tacit acceptance procedure and are aimed at bringing the Convention and Code up to date with developments since they were initially adopted and to enable them to address issues that are anticipated to emerge in the foreseeable future.
Amongst the amendments adopted, there are a number of important changes to each chapter of the Convention and Code, including:
- Improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and strengthen the evaluation process (monitoring of Parties’ compliance with the Convention);
- Revised requirements on hours of work and rest 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; and
New training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning Systems.