The Revised STCW Convention

March 1997

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In July 1995, the IMO adopted substantial amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) 1978.

The amendments will enter into force on 1st February 1997 under the Convention’s "tacit acceptance" procedure. However, under the Convention’s transitional provisions, parties may defer enforcement of the new requirements until 1st February 2002 in respect of seafarers who began training or seagoing service prior to 1st August 1998.

The revised STCW Convention establishes precise standards of competence relating to the ability of seafarers to perform tasks safely and efficiently. It contains specific criteria detailing standards of knowledge, understanding and proficiency to be achieved in each of 7 areas of competence, i.e. :- 

  • Navigation
  • Cargo handling and stowage
  • Controlling the operation of the ship and care of the persons on board
  • Marine Engineering
  • Electrical, electronic and control engineering
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Radio communications

for each of up to 3 levels of responsibility, i.e. management (senior officers), operational (junior officers) and support (ratings). 

In this way, it is hoped that the possibility of different governments or different sectors of industry applying varying interpretations to STCW requirements will be reduced. 

Under the revised STCW Convention, governments which wish to issue STCW certificates must submit documentary proof of compliance with Convention standards to the IMO before 1st August 1998, including evidence 

  • that their training and certification regimes are satisfactory;
  • that a system is in place to continuously monitor quality standards;
  • of a proper system of qualification for their instructors and assessors;
  • of a procedure for independent evaluation of the above mentioned regimes every 5 years.

The IMO will issue a list of governments whose training and certification standards are considered to be satisfactory.

In addition, governments are required to establish procedures for applying penalties/disciplinary measures to shipowners and masters who breach STCW Convention requirements. Moreover, port state control inspectors will be entitled to check that the certificates on board particular vessels are sufficient in number and in compliance with flag state requirements, and to undertake an assessment of seafarers’ abilities in the event of an accident .

The Convention requires that seafarers employed on ships are properly qualified, trained and medically fit to perform their duties safely and effectively. In this regard, shipowners must ensure that:-

  • their vessels are manned in compliance with flag state administration requirements;
  • each seafarer employed by them holds an appropriate certificate;
  • all seafarers are sufficiently trained for the position and type of ship upon which they are employed;
  • all seafarers, on being assigned to their ships, are familiarised with that particular vessel and their duties on it;
  • the crew can co-ordinate effectively in performing their duties and in dealing with emergencies.

Flag state administrations must also play their part. They are responsible for checking the competence of seafarers who have been certified by other states, verifying that any certificates are authentic, valid and have been issued in compliance with Convention standards.