The U.S. Coast Guard on Oct. 15 posted three policy letters offering guidance to mariners and ships that must comply with the STCW Convention. Individual links to the full announcement and the individual letters are available on the agency’s National Maritime Center website at: http://www.uscg.mil/nmc/stcw/default.asp
Each letter includes a disclaimer that reads in part, “This guidance is not a substitute for applicable legal requirements, nor is it itself a regulation. It is not intended to, nor does it, impose legally-binding requirements on any party. It represents the Coast Guard’s current thinking on this topic. You can use an alternative approach if the approach satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations.”
The eight-page letter titled “Hours of Rest Policy” notes that new minimum rest periods for “every person assigned duty as officer in charge of a navigational or engineering watch, or duty as a ratings forming part of a navigational or engineering watch, or designated safety, prevention of pollution, and security duties onboard any vessel that operates beyond the boundary line” consist of “a minimum of 10 hours … in any 24-hour period, and 77 hours … in any 7-day period,” though there are exceptions.
The letter titled “Security Endorsements Policy” is seven pages, and it covers “issuance of endorsements and approval of training for Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties (VPDSD) and vessel personnel requiring security awareness training.”
The 17-page letter titled “Endorsements and Training Approval Policy” points out that the most recent STCW amendments “establish new endorsements, and revise other existing endorsements. Consistent with these changes, upon publication of this policy letter, the Coast Guard will begin issuing endorsements for the following: Able Seafarer-Deck (AS-D), Able Seafarer-Engine (AS-E). These endorsements correspond to the domestic rating endorsements of Able Seaman and Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED)…. The 2010 amendments to STCW also revise the requirements for endorsements for personnel serving on oil, chemical, and liquefied gas tank vessels. The Coast Guard will make changes to the verbiage of the STCW endorsements that are currently being issued, and expand the scope of mariners who may qualify for STCW endorsements for service on tank vessels.”
(Note: The SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center is working closely with the Coast Guard to help ensure a smooth transition to the 2010 amendments, particularly when it comes to course approval guidelines, some of which will be further clarified.)
Excerpts of the announcement follow.
Policy Letters on the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978
The Coast Guard announces the availability of three policy letters providing guidance to vessels and mariners subject to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended (STCW). These letters provide guidance on: The hours of rest requirements of the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention and Code; issuance of endorsements and approval of training for Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties (VPDSD) and vessel personnel requiring security awareness training; and issuance of other endorsements and approval of other training to meet the 2010 amendments. These letters are necessary to provide guidance to affected parties until regulations implementing amendments to the STCW are promulgated….
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: If you have questions on this notice, call or email the U.S. Coast Guard, Mariner Credentialing Program Policy Division (CG-CVC-4) at (202) 372-2357 or MMCPolicy@uscg.mil If you have questions on viewing or submitting material to the docket, call Renee V. Wright, Program Manager, Docket Operations, telephone 202-366-9826.
Background and Purpose
In 2007, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) embarked on a comprehensive review of the entire STCW Convention and STCW Code. The Parties adopted amendments on June 25, 2010 at the STCW Diplomatic Conference in Manila, Philippines, and the amendments entered into force for all ratifying countries on January 1, 2012.
The STCW Convention is not self-implementing; therefore, the U.S., as a signatory to the Convention, must initiate regulatory changes to ensure full implementation of the amendments to the STCW Convention and STCW Code. The U.S. implements these provisions under the Convention and under the authority of United States domestic laws in United States Code Titles 5, 14, 33, 46, and pursuant to 46 CFR, Chapter I, Subchapter B.
The Coast Guard published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) on August 1, 2011 (76 FR 45908), proposing changes to implement the STCW Convention and Code, to address the comments received from the public in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published on November 17, 2009 (74 FR 59354), and to incorporate the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention that came into force on January 1, 2012. The public comment period for the SNPRM ended on September 30, 2011. The Coast Guard intends to publish a final rule to implement amendments to the STCW, including the 2010 amendments, and ensure that the U.S. is meeting its obligations under the Convention.
Description of Policy Letters
The following three policy letters provide guidance to parties affected by STCW:
1. Hours of Rest
This policy letter provides guidance to clarify the changes associated with the hours of rest requirements found within the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention and Code. This policy will provide information on the changes to the hours of rest requirements that are now being monitored internationally. It also provides recommended methods to lessen the port state control impact on U.S. vessels while operating abroad until the Coast Guard promulgates the final rule implementing STCW.
2. Security Endorsements
This policy letter provides guidance on the issuance of endorsements and approval of training for Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties and vessel personnel requiring security awareness training under the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention and Code. The IMO has provided an alternative means of compliance until January 1, 2014, and the Coast Guard has determined that the requirements in 33 CFR 104.220 and 104.225 can be used to comply with the 2010 amendments under this alternative. Endorsements will be issued based upon the documentary evidence that an individual has complied with existing regulations.
3. Issuing Endorsements and Approving Training
This policy letter provides guidance on issuance of endorsements other than the security endorsements discussed above, and approval of other related training to meet the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention and Code. The guidance in this document is intended to assist industry and individual mariners to meet the requirements of STCW and 46 CFR, Chapter I, Subchapter B. This policy provides methods for issuing STCW endorsements established by the 2010 amendments that may be obtained by meeting current domestic requirements. In addition to the information regarding the STCW endorsements, the policy letter announces that the Coast Guard will consider granting approval of training to meet various provisions of the 2010 amendments.