IMO Approves New STCW Amendments

Implementation Not Due Until 2017

August 2010

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Member nations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), including the U.S., conducted a conference in Manila, Philippines, June 21-25 to discuss revisions to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for Seafarers. The SIU and its affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education were represented at the conference.

Current STCW rules were adopted in 1978 and revised in 1995. One of the goals of the Manila group was to discuss and adopt revisions bringing STCW guidelines in line with technological advances and changes in the industry. The group approved a number of amendments.

Member nations have until January 1, 2012 to adopt them and until January 1, 2017 to implement them.

How the process has worked for U.S. shipping in the past is STCW amendments had been adopted and then the U.S. Coast Guard would assemble a group of experts, including representatives from the SIU and Paul Hall Center, to a panel known as the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC).

Working groups of experts in the MERPAC would develop guidance within the framework of the STCW amendments and present it to the Coast Guard with the interests of mariners and the industry as a whole in mind.

Then, it would be up to the Coast Guard to decide whether to accept these recommendations and how to apply them to American-flag shipping.

In prior years, the U.S. has led the way on STCW implementation and in many cases had already established training and certification that were later used as benchmarks in STCW amendments. So, U.S. mariners often already had the levels of training that met or exceeded international guidelines.

Some of the new amendments made to the STCW convention and code include improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and to strengthen the evaluation process (monitoring of parties’ compliance with the Convention; and, 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 mariners.

Fatigue has also become an international issue in the maritime industry. The new revisions call for all persons who are assigned duty as officer in charge of a watch or as a rating forming part of a watch and those whose duties involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties shall be provided with a rest period of not less than a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period and 77 hours in any seven-day period.

The hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours in length, and the intervals between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.

At the same time, the Conference agreed to allow certain exceptions from the above requirements for the rest periods.

Other approved amendments call for new requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic charts and information systems (ECDIS); updating of competency 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 help ensure that mariners are prepared in case their vessel comes under attack by pirates; and the introduction of modern training methodology including distance learning and web-based learning.

The conference also adopted resolutions on verification of certificates of competency and endorsements contained; standards of training and certification and ships’manning levels; promotion of technical knowledge, skills and professionalism of seafarers; development of guidelines to implement international standards on medical fitness for seafarers; attracting new entrants to, and retaining seafarers in, the maritime profession; accommodation for trainees; and promotion of the participation of women in the maritime industry.

Speaking at the close of the Conference, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said, “The adoption of the revised STCW had brought to a successful conclusion the concerted effort undertaken by so many – government and industry alike, dedicated seafarer representative bodies, maritime training institutions, and the many other interested organizations – over a four-year period.”

The Seafarers LOG will keep readers updated with STCW changes and MERPAC recommendations as they become available.

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