SIU Submits Comments on Recognition of Foreign Certificates

December 2010

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The SIU in late October responded to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the U.S. Coast Guard concerning the agency’s development of procedures to recognize STCW certificates issued by foreign countries.


A recent notice in the Federal Register stated, “Regulation I/10 of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended, (STCW) requires Parties to the Convention to establish procedures to recognize STCW certificates issued by or under the authority of another Party. In order to start this process, the Coast Guard is developing a policy regarding the United States’ recognition of foreign certificates held by foreign maritime officers who may be employed on some United States flag vessels.”


According to the same notice, Title 46 of the United States Code allows the employment of foreign citizens aboard certain U.S.-flag vessels – mainly certain offshore supply vessels and mobile offshore drilling units operating beyond U.S. waters, if it is determined that no qualified U.S. mariners are available.


The union’s comments read in part, “The SIU expects that the Coast Guard’s procedure and policy in recognition of seafarer competence certificates from other countries will at the very least mirror the requirements of the Convention, ensuring strict compliance with STCW requirements. In concurrence with other submissions to the docket, the SIU also advances that foreign STCW certificates should only be recognized by the Coast Guard as evidence that the mariner has met the minimum requirements of the STCW Convention. Before accepting such certificates as equivalent to U.S. credentials where employment is permitted under 46 USC 8103(b)(3) – which only waives citizenship requirements, not professional competency – on certain U.S.-flag vessels, the mariner should meet U.S. requirements pertaining to holding a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), drug testing, medical standards, maritime security, driver record check, etc. as required for American merchant mariners. In other words, the SIU strongly believes that every foreign mariner employed aboard a U.S.-flag vessel under the citizenship waiver statute must meet and satisfy every requirement that is applicable to a credentialed American counterpart to which he/she must comply before being employed aboard a U.S.-flag vessel. To do otherwise would create not only a double standard but possibly a safety concern between American seafarers on U.S. vessels and foreign seafarers holding the same position.”


The union’s comments also included the following: “The SIU asserts that any Coast Guard acceptance of a foreign STCW certificate should clearly indicate the existing limitation to those vessels where the citizenship requirement has been waived…. The SIU appreciates the opportunity to comment and looks forward to working with the Coast Guard on the implementation of the Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention and anticipates the regulatory changes that would be needed to bring the United States into compliance with the STCW requirements so that U.S.-flag vessels will not be subject to detention in foreign ports due to allegations of improperly credentialed seafarers.”

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