STCW in tune with industry developments
Nobody would argue that shipping is safer and more environmentally friendly when seafarers are trained to a high level. Unfortunately despite the priority given to training by high level operators, the human factor is often cited as a cause in marine accident investigations. Sometimes a cavalier attitude to training is evident even though an emphasis is placed on particular aspects by port state control and flag state audits. As with all matters relating to ships, the first and foremost authority that can regulate and legislate on the competency of seafarers is the flag state. But just as in most maritime affairs, the basic standards have been agreed by most nations to be the remit of the IMO although the organisation does not issue any certificates or overly concern itself with the way in which training and education is delivered beyond formulation of a number of model courses. Within the structure of the IMO, training matters come under the auspices of the MSC and in particular since the restructuring of the committee framework in 2013 falls to the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW). This Sub-Committee’s work was formerly dealt with by STW (Standards of Training and Watchkeeping). The IMO’s regulatory role is relatively recent extending back just over three decades and is predominantly contained within The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). In 1977, the IMO (then the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization or IMCO) arranged a conference that was the precursor to the Convention. The intention of the conference was ‘to specify minimum qualifications for training and certification for all grades of officers and crew on board merchant ships with priority for those immediately responsible for the safe navigation and handling of the ship’. IMCO had adopted two recommendations, one on the basic principles and guidelines on the handling of the ship to be observed during watchkeeping and the other on the training and qualifications of officers and crew of ships carrying hazardous or noxious chemicals in bulk. Particular attention was given to the qualifications of the personnel serving on ships carrying hazardous and noxious cargoes and the need for special provisions concerning watchkeeping at sea and in ports, cargo handling and related operations of such ships. In addition IMCO together with the ILO’s Committee on Training was constantly reviewing training requirements for masters, officers and seamen, for the guidance of Governments. The first text for the convention was adopted in 1978 but did not become effective until 1984. The STCW was therefore a response to moves to establish universal minimum training, certification and watchkeeping standards for masters and officers which up to that point were the sole province of flag states. The lack of common standards prior to the STCW meant that there were wide variations in the training of seafarers. STCW 78, as the convention is generally referred to, entered into force with a little over 30 ratifying states. That number has been added to over the years to the point that the latest version STCW 2010 is supported by 159 states representing 98.55% of the world’s merchant fleet by gross tonnage. The changing composition of the world fleet means that although there are now four more signatories than in 2011, the percentage of the world fleet covered has fallen very slightly from a high of 98.9%. Compared to the latest version of STCW, the 1978 text was much slimmer and was contained in six chapters covering general provisions, Master-deck department, Engine department, Radio department, special requirements for tankers and survival craft proficiency. The six main chapters established basic principles covering keeping watches in the various departments alongside mandatory minimum requirements for certificating officers and crew. With regard to the requirements for the radio department, as well as the certification requirements, ITU Radio Regulations and safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance provisions were included as these were also contained in SOLAS. The singling out of tankers in particular was a response to several incidents involving such vessels and to introduce an aspect of pollution prevention. The MARPOL convention was being introduced at approximately the same time as STCW but at that time sewage, garbage and emissions were not included. The regulation on tankers was designed to ensure that officers and ratings who had specific duties related to the cargo and cargo equipment of tankers should have completed an appropriate shore-based fire-fighting course; and have completed either an appropriate period of shipboard service or an approved familiarisation course. Requirements were more stringent for masters and senior officers. The chapter contains three regulations dealing with oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas tankers, respectively. The inclusion of requirements for proficiency in survival craft in a separate chapter was in recognition of the importance of such equipment – the lack of lifeboats on the Titanic was a major factor behind the development of SOLAS. The requirements and regulation have been added to over the years and ironically are still the matter of much debate at the IMO and in the industry generally due to the number of accidents involving training with survival craft onboard. In addition to the regulatory text, more than 20 recommendatory resolutions were also adopted at the 1978 Conference. As usual with IMO conventions and codes, more detail can be found in the resolutions than in the regulations themselves.
- Resolution 1 – Basic principles to be observed in keeping a navigational watch. An annex contains a recommendation on operational guidance for officers in charge of a navigational watch.
- Resolution 2 – Operational guidance for engineer officers in charge of an engineering watch. An annex to the resolution deals with engineering watch underway and at an unsheltered anchorage.
- Resolution 3 –Principles and operational guidance for deck officers in charge of a watch in port. Detailed recommendations are contained in an annex.
- Resolution 4 – Principles and operational guidance for engineer officers in charge of an engineering watch in port. Recommendations are in an annex.
- Resolution 5 – Basic guidelines and operational guidance relating to safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance for radio officers. A comprehensive annex is divided into basic guidelines and safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance.
- Resolution 6 – Basic guidelines and operational guidance relating to safety radio watchkeeping for radio telephone operators.
- Resolution 7 – Radio operators. Four recommendations are annexed to this resolution dealing with (i). minimum requirements for certification of radio officers; (ii). minimum requirements to ensure the continued proficiency and updating of knowledge for radio operators; (iii). basic guidelines and operational guidance relating to safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance for radio operators; and (iv). training for radio operators.
- Resolution 8 – Additional training for ratings forming part of a navigational watch and a recommendation that such ratings be trained in use and operation of appropriate bridge equipment and basic requirements for the prevention of pollution.
- Resolution 9 – Minimum requirements for a rating nominated as the assistant to the engineer officer in charge of the watch. This recognises that suitable training arrangements are not widely available. Detailed requirements are contained in an annex.
- Resolution 10 – Training and qualifications of officers and ratings of oil tankers. Refers to resolution 8 adopted by the International Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention, 1978 (TSPP), which deals with the improvement of standards of crews on tankers. Recommendation in annex.
- Resolution 11 – Training and qualifications of officers and ratings of chemical tankers.
- Resolution 12 – Training and qualifications of masters, officers and ratings of liquefied gas tankers.
- Resolution 13 – Training and qualifications of officers and ratings of ships carrying dangerous and hazardous cargo other than in bulk.
- Resolution 14 – Training for radio officers. Detailed recommendations in annex.
- Resolution 15 – Training for radiotelephone operators.
- Resolution 16 – Technical assistance for the training and qualifications of masters and other responsible personnel of oil, chemical and liquefied gas tankers. Refers to requirements in several Convention regulations and recognises that training facilities may be limited in some countries. Urges governments which can provide assistance to do so.
- Resolution 17 – Additional training for masters and chief mates of large ships and of ships with unusual manoeuvring characteristics. Is designed to assist those moving to ships of this type from smaller vessels, where characteristics may be quite different.
- Resolution 18 – Radar simulator training. Recommended that such training be given to all masters and deck officers.
- Resolution 19 – Training of seafarers in personal survival techniques. Details contained in an annex. Resolution 20 – Training in the use of collision avoidance aids.
- Resolution 21 – International Certificate of Competency. IMO was invited to develop a standard form and title for this certificate.
- Resolution 22 – Human relationships. Emphasises the importance to safety of good human relationships between seafarers on board.
- Resolution 23 – Promotion of technical co-operation. Records appreciation of IMO’s work in assisting developing countries to establish maritime training facilities in conformity with global standards of training and invites the organization to intensify its efforts with a view to promoting universal acceptance and implementation of the STCW Convention.
1995 - A new convention and a codeBy 1995 several criticisms and suggested changes were taken into account in a major revision to the convention adopted at a purposely convened conference. One of the criticisms levelled at the 1978 Convention was that it was not being interpreted consistently and much of the wording was vague. This was a period before the goal-based philosophy was in vogue and when much IMO regulation was prescriptive. The conference concluded with 14 resolutions. Resolution 1 and 2 were the adoption of the final text and the STCW Code. The other 12 covered a variety of topics and included some for incorporation into the new text and some future ambitions:
- Resolution 3: Transitional provisions – covering arrangements for the recognition of existing certificates and a five year introduction programme
- Resolution 4: Training of radio operators for the global maritime distress and safety system (GMDSS)
- Resolution 5: Training in crisis management and human behaviour for personnel serving on board ro-ro passenger ships
- Resolution 6: Training of personnel on passenger ships
- Resolution 7: Monitoring the implications of alternative certification
- Resolution 8: Promotion of the technical knowledge, skills and professionalism of seafarers
- Resolution 9: Development of international standards of medical fitness for seafarers
- Resolution 10: Training of maritime pilots, vessel traffic service personnel and maritime personnel employed on mobile offshore units
- Resolution 11: Promotion of technical co-operation
- Resolution 12: Contribution of the World Maritime University (WMU) in the achievement of enhanced standards of maritime training
- Resolution 13: Revision of model courses published by the IMO
- Resolution 14: Promotion of the participation of women in the maritime industry.
More changesThe first changes to the 1995 Convention and Code were adopted in 1997 simultaneous with the 1995 amendments coming into effect. The changes were connected with the additional requirements for ro-ro passenger ships extending them to other passenger vessels. The amendments included an additional Regulation V/3 in Chapter V on Mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualifications of masters, officers, ratings and other personnel. Related additions to the STCW Code, covered Crowd management training; Familiarisation training; Safety training for personnel providing direct service to passengers in passenger spaces; Passenger safety; and Crisis management and human behaviour training. In December 1998 amendments that would come into effect in 2003 were adopted. These were aimed at improving minimum standards of competence of crews, in particular relating to cargo securing, loading and unloading on bulk carriers. The amendments concern sections A-II/1 and A-II/2 under “Cargo handling and stowage at the operational and management levels”. Amendments adopted in 2006 came into effect on 1 January 2008 and concerned two topics. The first was related to the ISPS Code and introduced minimum mandatory training and certification requirements for persons to be designated as ship security officers (SSOs). The amendments to the Convention and to both parts of the STCW Code included requirements for the issue of certificates of proficiency for Ship Security Officers; specifications of minimum standards of proficiency for ship security officers; and guidance regarding training for Ship Security Officers. The second amendment was to part A of the Code and added additional training requirements for the launching and recovery of fast rescue boats as a consequence of numerous incidents involving injuries incurred during the launching and recovery of fast rescue boats in adverse weather conditions.
2010 - The Manila AmendmentsA second comprehensive review of the Convention and Code was initiated by the IMO in 2007 and at a special conference held in Manila, Philippines in June 2010 a number of major amendments and new additions from the review were adopted – because of where the conference was held these changes are commonly referred to as the Manila Amendments. A new edition of the Convention and the Code dated 2010 was drawn up and became effective on 1 January 2012. Among the changes now included are:
- Improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and strengthened evaluation process (monitoring of Parties’ compliance with the Convention) Refresher training made mandatory. All seafarers are now required to provide evidence of appropriate levels of competence in basic safety training (including survival, fire-fighting, first aid, and personal safety) at five year intervals.
- Revised requirements on hours of work and rest bringing STCW into line with MLC 2006, and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as updated standards relating to medical fitness for seafarers
- New certification requirements for able seafarers including introduction of new grades of ‘Able Seafarer Deck’ and ‘Able Seafarer Engine’. These were in addition to the then current navigational and engine watch rating requirements which are otherwise unchanged
- New requirements relating to training in modern technology such as ECDIS
- New requirements for marine environment awareness training and training in leadership and teamwork
- New training and certification requirements for Electro-Technical Officers and Electro-Technical Rating 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 requirement for all deck and engine rating trainees to demonstrate competence through the use of on board training record books, with completion supervised by officers responsible for on board training (in addition to the existing requirements applicable to officer trainees)
- New training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters New training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning Systems