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Types of STCW Certificates, Requirements & Pathways for Seafarers as per the  STCW Convention

coc mca

Under the STCW Convention, all seafarers need to meet minimum standards of competence, age, medical fitness, and approved sea-going service. These standards are set by each national administration, but as a minimum, they should reflect STCW standards. The certificates you are required to hold depend on your rank, responsibilities you are assigned on board, and the type of vessel you are serving on.

To obtain an STCW certificate or endorsement you first need to successfully complete a training program approved by the issuing administration or to complete a period of approved seagoing service. For most certificates you will need a combination of both.

Before you join a ship, make sure you have all the valid certificates you need to cover the functions you will be performing on board. This documentary evidence is proof of your competence and will be subject to inspection by the master, flag state and port state inspectors.

seafarers on duty

To obtain an STCW certificate you first need to successfully complete a training program approved by the issuing administration or to complete a period of approved seagoing service.

What is a STCW Certificate?


  • An STCW certificate means all official documents required under STCW and includes certificates of competence, endorsements, certificates of proficiency, and any documentary evidence showing that a requirement of the convention has been met.
  • Certificates are important as they are the main paper evidence you have on hand to prove that your level of maritime education and training, your length of service at sea, your professional competence, medical fitness and age all comply with STCW standards. Every party to the convention has to ensure that certificates are only issued to those seafarers who meet STCW standards.

What is STCW Certificate of Competence (CoC)?

  • STCW Certificate of Competence document is issued to masters, officers, radio operators and ratings forming part of a watch who meet the standards of competence relevant to their particular functions and level of responsibility on-board. The table below indicates the title of the certificates under STCW and the various limitations and tonnage thresholds that apply (given below).

STCW Deck Certificates (CoC)

CoC Tonnages Deck
Table: STCW Deck Certificates with area and tonnage limitations. Credits: ITWF

STCW Engine Certificates (CoC)

coc tonnage engine
Table: STCW EngineCertificates with area and tonnage limitations. Credits: ITWF

STCW Endorsement

  • STCW Endorsement is a document issued to masters and officers, either as part of the certificate or as a separate document. The certificate endorses that the national certificate has been issued in accordance with all STCW requirements. According to 2010 regulations, it is now required that all endorsements are only issued by the respective maritime administrations after fully verifying the authenticity of any certificates and documentary evidence.

STCW Endorsement of Recognition

  • STCW Endorsement of Recognition endorsement certificate is issued by an administration as an official recognition of the validity of a certificate issued by another administration. To obtain an endorsement of recognition, you will need to submit the original of your national certificate of competence to the representative of the issuing administration.

STCW Certificates of Proficiency

  • STCW Certificates of Proficiency are documents issued to the seafarer to certify that he or she has met the required standard of competence in a specific duty. These certificates include certificates for personnel serving on certain types of ship (tankers, and passenger ships) and for those assigned with safety, security and pollution prevention duties. It certifies that the holder meets STCW standards of competence in specific functions related to safety, care of persons, or cargo.

Documentary Evidence

  • Documentary Evidence is a document which is not necessarily issued or recognized by the administration. Documents issued by the shipowner or master of the vessel to attest that the seafarer has participated in a safety drill or has completed some type of training (for example familiarization training) are examples of documentary evidence. It is important to keep these documents since they are one of the accepted ways of demonstrating that you have achieved proficiency in a given task (basic safety training, for example). Where such evidence is not available of on-board training and experience you will be required to undergo a five yearly refresher course in personal survival and fire prevention and fire fighting.

STCW Certification Paths

  • There are two different ways of gaining your STCW certificates. Whichever path you choose, the standards are identical. The difference lies in the number of functions you will be able to perform on-board and this is reflected in the certificate awarded.
  • The Traditional Method: STCW certificates awarded in the traditional way are classified according to which department of the ship (deck or engine) you work in. Under this method you will probably work in the same department (deck or engine) throughout your entire seafaring career.
  • The Alternative Method: This refers to STCW certificates issued to enable the holder to perform different functions that are not necessarily within the same department. The certificate awarded will specify the functions and the level of responsibility.
  • A candidate for alternative certification will need to qualify in all these functions at a determined level of responsibility in one department (deck or engine) before being able to qualify for other functions (at the same level of responsibility) in a different department. For example, a watch-keeping officer applying for an alternative certificate will have to qualify in all the functions of a watch-keeping officer, either in the deck or the engine department, before he or she can qualify for additional functions at the same level in other departments. Standards of competence, age and medical fitness are the same as for the traditional method.
  • The purpose of the alternative certification is to allow for shipboard organization to be in line with modern technological developments and to open up a new career path for seafarers.

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