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What is STCW and Why Do You Need It? - Introduction to the Convention

A complete Guide to STCW for Seafarers, Education and Training Establishments, and Other Stake Holders

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for Seafarers was adopted in 1978 by conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered into force in 1984. It was amended in 1995 and again in 2010. The applies to seafarers, ship-owners, training establishments and national maritime administrations. The convention helps and enforces a series of standards for the safe keeping of shipping environment and keeping the oceans clean.

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978 sets qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships. The STCW Convention does not apply to seafarers serving on warships, naval auxiliaries or any other government owned or operated ship engaged in non-commercial service; fishing vessels (there is a separate convention covering personnel on fishing vessels); pleasure yachts not engaged in trade and wooden ships of primitive build.

The 2010 Manila amendments was intended to include all agreed changes since 1995, address new technology, inconsistencies, interpretations and outdated provisions. There was also an overall commitment to harmonies the amended STCW Convention where practical, with the provisions of the 2006 ILO Maritime Labour Convention. The 2010 amendments continued to emphasize competence rather than sea service or period of training. The standard set by the convention applies to seafarers of all ranks serving on sea-going merchant ships registered under the flag of a country party to the convention.

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The STCW Convention for Seafarers was adopted in 1978 by conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered into force in 1984 and was amended in 1995 & 2010

The STCW Convention

The STCW Convention consists of three sections.

  • The articles: outline the legal responsibilities a party has to meet.
  • The annex: gives technical details on how the legal responsibilities referred to in the articles should be met.
  • The STCW Code: specifies in more depth the technical details contained in the annex. It contains part A (mandatory standards of training, certification and watch-keeping) and part B (recommended guidelines - not mandatory - on training, certification and watch-keeping)

A copy of the STCW Convention is normally kept on board all sea-going merchant ships.

STCW Guide for Seafarers

  • List of STCW Certificates / Endorsements: Types of STCW certificates and requirements & pathways for Seafarers as per the STCW convention - 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.
  • STCW Medical Certificate Requirements: Seafarers are not allowed to work on a ship unless they are certified as medically fit to perform their duties. The medical certificate must have been issued by a duly qualified medical practitioner and must be still valid.
  • General Requirements for Officer: If you are a Merchant Ship Officer you must meet minimum requirements in respect of standards of competence, seagoing service time, medical fitness and age.
  • General Requirements for RatingAs a rating you are required to meet minimum standards of medical fitness, minimum age, competence, and seagoing service time.
  • Requirements for Master: A Master's license states the area of operations and maximum gross tonnage of vessel for which that license is valid.
  • Requirements for Chief MateChief Mate (C/m) is the second in command following the Captain or Master and head of the deck department on a merchant vessel. Chief Mate is also known as Chief Officer.
  • General Requirement for OICNW: Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch is a Certificate of Competency and an STCW endorsement with tonnage limitations for the deck officer on a sea going merchant ship.
  • General Requirements for RFPNWRating Forming Part of a Navigational Watch is a qualified rating and Certificate of Competency or Endorsement, designed to fulfill the requirements of STCW regulation II/4 of the STCW convention.
  • Requirements for Able Seafarer DeckTransitioning from Able Seaman or AB, the Able Seafarer Deck is a new STCW endorsement and is a qualified rating at the deck department on ocean going vessels of 500 GT or more.
  • Requirements for GMDSS Radio OperatorThe role of a GMDSS Radio Operator of high importance in the maritime industry and they are responsible for efficiently operating the GMDSS equipment.
  • Requirements for Chief EngineerA Chief Engineer is in charge of the engine department in a merchant ship and holds complete responsibility for the operations of the engine room and maintenance of all types of machinery onboard the vessel.
  • Requirements for Second EngineerA Second Engineer (First Assistant Engineer) is a licensed member of engineering department on a merchant vessel and directly reports to the chief engineer.
  • General Requirements for OICEWThe Officer in Charge of Engineering Watch is the officer on watch in charge of the main propulsion plant of the ship, and of the associated auxiliaries.
  • General Requirements for ETOThe Electro Technical Officer is a licensed member of the engine department of a merchant ship as per STCW section A-III/6 of the STCW code.
  • General Requirements for RFPEWThe Ratings Forming Part of an Engineering Watch (RFPEW) is part of the engine department on a seagoing ship powered by main propulsion machinery of 750 kW propulsion power or more
  • Requirements for Able Seafarer EngineThe Able Seafarer Engine STCW certification corresponds with regulation III/5 of the STCW code for Seafarers as amended in 2010.
  • Requirements for ETR: An Electro Technical Rating also called ship’s electrician, performs duties prescribed by STCW regulation III/7 of STCW
  • Requirements for Other Duties Onboard: Requirements for Crew Members with various designated or special duties in the ship operations.
  • On-Board STCW Requirements: Before joining a ship, it is your duty, and that of your employer, to check that you hold the correct certificates.
  • STCW Requirements for IGF Code: The International Code of Safety for Ships using gas or other low-flashpoint fuels was developed to provide an international standard for ships, using low flash-point fuels other than those ships covered by the IGC Code.
  • Requirements for Polar CodeThe International Code for Ships Operating in polar waters (Polar Code) was developed to supplement existing IMO instruments in order to increase the safety of ship operations and protect the environment in the Polar Regions.
  • IMO STCW Code Regulations, Sections & TablesThese provisions give in detail the minimum standards required to be maintained by Parties in order to give full and complete effect to the STCW Convention.
  • STCW-F FishingSTCW-F Code applies the principles of STCW to fishing vessels from ratifying states that are 24 meters in length and above and officers in the engine department powered by main propulsion machinery of 750 kW propulsion power or more.

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Disclaimer: For general information purpose only - please check with IMO STCW Convention for the latest requirements and accurate info