The sea of maritime industrial history, in its waves of world wars and world-trade, has witnessed the unwilling crew, including young boys barely sixteen, being terrorised into doing their sea-duty under severe oppression, with no proper sea-training and vulnerability to diseases on-board. As those dark chapters faded, individual governments set minimum standards of training, certification and watchkeeping (STCW), however averting the practices of other countries. Naturally, officers aboard a merchant ship from different countries locked horns frequently with one another and the port officials due to conflicting training standards.
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On 7th July, 1978, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers was signed at the International Maritime Organisation in London setting minimum qualification standards to training seafarers which all countries were bound to meet or exceed if required. STCW brought into force from 28th April, 1984, the Convention set sail, aiming to secure life and property at sea and training sea-aspirers to face the waves of challenges with their true mettle.
Any international treaty can never be abandoned of loopholes in the first attempt; likewise, the STCW Convention underwent amendments in 1984, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2010; those of 1995 and 2010 being the most notable. The Convention consists of three sections; the articles, the annex and the Code navigating the legal responsibilities to be met, how and the technical details contained in it.
Brought into force from 1997, the ’95 amendment aimed towards;
- requiring IMO to be notified by all signatories of all administrative measures taken to comply with the Convention,
- enhancing port state control, allowing to intervene if any person, property or environment is liable to damage due to disordered certification or ship accidents,
- creation of the STCW code, Part A of which is mandatory and Part B recommended ensuring quality standard systems, oversight of training, assessment, and certification procedures for recognition.
The 1997 Amendments focused on training crew onboard passenger ships while the 1998 Amendments for crew onboard bulk carriers and improvising minimum standards for cargo handling at ports or onboard.
The Manila Amendments of 2010, into force from 2012 required the shipping world to be in line with technological advances and thus re-wrote the eight chapters of Convention by revising:
- Rest hours of seafarers,
- Grades of competency for deck and engine crew,
- Security Awareness training for pirate attacks, proficiency levels in rescue missions through survival craft and rescue boats under harsh conditions,
- Additional medical standards, lining Alcohol limits in blood or breath,
- Training in electronic charts, Information systems, web-based learning,
- Revised guidance for personnel onboard in polar waters, onboard all tankers including liquified gas tankers, or operating Dynamic Positioning Systems, training for crew on ro-ro ferries, etc.
STCW Training Courses; Road To Sea
An STCW course is mandatory for all crew entity on any merchant sea-faring vessel before being assigned any duty and not onboard military or government owned vessels, to be eligible for sail. An STCW Basic Training Course needs its trainee aged between 17 to 25 years passing 10th and 12th Boards and medically fit as per IMO guidelines, training the sea-aspirer with personal survival techniques, fire prevention and fighting, elementary first aid, social responsibilities and Security Awareness in a minimum span of two weeks. Other courses such as oil and chemical tanker familiarization course, shipboard communication, ship abandonment training, passenger ship familiarisation etc. sub-classified under larger courses could also be pursued by sea-aspirers after their academic courses from Maritime Academies and contribute an ocean of courage and skills to a seafarer spirit to face any wave of challenge.
STCW Endorsements & Certification
Working aboard any ship that crosses international waters needs a mandatory STCW endorsement to license one’s presence onboard. It can be obtained with specific coursework along with optional onboard assessments that meet the STCW convention. The endorsements expire after a span of five years after which they again have to be renewed.
A STCW certificate of competency meanwhile grades a seafarer on his or her proficiency of a particular task onboard.
The age, rank, sea-experience, type of vessel the seafarer works on altogether help him or her escalate through the levels of endorsement;
1. Entry Level Ratings;
- Rating forming part of a Navigational & Engineering Watch
- Capable deck & engine seafarer
2. Operational Level Officers ;
- Officer in Charge of the Navigational &Engineering Watch
3.Management Level Officers ;
- Chief Master & Engineer
Wave of Challenges
Crew onboard can now bind their sea-spirits with trust and assurance that they are safe with everyone trained equally from the core despite rank differences. As of 2018, 164 parties have signed the Convention interlacing over 99.2% of the world shipping tonnage. Marine accidents may have cut down marginally but the maritime news still covers ships stranded due to incompetent port management staff or cargo mishandling; also the Convention is soon to meet further set of amendments as the waves of Industry 4.0 strike effectively within a span of few decades at the most. The Industry, just like the Ocean has thus always been an eternity of unpredictability and challenges, preparing its farer spirits with courage and skills to face the same.