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Are you and your crew prepared for the upcoming deadline for the STCW refresher courses? If not you could face a very difficult situation preventing your superyacht from operating in 2017. With less than a year to go, courses are booking up fast and there may be a shortfall of spaces.
In yachting, we are in the business of providing owners and charterers with fun and out-of-this-world experiences. But behind the scenes, we are all aware of the importance of safety and compliance relating to the operations of a yacht; as managers, captains and officers, we have a responsibility to make sure all those onboard are not at risk.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other regulatory bodies are continually updating regulations, which trickle down to superyacht operations and crew, and there’s little you can do but make sure you and your vessel comply.
Back in 2010, the IMO had a significant revision of the STCW – or Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping – known as the Manila Amendments. There were a large number of changes put into place, to be rolled out over the coming years, with the final deadlines for compliance on 1 January 2017.
Time marches on and suddenly we find ourselves less than a year away with a rather enormous elephant in the room called the STCW refresher courses (MSN 1865 (M) on the MCA website).
Globally, there are 1.4 million seafarers affected by the STCW refresher course introduction, and they are all vying for the same spots on the same courses. To make the situation even more challenging, there are relatively few training schools that have been approved by the MCA to teach the courses. Cruise ships and other commercial fleets have been block-booking classes for their crew at some training facilities, so it is becoming very difficult to get a spot.
It’s best not to panic about the situation, but it’s important to make sure that your yacht is going to be prepared. The rules apply to both private and commercially operating superyachts, above 24m load line length. Whether your crew members will need to take responsibility for attending the course themselves or you will enroll them, time is running out, so it’s best to look into the situation as soon as possible.
Here is a run-down of the basics that you need to know:
The new rules state that, as of 1 January 2017, anyone who works at sea, is mentioned on the crew list and has safety related duties (which is almost every crew member) will need to have either completed their Basic STCW training after 1 January 2012 or will need to have completed the newly created refresher courses before the start of 2017.
If your yacht is inspected by Port State Control (PSC) after 1 Jan 2017 and for all those named on the crew list you do not have onboard the original copies of your Basic STCW courses and the refresher courses, where applicable, then the yacht could be in serious trouble and prevented from operating. I.e., if you have a charter or owner trip starting the next day, you will not be allowed to take the guests until all the crew on the crew list are legally certified – Read: a very stressful situation you don’t want to find yourself in.
Technically, if your yacht is out of the water at a refit yard, you may buy yourself a couple of months on the certification front as long as it is high and dry, but there is still likely to be a significant backlog of crew looking to get certified. And if you are still in the water and rules of safe manning apply (crew on watch, etc), then the new rules most certainly will apply.
Most of the refresher courses cannot be taken remotely or on your yacht, with the exception of the Advanced Fire Fighting, which some schools are permitted to teach onboard (but not all). Class sizes are limited at each training school, based on staff and facilities size, so this is also going to limit how many crew can get through the courses before the deadline.
There is only a handful of training schools that are able to offer the courses (see table with information from MCA website) and the number of places available is becoming increasingly limited.
On a personal level, if you do not have the relevant courses completed after 1 Jan 2017, you will not be able to work on a yacht and you will not be able to re-validate your certificate of compliance.
The refresher courses you need to take will depend on the courses you have already taken:
Warsash Superyacht Academy in the UK is one of the few training schools certified to teach all the refresher modules. Lars Lippuner, who is the director of the training school, commented on the escalating situation surrounding the STCW refresher courses.
“I often hear officers and captains say of the situation, ‘We will deal with it after the next Med season as we don’t know how many of the current crew will still be on board by then.’,” Lippuner said. “Luckily, most junior crew – where the turnover is the highest – are fine, as in most cases they would have done their Basic STCW after 1 Jan 2012. It is mainly the more senior crew who have been working in the industry for much longer (and took their initial courses long ago) who are affected. These crew are less likely to leave the yacht.”
“The STCW refresher courses are an unavoidable inevitability, and it looks as though PSC is going to be increasing its depth of inspections on certification as a result of these new regulations, too; so be sure that all your underlying certification is up to date and originals are kept onboard to prevent any nasty surprises,” Anthony Sands, founder and CEO of Edge Yachts headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, said.
“We feel it’s important to forewarn the yachting community as a whole,” Sands said. “This situation is not going to go away so it will not help to bury your head in the sand. All yachts should make sure they are prepared for this upcoming deadline.”