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Deadline for new STCW amendments is here

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Major revisions to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (the STCW Convention), and its associated Code were adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in Manila, the Philippines, during the month of June in 2010.

The amendments, now known as the “Manila Amendments” will enter into force on Jan. 1. The revisions are aimed at bringing the Convention and Code up to date with industry developments since they were initially adopted in 1978 and further revised in 1995. Several areas also deal with issues that address anticipated needs to emerge in the foreseeable future.

Among the amendments adopted, there are a number of important changes to each chapter of the Convention and Code. Those areas that affect the yachting industry include:

Licensing and Certification

Improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency;

Improved methods for the evaluation process for issuance of certificates; and

Updated standards related to medical fitness standards for seafarers.

Operations

Revised requirements on hours of work and rest, which included a relaxation of the rest hour minimums into three periods versus the current two; and

New requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.

Manning and Training

Creation of new certifications for senior unlicensed seafarers:

*Able seafarer deck

*Able seafarer engine

New training and certification requirements for electro-technical officers;

*Electro-technical officer

*Electro-technical rating

New requirements related to training in new and emerging technologies, such as electronic charts and information systems (ECDIS);

New requirements for marine environment awareness training / MARPOL compliance;

New requirements for training in leadership and teamwork;

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 training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters; and

New training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning Systems.

While the new amendments clearly indicate a change to the international regulations, how will these changes affect the individual license holder?

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) National Maritime Center has posted several Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circulars (NVIC). These include training areas in celestial navigation, visual signaling, bridge resource management, ECDIS, and new competencies for Able Seaman (deck and engine).

Most important for new and existing yacht crew is the requirement for refresher training in Basic Safety. Most everyone refers to this training as “STCW.” If one is unsure what is required for their individual certification, contact the National Maritime Center for clarification. It has excellent phone and email response times. Search online for “USCG National Maritime Center.”

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has followed a similar route as the USCG. However, unlike in the American system, the MCA has created a separate yacht-only series of “Y” tickets that have different competency requirements. The most pressing issue for most yacht crew will also be the basic safety training refresher. The deadline for completing this requirement is Dec. 31. Any questions on individual certification should be directed to the MCA. Responses are quick via email: revalidation@mcga.gov.uk.

The deadline is finally upon us. For those mariners who have not yet taken action, do not panic. However, they should not delay in researching the exact requirements for their particular credentials. The best source of definitive information will be the agency that issued the documents. Please do not rely upon friends, third-party websites, or that guy at the pub. The new Manila Amendments could potentially affect your livelihood, so take the time to investigate it correctly.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (www.yachtbureau.org). Comments are welcome at editor@the-triton.com.

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