STCW code will enter full force soon, are you prepared?

May 1, 2016 by Capt. Brian Luke

As we quickly approach January 1, 2017, the Manila Amendments to the STCW Code will enter into full force by year’s end. 

When it comes to licensing and certification, understanding these amendments may be causing unnecessary concern for some crew members around the globe. So let’s try and clear up some of those concerns with a brief overview of what the code means and the changes yacht crew members will be facing.

The Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) is a comprehensive set of international regulations intended to ensure that a minimum standard of competence for seafarers is maintained on a global scale.

Think of it as an internationally agreed upon set of regulations that determine the minimum training requirements for crewmembers around the world.

The original STCW code was adopted in 1978 with amendments in 1995 and 2010. The amendments in 2010 came out of the convention held that year in Manila, which is why they are often referred to as the “Manila Amendments.” Today, many still incorrectly refer to the code as STCW ‘95, the correct way to refer to the code is “STCW Code 1978 as amended.”

The changes are aimed at ensuring that the necessary global standards will be in place to train and certify crew to operate technologically-advanced vessels for some time to come.

The maritime industry is an ever-evolving industry and the IMO amends the code every so often so that it will remain relevant.

It would probably be less confusing if the Manila Amendments were implemented on one specific date. However, this would not be practical, as there are more than 170 flag states that are required to comply with the new changes.

First implemented on January 1, 2012 with a 5-year transition period gives all flag states enough time to fully comply by January 1, 2017.

The following bullet points list the most significant amendments to the STCW code:

  • Improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with Certificates of Competency and strengthen the evaluation process
  • Revised requirements on hours of work and rest, and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as updated standards relating to medical fitness standards for seafarers
  • New certification requirements for able seafarers
  • New requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic charts and information systems (ECDIS)
  • New requirements for marine environment awareness training
  • Training in leadership and teamwork

The following is a timeline of what is required under the Manila amendments:

JAN 01, 2012 Manila Amendments come into force with a 5-year transition period. New rest requirements are immediately effective. However, Training and Certification continue under the old STCW 95 system.

JUL 01, 2013 New training standards are mandatory. Training and Certification under the new Manila Amendments begins. Anyone who commenced training before this date may continue under the old system.

JAN 01, 2014 New mandatory security training is now required for all crewmembers.

JAN 01, 2017 Manila Amendments come into full force. All crewmembers must adhere to the new training and certification requirements.

Mandatory training requirements required by January 1st, 2017;

  1. Personal Survival Techniques (water survival)
  2. Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting
  3. Advanced Fire Fighting
  4. Fast Rescue Boat (only if you currently possess and need this certificate)
  5. Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSCRB) or for yacht certificates, Advanced Sea Survival (AdvSS).


There seems to be a bit of confusion between PSCRB vs. AdvSS, so let’s clarify the differences. Years past lifeboats were rarely used in the superyacht industry. Subsequently the MCA eliminated lifeboat training from PSCRB for yacht certificates and created a subset of PSCRB called AdvSS. Therefore, AdvSS is simply PSCRB without lifeboat training. However, without lifeboat training AdvSS is not STCW compliant. Unfortunately, since the inception of the new STCW Code many Port State Control Officers do not recognize the non-compliant AdvSS certification. Resulting in the MCA currently recommending (not requiring) yacht crew take the PSCRB certification route in lieu of Advanced Sea Survival.

The designed end result of the Manila Amendments is a global maritime community that trains and certifies to the same universal standard. The competence of the crew is critical in a safe and efficient operation at sea, and directly impacts the safety of life at sea and the protection of our marine environment.


Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. Contact him through and