STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers)

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (otherwise known as STCW) is legally binding for signatory countries. The convention gives minimum legal standards for qualifications and training at sea -  captains, officers, watchkeepers and crew must all complete differing levels of MCA/STCW training. 

Overseen by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), STCW was originally ratified in 1978 but major amendments were agreed in 1995 (STCW ’95).  

Further major revisions to the STCW Convention were adopted by IMO in Manila in June 2010 to ensure the necessary global standards are in place to train and certify seafarers to operate technologically advanced ships. 

Known as the ‘Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code', these amendments came into force on 1 January 2012, with the new STCW 2010 training and certification requirements being adopted from July 2013. 



STCW 2010 (Manila Amendments)

The 2010 Manila Amendments brought about new training requirements:

  • Officer of the Watch (Yachts, less than 3,000GT) - complete a five-day Efficient Deck Hand course, if applying for Certificate of Competency (CoC) after 1 July 2013.
  • Officer of the Watch (Unlimited or Yachts) - complete a three-day Human Element, Leadership and Management (Operational Level) course, if applying for CoC after 31 August 2013.
  • Chief Mate (Unlimited or Yachts) - complete a five-day Human Element, Leadership and Management (Management Level) course, if applying for CoC after 31 August 2013.
  • All deck officers (including yachts) must undertake a generic Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) course before either applying for or revalidating, their UK CoC. The MCA will accept any of the following courses as meeting the generic training requirement: 
    • An MCA-approved ECDIS course completed on or after 1 January 2005.
    • An ECDIS course based on the IMO model course, approved by an Administration whose Certificates of Competency are accepted by the MCA for the issue of Certificates of Equivalent Competency 
    • An MCA approved Navigation, Radar and ARPA Simulator (NARAS) course at operational or management level, or their replacements, the Navigation Aids and Simulator Training (NAEST) operational or management courses. For these courses to be considered as meeting ECDIS training requirements, the course must have been completed on or after 1 January 2005.

Deck officers not meeting the above requirements will receive the following limitation on their CoC:

"From the 1 January 2017 this certificate is not valid for service on ships fitted with ECDIS".

All deck officers serving on UK-flagged vessels using ECDIS as the primary means of navigation (including all ships where the carriage of ECDIS is mandatory) must have completed generic ECDIS training. MCA guidance in MIN 503 further advises that type-specific ECDIS training is required when ECDIS is the primary means of navigation.

Type-specific ECDIS training should be delivered by the ECDIS equipment manufacturer (or approved sub-contractor) or a trainer who has attended an approved programme.

  • Engineer Officer of the Watch (Unlimited or Yachts) - complete a three day Human Element, Leadership and Management (Operational Level) course, if applying for CoC after 1 July 2013.
  • Second/Chief Engineer candidates (Unlimited or Yachts) - complete a five day Human Element, Leadership and Management (Management Level) course, if applying for CoC after 1 July 2013.
  • After 1 July 2013, all engineering and electro-technical officers (Unlimited or Yachts) will have to undertake high voltage training before serving on a vessel with electrical switchboards of 1KV and above. A High Voltage (Operational Level) course must be completed by engineer and electro-technical officers for first certification, and a High Voltage (Management Level) course is required for senior certification.
     
    No additional action is required for officers who do not work on and do not intend to work on ships with high voltage systems. These officers will receive the following CoC limitation:
     
    “From the 1 January 2017, this certificate is not valid for service on ships fitted with High Voltage (over 1,000V) systems”. 
     
    To avoid having this high voltage limitation, senior engineer and electro-technical officers will have to provide documentary evidence of completion of a High Voltage (Management Level) course.
     
  • Mandatory security training is required for all crew (as appropriate), including Maritime Security Awareness, Security Familiarisation Training (conducted on board the vessel), Proficiency in Designated Security Duties and Proficiency as Ship Security Officer.

Updated training

Updated training requirements have been introduced for all STCW certificate holders to comply with STCW 2010 requirements. The following courses are subject to updated training: 

Under these regulations, updated proficiency training for these courses must be undertaken every five years. Seafarers revalidating their UK Certificate of Competency (CoC) must submit documentary evidence of having completed MCA approved updated proficiency training within the last five years. For more information about updated training see the MCA's MSN 1865(M) and MIN 535

Evidence of having completed the updated training, if the original course was more than five years ago, will be required on a number of occasions including when the Port State Control inspector boards the vessel, when applying for a CoC, and when revalidating an existing CoC. If ships' crews cannot prove evidence of having met the updating requirements from the STCW Manila Amendments, the vessel may fail port state inspection. 

It’s also worth noting that the MCA M-Notices state: ‘companies must ensure that seafarers assigned to any of their ships have received updated training as required by the Convention’, clearly assigning an obligation to management companies and owners too. 

Beside the regulatory reason, the updating requirements have been introduced by the IMO because research shows that more than half of everything learnt on an STCW safety course has been forgotten again after just six months - known as ‘skills fade’. In addition, the industry is always learning valuable lessons from recent accidents, as well as developing new equipment and techniques. 

There is no requirement to update the Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities or any of the medical courses. Updating Proficiency in Medical Care is not currently required under the STCW Code, however on EU Member State flagged vessels, in accordance with EU Council Directive 92/29/EEC, the captain and any person delegated to use the medical type A supplies must receive special training updated at least every five years. 

Please also note that ISPS security courses which came into force with the Manila Amendments do not need five-yearly updating either: 

Non-UK CoC holders

Non-UK holders converting to their first UK CoC must complete the full advanced safety training courses approved under the authority of an EU Member State, Canada, New Zealand or South Africa. This includes the following STCW safety training courses.


Which courses are accepted by the MCA for the ECDIS training requirement?

The MCA will accept any of the following courses as meeting the ECDIS generic training requirements on board UK-flagged vessels:

  • An ECDIS course based on the IMO model course 1.27, approved by the MCA.
  • An ECDIS course based on the IMO model course 1.27, approved by an administration whose certificates of competency are accepted by the MCA for the issue of certificates of equivalent competency.
  • An MCA approved navigation, radar and ARPA simulator (NARAS) course at operational or management level, or their replacements: the navigation aids and simulator training (NAEST) operational or management courses. For these courses to be considered as meeting ECDIS training requirements, the course must have been completed on or after 1 January 2005.

The yacht navigation and radar courses for OOW and Master are not accepted as meeting the ECDIS training requirements. Even though these courses do include some ECDIS training, they are currently too short to incorporate everything required in an ECDIS course. See MIN 503 for detailed information.

For initial issue or revalidation of a certificate of competency, slightly different rules apply.

For the revalidation of any MCA deck CoC (including yachts and code vessels) the MCA will accept any of the following:

  • An MCA approved navigation, radar and ARPA simulator (NARAS) course at operational or management level, or their replacements: the navigation aids and simulator training (NAEST) operational or management courses, completed on or after 1st January 2005.
  • An MCA-approved ECDIS course completed on or after 1 January 2005. 
  • An ECDIS simulator training course in compliance with the current IMO Model Course 1.27 and accepted by the MCA for the purpose of CoC revalidation only (refer to the MCA website for a list of MCA approved and accepted courses and training providers).

The original course certificate must be submitted with the application. Deck officers not meeting the above requirement will receive the following CoC limitation: "From the 1 January 2017 this certificate is not valid for service on ships fitted with ECDIS." 

Deck officers may subsequently request the removal of this limitation by providing documentary evidence of MCA-approved ECDIS training and submitting the required fee. See MSN 1861(M) for detailed information.

For the initial issue of an MCA deck CoC (including yachts, but excluding code vessels), acceptable original ECDIS certification must be submitted. The MCA will accept any of the following:

  • An MCA-approved navigation, radar and ARPA simulator (NARAS) course at operational or management level, or their replacements: the navigation aids and simulator training (NAEST) operational or management courses, completed on or after 1 January 2005.
  • An MCA-approved ECDIS course completed on or after 1 January 2005 (refer to the MCA website for a list of MCA approved and accepted courses and training providers).

See the appropriate oral exam application form for further details.