Latest STCW review set to improve seafarer certificate issue
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Draft amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention), and its associated Code, have been approved by the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) and are ready for submission to a Diplomatic Conference that will meet in Manila, Philippines, from 21 to 25 June 2010, for adoption of the amendments. Draft amended text of the STCW Convention and Code that have been prepared by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) STW Subcommittee at their 41st session, mark the first major revision of the two instruments since those adopted in 1995 that revised the original 1978 Convention.

In chapter I - General Provisions, there are a number of important changes, namely improving measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency; strengthening the evaluation process (monitoring of Parties’ compliance with the convention); and standards relating to medical fitness for seafarers. In the draft text, the term ‘appropriate certificate’ has been deleted and new terms have been added under Definitions and Clarifications, specifically ‘certificate of competency’, ‘certification of proficiency’, ‘able seafarer deck’, ‘able seafarer engine’ and potentially ‘able seafarer electro-technical’ among a few others that include ‘documentary evidence’.

With regard to Certificates and Endorsements, there may soon be a specific requirement for certificates of competency to be issued only by the signatory Party following verification of authenticity and validity of necessary documentary evidence. Furthermore, the draft text states that certificates issued in accordance with the provisions in regulations V/1-1 and V/1-2 to masters and officers can only be issued by an Administration.

In addition, endorsements can only be issued by an Administration after ensuring the authenticity and validity of the certificate to attest its recognition. Regulation 1/2 of the Convention draft text stipulates that each Party shall ensure that certificates are issued only to candidates who comply with the requirements and who provide satisfactory proof of identity, age not less than that prescribed, meet specified medical fitness standards, complete approved sea-going service and related compulsory approved training courses and meet the prescribed standards of competence.

Of direct relevance to the regional seafarer Certificate Printing System (CPS), hosted at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Transport Programme, is the undertaking in the draft text for Parties to maintain a register of all certificates and endorsements issued, expired, revalidated, suspended, cancelled, reported lost, destroyed or of dispensations issued. There is also an undertaking to make available information on the status of such certificates to other Parties and companies, which request verification of authenticity and validity of certificates produced to them by seafarers seeking recognition of their certificates.

An added advantage is the tamper-proof booklets and designed labels with security seals for use in Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs) who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity presented by SPC and who have signed the ministerial multi- lateral agreement to do the same.

Under ‘Principles Governing Near-coastal Voyages’, the definition of near-coastal voyages as agreed between Parties can be used to accept certificates issued by one Party in another Party within the limits specified and in accordance with relevant sections and regulations of STCW. Part A of the draft text now specifies provisions where none existed in the 1995 amended version. National provisions require each Party to take and enforce appropriate measures to prevent fraud and other unlawful practices involving certificates and endorsements issued.

Communication of information in the draft text now stipulates that the Maritime Safety Committee will additionally review the list of Parties which communicated information that demonstrated that they give full and complete effect to the relevant provisions of the Convention and to retain in this list only the Parties so concerned. Apart from the inclusion of procedures for the issue of medical certificates, Quality standards includes periodic evaluation to include all changes to national regulations and procedures in compliance with amendments to the Convention and STCW Code, with dates of entry into force later than the date information was communicated to the IMO Secretary General. The format of the report containing results of the evaluation to be communicated to IMO is specified with the draft text detailing guidelines on what information is to be included in subsequent reports.

Regulation I/9 on medical standards in the draft text has been completely rewritten with substantial changes to procedures for issue of medical certificates and assessing recognition of medical practitioners as well as validity periods for medical certificates. Recognition of certificates has been better aligned to reflect the Administration confirming through an evaluation of an issuing Party that the requirements of the STCW Convention regarding standards of competence, training and certification and quality standards are fully complied with. There is now a requirement in the draft text under Responsibilities of companies for Administrations to require every company to ensure that seafarers assigned to any of its ships have received refresher and updating training as required by the convention.

In the coming year, particularly after the Diplomatic Conference, it will be vital for maritime administration personnel as well as staff of maritime training institutes from the Pacific Islands region to understand the new structure and the requirements of the revised STCW Convention and Code.


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