Change the way seafarers are trained and certified to improve safety standards on freight and passenger shipping in the future.

The Diplomatic Conference held in Manila between the 21st and 25th Juneis set to change the way seafarers are trained and certified to improve safety standards on freight and passenger shipping in the future. The Conference will be held under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for maritime safety and security and the prevention of pollution from ships.

Technology and social requirements have changed vastly in the past fifteen years and the draft amendments to the STCW Convention and Code mark the first major revision of the two instruments since those adopted in 1995, which completely revised the original 1978 Convention and introduced the Code. It is anticipated that, once the proposed amendments have been adopted, the necessary global standards will be in place to train and certify seafarers to operate any modern, technologically advanced vessels well into the future.

Among the measures due for adoption in Manila are a number of important changes to each chapter of the Convention and Code, including:

improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and strengthen the evaluation of Parties compliance with the Convention

updated and expanded 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 for seafarers

incorporation of new certification requirements for able seafarers

new requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS)

new requirements for marine environment awareness training and training in leadership and teamwork

new training and certification requirements for electro-technical officers and electro-technical ratings

updating of competence requirements for personnel serving on board all types of tankers, including new requirements for personnel serving on liquefied gas tankers

new requirements for security training, as well as provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained to cope in the event of attack by pirates

introduction of modern training methods including distance learning and web-based learning

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

new training guidance for personnel operating dynamic positioning systems

new training guidance for personnel serving on board off-shore support vessels

The Conference will also consider 16 draft resolutions, relating, among other things, to the provision of accommodation for trainees aboard ships; attracting new entrants to and retaining seafarers within the maritime profession; promotion of the participation of women in the maritime industry; standards of training and certification; and ships manning levels.The date for implementation of any changes will also be considered at the Conference.

The propositions and the location of the Conference are of course timely, this having been declared Year of the Seafarer and with some of the dramatic events we have witnessed recently at sea, not least the ongoing Deepwater Horizon tragedy, the huge upsurge in Piracy plus the appalling record of the Philippines itself with regard to safety at sea.