To align seafarer training, certification, and watchkeeping with evolving trends in the shipping industry and to tackle various challenges encountered by seafarers, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has decided to initiate a thorough examination and update of the STCW Convention and Code.
his comprehensive review is expected to commence at the IMO’s Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) sub-committee in the upcoming year, focusing on the following key areas:
#1 Emerging technologies on ships and ship operations
Technological developments in shipping, as well as environmental challenges, have provided the industry with new types of vessels, equipment, propulsion, energy sources and manoeuvring and operations, which may require new standards of competence, functions and levels of responsibility.
#2 Digitalization in seafarers’ certification, including e-certification
The current introduction of e-certification in the maritime industry, which will demand modifications in the traditional process of certification of seafarers, including the validation and authentication of certificates, is a development that will require amendments to the STCW Convention and Code. Such amendments would facilitate the issuing and application of e-certificates for administrations, seafarers and the industry.
#3 Emerging technologies in education and training
With the experience already gained in using digitalization and emerging technologies in education and training, it is envisaged that further use of those technologies will continue. Therefore, a review of the existing provisions in the STCW Convention and Code would allow for the expansion of teaching and teaching aids to supplement and support shore-based training, methods for assessment of competence, and approval and monitoring of training programmes including those outside the jurisdiction of the Party.
#4 Facilitation, flexibility and quality of onboard, shore-based and workshop skills training, including use of simulators
It is important to focus on facilitating and improving the quality of onboard and workshop skills training and seagoing service required in different chapters of the Convention, taking also into account up-to-date learning technologies, including additional use of simulators.
#5 Flexibility and efficiency in implementation of new training requirements and
reduction of administrative burdens
It is important that amendments related to new training standards, particularly those emanating from amendments to other IMO instruments, enter into force in the shortest time possible. Consequently, it is suggested to identify through the review of the current text of the STCW Convention and Code the provisions that should be addressed in order to provide for a viable and efficient amendment process. This would allow any changes in standards of education and training, including KUPs stemming from the introduction of new technologies in ships and shipping operations, to be incorporated seamlessly and swiftly.
#6 Requirements for sea time or practical experience in relation to new and
emerging technologies including the use of simulation
Review the STCW Convention and Code to determine the appropriateness of seagoing service requirements for certification and the feasibility of meeting requirements using new and emerging technologies, considering that in an initial phase, the training and certification of seafarers often precede the implementation or installation of these new technologies on ships. This may include the use of simulation as an alternative to a portion of a requirement for seagoing service.
#7 Bullying and harassment, including SASH, gender diversity and gender
The review and revision of the STCW Convention and Code should be done in parallel with the work already initiated on the development and finalization of training provisions on prevention of bullying and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. Furthermore, the responsibilities of companies should be reviewed to consider responsibility for psychologically safe working environments including the prevention of bullying and harassment.
#8 Mental health
In order to reduce the stigma of mental health issues, it should be considered to require appropriate competence so that seafarers understand the impact of living and working at sea and can recognize and triage a mental health challenge that may arise while on board a ship. The comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code should identify tools and methods to allow seafarers to recognize risk factors and know-how and when to search for appropriate help. Furthermore, the responsibilities of companies should be reviewed to consider responsibility for promotion of mental health and well-being on board ship.
#9 Twenty-first century and interpersonal skills
Review the STCW Convention and Code for the need to address twenty-first century competence and interpersonal skills such as digital skills, communications, information management and the ability to adapt to a changing work environment.
#10 Addressing inconsistencies
A significant number of inconsistencies were identified in the text of the annex to the STCW Convention and Code. Many of those are a consequence of amendments that were adopted at different times. In addition, provisions having similar aims should be harmonized. The above may lead to ineffective implementation of the STCW Convention. Thus, Parties to the STCW Convention and those involved in implementing, applying or enforcing its measures may not always give to the STCW Convention full and complete effect in a uniform manner.
#11 Addressing different interpretations
Different interpretations of the requirements have been identified which result in inconsistency in implementation and possible confusion. A review of the areas where different interpretations occur is important in order to allow IMO to issue the necessary clarifications or to modify the text in the instrument. The comprehensive review would give the opportunity to clarify issues arising from inconsistent interpretations of the various standards, including those related to near-coastal voyages, in particular the entering of an undertaking among Parties. It is also important to review and identify new and existing definitions for a more unison interpretation of the STCW Convention and Code.
#12 Addressing taxonomy and terminologies
The newly developed action verb taxonomy in appendices 4 and 5 of the Guidelines for the development, review and validation of model courses (MSC-MEPC.2/Circ.15/Rev.2) should be considered when reviewing the STCW Convention and Code in order to ensure the consistency of the verbs used in the STCW Convention and Code defining the standards of competence with the action verbs used in modern educational systems.
#13 Flexibility in revalidation and renewal of certificates and endorsements
A comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code would allow for the identification of provisions that could be amended or new provisions that would need to be added to provide flexibility in revalidation and renewal of certificates, endorsements and medical certificates, including whenever exceptional circumstances may occur.
#14 Overview of the implementation of the Convention, in particular the need to update the STCW “White List”
Following the ongoing work of the HTW and III Sub-Committees, the review of the STCW Convention and Code should consider the need for clarification on the provisions related to quality standard system, independent evaluation and the preparation, reporting and consideration of information and identification of STCW compliance Parties for common understanding and uniform implementation.
#15 Lessons learned
The review of the STCW Convention and Code should take into account issues based on experience including experience implementing previous amendments, casualty investigations and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, inter alia, extension of the validity of the certificates, in extraordinary circumstances/cases of force majeure.
The review should consider allowing for the use of electronic documentation and remove a burden to maintain paper records; and options in meeting requirements and reducing barriers for seafarers entering and re-entering the industry, and to facilitate the mobility of seafarers across different ship types and trades.
#17 Alternative certification under chapter VII
Review chapter VII of the STCW Convention and Code to determine whether a revision is needed for more effective utilization of alternative certification as part of the flexibility needed to accommodate new and emerging technologies and organizational innovations, as well as the option for certifying different functions on board and different types of ships and taking a more goal-based approach.
#18 Watchkeeping arrangements and principles to be observed (chapter VIII)
Review regulation VIII/2 of the Convention and sections A-VIII/2 and B-VIII/2 of the Code with a view to formulating these provisions in a goal-based manner to enable the accommodation of new and emerging technologies and organizational innovations
#19 Alignment of STCW with requirements placed on ships, seafarers and shipowners by other IMO and relevant international instruments
Review the STCW Convention and Code to ensure that both are fully aligned with requirements put on ships, seafarers and shipowners by other IMO instruments.
#20 Cybersecurity awareness
Review the STCW Convention and Code to consider an approach to addressing the need for cybersecurity awareness for seafarers, especially as maritime operations become more reliant on the digitally integrated and automated system.
#21 Implementation and transitional provisions
The implementation of any amendments developed under this review must be reasonable and achievable for all parties. Previous difficulties in meeting requirements by established effective dates due to the lengthy process associated with the multiple steps that must be taken to fully implement any new requirements should be considered. Additionally, a review of the transitional provisions in the STCW Convention and Code to allow for efficient implementation of future amendments should be included.
#22 Addressing outdated training requirements
The tables of competence in the STCW Code should be reviewed to identify the need to update competences, KUPs, and training requirements that are outdated and no longer relevant.
To remind, IMO adopted the STCW landmark Convention back in 1978 with the view to establish high standards of competence and professionalism in their duties on-board. The STCW Convention in brief, establishes the minimum basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level. The STCW Convention entered into force in 1984, and since then it has been amended twice, in 1995 and again in 2010, to incorporate significant changes as it became apparent that STCW-78 was not raising the bar for the professional standards worldwide. The latest amendments – the STCW 2010 Manila amendments – include all agreed changes since 1995, addressing also new technology, inconsistencies, interpretations and outdated provisions.