STW 44 Meeting: International Regulations and Training for the Crew


It is always the seafarers – the Human Element in IMO terms - that keep a vessel in good working condition. So it is good to know which training requirements are on the way. Here is a brief summary of the outcome of the STW 44 meeting at the IMO in London.

During the first days of May 2013, the committee on Standards, Training and Watchkeeping held its 44th session at the IMO in London. As the Manila Amendments have been in force since January 2012 one focus of the current session was how to guide flag states and other maritime stakeholders when interpreting the new requirements of STCW.

Training on Gas as Fuel for Ships and when operating in the Polar Regions

The committee is involved in supporting technical developments and specifically with defining related training requirements. As such, this time the talk was about the upcoming Polar Code and the future International Code for ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels (IGF Code).

The Polar Code will define structural and operational requirements for ships sailing in the two Polar regions, the Arctic and the Antarctic. As these areas require some special knowledge on manoeuvring, stability and conditions for operation, seamen will undergo additional training. For the time being Part B of the Seafarer’s Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code (B-V/g) gives sufficient guidance already for suitable training. In the longer term improved definitions for competencies will be found in the STCW Convention and Code.

Similar to the above, more and more ship operators are thinking of (re-)fitting their vessels to run on gas or other low-flash point fuels. These are relatively new fuels for the maritime industry and require special handling which needs to be explained to the crew. At the moment resolution MSC.285(86) includes some guidance on training for such vessels, but the industry is seeking more detailed training. Consequently the committee will install a correspondence group to write suitable guidelines and training requirements within the next twelve months.

Once the necessary competencies are defined it is intended to include them in the STCW Convention and Code, thus providing a single point of information for the maritime industry with regard to training matters.

Problems with Port State Control regarding ECDIS training

Training covering the required ECDIS competencies is already available. However, as reported by different ships, it has happened more than once that Port State Control has asked for additional evidence from the nautical officers to prove their knowledge of ECDIS. It is already clearly defined in the existing STW.7/Circ.18 "Electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) training" that a certificate of competency (CoC) issued in accordance with the 2010 Manila Amendments would be prima facie evidence of generic ECDIS training. If there are limitations it would be reflected in the CoC. The committee will make sure that this information is communicated better to all administrations and port states.

Satisfactory colour vision of all seamen

All seamen around the world have to pass a colour vision test. A small percentage is at the limit of what is acceptable and need to pass a second confirmatory test. For technical reasons, one of these second test options is no longer available in some countries. Therefore it was agreed that administrations may continue to use alternative confirmatory test methods as long as they are in line with international standards.

Lay-up of ships and the reactivation of certificates

During the Human Element Working Group, matters connected to the ISM Code were discussed.

A draft MSC-MEPC circular was worded with the view for approval by both committees this year.

If the interruption period of the Safety Management System (SMS) on board the ship is more than three months but less than six months, then the Administration may require an additional verification. If the interruption period of the SMS on board the ship is more than six months, then the company should request an interim verification.

Competencies for Masters, C/E, nautical and technical officers

What was most interesting for training and course providers, as well as for interested seamen, were the newly developed Model Courses, aligned with the Manila Amendments.

In the 44th session the Model Courses for Master and Chief Mate, Chief Engineer Officer and 2nd Engineer Officer, Officer in charge of a Navigational watch and Officer in charge of an Engineering watch as well as for the Electro-Technical Officer were approved.

In addition, the Model Course on Leadership and Teamwork will be made available to the public. Its content may be included in the training for officers, but it may also be used as a stand-alone training course.

They are all being prepared now by the IMO for publication soon.

Author: International Cooperation Dept, VR