International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended, sets qualification standards for masters, officers, andwatch going personnel on seagoing merchant ships. STCW was adopted in 1978 byconference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered intoforce in 1984. The Convention was significantly amended in 1995. The 133 current state-parties to the Convention represent approximately 98 percent of the world’s merchant vesseltonnage.
1.1.1 Limitations discovered
Between 1984 and 1992, significant limitations to the 1978 Conventionbecame apparent. Many people felt that the Convention included vaguerequirements that were left to the discretion of parties to the Convention.Others felt that there were growing problems with: (a) a lack of clearstandards of competence, (b) no IMO oversight of compliance, (c) limitedport state control, and (d) inadequacies that did not address modernshipboard functions. Meanwhile, the U.S. deferred ratification efforts andworked for almost a decade to effect necessary changes to our licensingregulations.
Amendments adopted in 1995
On July 7, 1995, a conference of parties to the Convention, meeting at IMO headquarters inLondon, adopted the package of amendments to STCW. The amendments entered force onFebruary 1, 1997.
The provisions of the Convention not tied to individual mariner certification became effectivewhen the IFR (Interim Final Rule) was published. However, provision was made for certainnew requirements to be introduced over a longer period. Full implementation is required byFebruary 1, 2002. For issuance of licenses and documents, the effective dates of the newrequirements will be according to transitional guidance published by the STW Subcommittee.Mariners already holding licenses have the option to renew those licenses in accordance withthe old rules of the 1978 Convention during the period ending on February 1, 2002. Marinersentering training programs after August 1, 1998 are required to meet the competencystandards of the new 1995 Amendments. For persons seeking original licenses, the CoastGuard anticipates that most new training requirements will be incorporated into coursesapproved by the Coast Guard, or by equivalent courses. To ensure that the competencyobjectives of the 1995 amendments are met, parties must implement quality assuranceprograms, with IMO reviewing each parties’ national program. Again, this represents afundamental change in thinking for the international community. It will be mandatory that the"pulse" of the new system be checked on a recurring basis to ensure its "good health."
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