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Speaking STCW Fluently

Ever wonder what all those roman numerals, slashes and numbers mean on your MMC/CoC?

Many captains, crew & management companies in the maritime industry have heard of STCW. They understand that STCW is an acronym that stands for both the international maritime organization (IMO) convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 and the Seafarers Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Code. We recognize that the code was amended several times since then, most notably in 1995 and in 2010. However, many do not speak the code fluently and it is important to at least know the basics because many safe manning documents list the required crew members in STCW terms, here is an example:

Required Crew for “Motor Yacht Example”

1      II/2

1      1I/1

2      II/4

1      III/2

1      III/1

So when you receive this safe manning certificate how do you know what the codes mean and furthermore how do you take crew from all over the world with licenses and certificates of competency from different countries and know for certain you are meeting your flag states safe manning requirements? This is one of many reasons that I promote the concept of learning the STCW code as a language and as such, that we learn to speak it fluently.

The codes for STCW compliant certificates (your license, not your training certificates) are broken up in several ways. The easy way to think of them is by chapters, departments and levels. The departments would include Deck, Engineering, etc. Generally there are three levels of service: Management (Masters, Chief Mates, and Chief Engineers), Operational (Mates & Assistant Engineers) and Support (Ratings).

The following list may seem daunting at first, but if you consider the following “Codes” (which refer to the chapters of STCW) it will make it much easier for you to remember where you and your crew fit in. This information will also be listed on your license, certificate of competency or merchant mariners credential.

 When a code is written the department is listed first followed by the level.

 For example: II/2 = Department / Level = Deck / Management

 Departments: Capacities

II Deck

III Engineering


/1 Operational

/2 Management

/3 <500 tons or <3000kw or certain restricted certificates

     varying by administration

/4 Ratings (can be an engineering, deck or general yacht rating)

/5 Able Seafarer (can be engineering or deck)


NOTE: STCW Codes that begin with numbers other than II/ or III/ do not designate the capacity a mariner can serve in. They would generally indicate training that had been accomplished, i.e. certificates that show compliance with VI/1 indicate completion of Basic Safety Training or VI/3 for advanced fire, etc. because that is the regulation that is defined by chapter VI of the STCW Code. Please refer to the STCW Code book published by the IMO for complete information or call MPT for assistance.

 Therefore based on this information we will take another look at the Motor Yacht Example:

  Required Crew for “Motor Yacht Example”

1          II/2   deck / management (one master is required)

1         II/1   deck/operational (one mate/oow is required)

2         II/4   deck/ support (two ratings are required)

1         III/2  engineering / management (one chief engineer is required)

1         III/1  engineering / operational (one assistant engineer is required)

OK now we can read the codes better but how do we know whether the candidate’s ticket will cover that position? Certificates of competency and mariner credentials should list the STCW capacity they are certificated for on the document and will list any restrictions/limitations as well, such as limited in tonnage or route.