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The STCW Dilemma: Choosing PSCRB or MCA Advanced Sea Survival
Engineering and Deck officers in the MCA Yacht System are asking this question. Should I take Advanced Sea Survival or PSCRB? What are the differences and does it matter which one I choose. We are going to explore this dilemma and why it is a choice that needs a second look. It is important to note that many people think of STCW as being the basic safety training they complete when they are looking for an entry level job and now are required to refresh every five years. It is true that the Basic Safety Training, now simply called Basic Training or BT, is an STCW Code requirement for vessels subject to that code and most know they probably won't get a job on a yacht without it.
What many people do not realize is that virtually all of the training courses that are required for any level of international certification are also based on the same STCW Code, just a different part of the code. For instance, BT satisfies Chapter VI/1 of the code and Advanced Fire satisfies VI/3 of the Code and Medical First Aid and Care at Sea are VI/4, Security Awareness VI/6, etc. On that same note, Proficiency in Survival Craft & Rescue Boats is Chapter VI/2 of the STCW Code.
The interesting part is knowing who needs to meet the various parts of the code? What determines if I need only VI/1 or if I need some or all of the others?
The STCW Code is a book of minimum standards for the training and certification of professional mariners. Credentialing is based on the level of responsibility / capacity you are serving on the vessel. STCW breaks that down into three basic levels, support, operational and management, and then deck and engineering departments, around which the framework of minimum required knowledge, understanding and proficiencies are created. Thus your training and experience requirements are the result.
Thinking of the STCW Code as a book, Chapter II covers all the levels of deck department credentialing. Chapter III engineering.
Interestingly, at each level, the safety subjects are relatively similar for both departments with the primary differences being the department specific training, i.e the deck department candidates are taking navigation, rule of the road, meteorology, stability, etc and the engineering candidates are taking motor plants and auxiliary equipment and hotel services, etc. Both departments at the operational level take the same Leadership & Teamworking (HELM O), both take PSCRB, etc and then at the management level, both departments take the same Leadership & Management (HELM M).
Looking at it this way helps to make it less complicated. As this is the result of many amendments to the code since 1978 (latest being 2010), undertaken by the International Maritime Organization and its over 100 signatory nations, each country implements it as a standard within their own legislative process allowing for special considerations for unique industries within those countries.
In the UK, it was decided that the Yachting Industry should have a separate set of requirements based on STCW but that would allow some leeway for subjects that did not need as much emphasis within the scope of their training and certification,
So now we can look at our original dilemma. Why are engineering and deck officers having to choose between Advanced Sea Survival and PSCRB training and which choice is best? When the MCA set up the requirements for yacht officers, both deck and engineering, they allowed a slightly shorter course to substitute for PSCRB, it is called Advanced Sea Survival for Yachtsmen and does not include actual lifeboat launching and recovery training. This more abbreviated version has satisfied the requirement for the training for candidates within the MCA Yacht CoC structure for many years and still does. So why the dilemma you ask? Many candidates are now serving on Yachts large enough to carry lifeboats or carrying flags that do not recognize the abbreviated (non STCW) version of the training, These candidates are being asked to produce a full PSCRB Certificate compliant to STCW VI/2-1. This is the same certificate that the merchant candidates have undertaken for a very long time. It is generally at least 1 day longer than the yacht version. The cost is typically not very much different if at all.
So this becomes the personal decision, take the shorter course (usually 3 days) which is still accepted by the UK to meet the minimum yacht standard or take the slightly longer (usually 4 day) course and meet the full intent of STCW. It is my recommendation that you strongly consider taking the extra day, learning the lifeboat techniques, you may need them one day (you never know what doors of opportunity will open for you in the future) and you do not have as many concerns about recognition by the flags who do not accept the non STCW yacht version of the training. This does not effect obtaining your MCA CoC however 1 day now is less of a burden than 4 days later if you find yourself needing it. There is generally no way to upgrade your Advanced Sea Survival to PSCRB without taking the full course.
You may have read that these and many other safety related courses will need to be refreshed/renewed every five years starting in 2017 and wonder how this will affect your choice. If you took the advanced sea survival you will renew that level or if desired you can take the full pscrb to be fully prepared for the future. If you previously took the pscrb, you can simply renew that level.
The STCW version is now available at MPT and approved by the MCA, the USCG and the Marshall Islands and is recognized/accepted by many more. Take a look at Course #146.