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STCW for Beginners

01 Jul 2019 by Ted Morley

STCW for Beginners


With the steady increase in large yachts, and more crew required to man them, I wanted to discuss the STCW basics because we are seeing a significant increase in questions again. Guidance from the MCA is provided in MSN 1865 (M) and will go into detail on all the regulatory requirements under Chapter VI of the STCW Convention. The USCG requirements are listing in 46 CFR 11.201 and 11.301 for national and STCW endorsements. There are also new requirements for renewal, refresher, and revalidation training every 5 years for a majority of the STCW required competences.   

 Basic Safety Training (BST) is the first of several requirements a new crewmember will need to satisfy.  BST is comprised of four modules including Personal Survival, Elementary CPR/First Aid, Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities, and Basic Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting. These courses are typically taken in a week-long training course that will provide all 4 certifications if they are successfully completed. The modules are a mix of theoretical and practical skill demonstration so plan on getting wet during the Survival class and hot during the Fire Fighting class!

 There are also the newly adopted requirements for Security Related Familiarization and Proficiency in Security Awareness (PSA), covered in STCW Code A-VI/6. These courses have been added to the requirements as set forth by the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) and are designed for crew members that are employed onboard vessels that must comply with the ISPS Code. Additional training for Proficiency in Designated Security Duties and Proficiency for Ship Security Officer is required for those crew members assigned those duties.

 Marine Evacuation System Training is also required for Masters, officers, and ratings with designated duties on the deployment of MES. These training courses comply with Regulation III/ of the SOLAS Convention. Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boat as well as Fast Rescue Boat training are also mandated by the STCW Code for those vessels that are equipped, as outlined in STCW A-VI/1-1 and A-VI/2-2.

 Once you get through BST and PSA you will probably not need to hear STCW again until you start working on your license or COC, or in 5 years when you need to demonstrate proficiency. Depending on the level of certification you are seeking, there may be requirements for you to comply with the Proficiency in Medical Care (section A-VI/4-2), Human Element and Leadership Management (HELM), ECDIS, GMDSS, and several additional specialized courses based on the types of vessels and size. There are also specific requirements for deck and engineer pathways, including updates to the EDH certificates as of January 2017 and changes in the SV requirements.  

 I recommend you download and review the various regulatory guidance documents and discuss your particular situation with a knowledgeable career counselor that can work with you to ensure you are on the right track and not only are in compliance, but also making the right choices and at the right time for your career.