STCW Convention

International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers
Signed7 July 1978[1]
LocationLondon, UK
Effective28 April 1984
Condition25 ratifications, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 50% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping of ships of 100 gross tonnage or more
DepositarySecretary-General of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO)
LanguagesEnglish, French, Russian and Spanish

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978 sets minimum qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships and large yachts[2]. STCW was adopted in 1978 by conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered into force in 1984. The Convention was significantly amended in 1995.

The 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish minimum basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level. Previously the minimum standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, usually without reference to practices in other countries. As a result, minimum standards and procedures varied widely, even though shipping is extremely international by nature.

The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers which countries are obliged to meet or exceed.[3]

The Convention did not deal with manning levels: IMO provisions in this area are covered by regulation 14 of Chapter V of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, whose requirements are backed up by resolution A.890(21) Principles of safe manning, adopted by the IMO Assembly in 1999, which replaced an earlier resolution A.481(XII) adopted in 1981.

One especially important feature of the Convention is that it applies to ships of non-party States when visiting ports of States which are Parties to the Convention. Article X requires Parties to apply the control measures to ships of all flags to the extent necessary to ensure that no more favourable treatment is given to ships entitled to fly the flag of a State which is not a Party than is given to ships entitled to fly the flag of a State that is a Party.

The difficulties which could arise for ships of States which are not Parties to the Convention is one reason why the Convention has received such wide acceptance. By 2018, the STCW Convention had 164 Parties, representing 99.2 per cent of world shipping tonnage.

1995 revision

On 7 July 1995, the IMO adopted a comprehensive revision of STCW. It also included a proposal to develop a new STCW Code, which would contain the technical details associated with provisions of the Convention. The amendments entered force on 1 February 1997[citation needed]. Full implementation was required by 1 February 2002[citation needed]. Mariners already holding certification had the option to renew the certificates in accordance with the old rules of the 1978 Convention during the period ending on 1 February 2002. Mariners entering training programs after 1 August 1998 are required to meet the competency standards of the new 1995 Amendments.

The most significant amendments concerned:

  • a) enhancement of port state control;
  • b) communication of information to IMO to allow for mutual oversight and consistency in application of standards,
  • c) quality standards systems (QSS), oversight of training, assessment, and certification procedures,
    • The Amendments require that seafarers be provided
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