Unions consult members on possible STCW changes

STCW represents the legal minimum training that is required by seafarers. Credit: MaritimeMT

Seafarer unions within the Nautilus Federation are conducting a survey of their members in the expectation that there will soon be a review of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

It is expected that the process will formally start at International Maritime Organization (IMO) meetings in April and June 2020 following presentations by the global shipowners’ organisation the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which says such a review would be the most important one yet. It is likely to be towards the end of the next decade before a new STCW is in force.

The Nautilus Federation said that feedback from the survey will help its member unions include the voice of seafarers in this review. It said, “The implications of any changes to STCW are huge for seafarers and maritime professionals and therefore, it is vital that their voices are heard.”

Calls for a review are largely being driven by advances in technology that affect the skill set that will be required by seafarers on board ships in the future. Nautilus said in its statement, “There have been suggestions within the industry that the STCW Convention and Code may be out of date, that in some instances, the competencies stipulated in the Code may no longer be appropriate and that this has led to a situation where STCW qualified officers and ratings do not always hold the skills and competencies that are required for the modern seafarer.

On the other hand, it needs to be recognised that STCW represents the legal minimum training that is required and that there is nothing to prevent flag states or companies from going beyond the minimum.”

The ICS has recommended that the IMO embarks upon a review of the STCW Convention and Code “as soon as is reasonably practicable”. This would, it said, “ensure that the Convention will be able to respond and adapt to the pace of developments and remains relevant as the set of internationally recognised standards for the training and certification of seafarers”.

A move to carry out a review has to be proposed by an IMO member state, but it is likely the move would have the backing of several countries. An ICS spokesperson told SAS, “ICS is optimistic that IMO and its member states will agree to embark on a review of the STCW Convention next year. States responded positively when ICS raised the idea at the most recent meeting of the IMO sub-committee on human element, training, and watchkeeping, and consequently the IMO has invited the submission of a formal proposal to include the review exercise on its work programme.”

He added, “The next review of the STCW Convention and Code will likely result in the most critical revision in its history and be essential to supporting safe, secure, environmentally sound, and efficient ship operations in the future.”

The ICS is urging the IMO to start work urgently. Previous reviews of STCW have taken about four years of IMO work, leading to an IMO Diplomatic Conference. Real work on the review cannot start before 2021. That would imply a new STCW Convention being adopted in 2025 and entering into force two years later. There could then be a transition period taking it to 2030 or later before it would come into full effect.