|International Convention on
Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for
7 July 1978
Entry into force: 28 April 1984
The 1995 amendments, which completely revised the
Convention, entered into force on 1 February 1997.
However, until 1 February 2002, Parties may continue to
issue, recognize and endorse certificates which applied
before 1 February 1997 in respect of seafarers who began
training or seagoing service before 1 August 1998. This
means that the original 1978 text will continue to apply
to many of the world's ships and seafarers until the year
STCW Convention Introduction
Convention Chapter I: General provisions
The 1978 Convention Chapter II: Master-deck
Convention Chapter III: Engine department
Convention Chapter IV: Radio department
Convention Chapter V: Special requirements for
Convention Chapter VI: Proficiency in survival
craftResolutions adopted by the 1978 ConferenceAmendment
amendments tanker crews
amendments major revision
compliance with the Convention
1995 amendments chapters II, III, IV
amendments - Chapter V: Special training requirements for
personnel on certain types of ships
amendments - Chapter VI: Emergency, occupational safety,
medical care and survival functions
amendments - Chapter VII: Alternative certification
amendments - Chapter VIII: Watchkeeping
Amendments training for crew on passenger ships
Amendments training for crew on bulk carriers
STCW Convention Introduction
The 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish
basic requirements on training, certification and
watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level.
Previously the 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 standards and
procedures varied widely, even though shipping is the
most international of all industries.
The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to
training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers
which countries are obliged to meet or exceed.
The Convention did not deal with manning levels: IMO
provisions in this area are covered by regulation 13 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
The Articles of the Convention include requirements
relating to issues surrounding certification and port
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
December 2000, the STCW Convention had 135 Parties,
representing 97.53 percent of world shipping tonnage.
The 1978 Convention Chapter I
The technical provisions of the 1978 Convention are
contained in an Annex, divided into six Chapters:
The 1978 Convention - Chapter I:General provisions
Includes a list of definitions of terms used in the
annex. Regulation I/2 deals with the content of the
certificate and endorsement form. All certificates must
include a translation into English, if that is not the
official language of the issuing country.
The 1978 Convention - Chapter II: Master-deck department
The Chapter establishes basic principles to be observed
in keeping a navigational watch, covering such matters as
watch arrangements, fitness for duty, navigation,
navigational equipment, navigational duties and
responsibilities, the duties of the look-out, navigation
with a pilot on board and protection of the marine
The regulations include mandatory minimum requirements
for certificating masters and chief mates; for
certification of officers in charge of a navigational
watch; and for certification of deck ratings forming part
of a navigational watch. The regulations also include
basic principles to be observed in keeping watch in port
and mandatory minimum requirements for a watch in port on
ships carrying hazardous cargo.
The 1978 Convention - Chapter III: Engine department
Includes basic principles to be observed in keeping an
engineering watch; mandatory minimum requirements for
certification of chief engineer officers and second
engineer officers; mandatory minimum requirements for
certification of engineer officers in charge of a watch
in a traditionally manned engine room or designated duty
officers in a periodically unmanned engine room;
requirements to ensure the continued proficiency and
updating of knowledge for engineer officers; mandatory
minimum requirements for ratings forming part of an
engine room watch.
The 1978 Convention - Chapter IV: Radio department
Notes that mandatory provisions relating to radio
watchkeeping are set forth in the ITU Radio Regulations
and safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance provisions
are included in the same regulations and in SOLAS. The
Chapter in STCW includes mandatory minimum requirements
for certification of radio officers; provisions designed
to ensure the continued proficiency and updating of
knowledge of radio officers; and minimum requirements for
certification of radiotelephone operators.
The 1978 Convention - Chapter V: Special requirements for
The Chapter was designed to ensure that officers and
ratings who are to have specific duties related to the
cargo and cargo equipment of tankers shall have completed
an appropriate shore-based fire-fighting course; and have
completed either an appropriate period of shipboard
service or an approved familiarization course.
Requirements are more stringent for masters and senior
officers. Attention is paid not only to safety aspects
but also to pollution prevention. The Chapter contains
three regulations dealing with oil tankers, chemical
tankers and liquefied gas tankers, respectively.
The 1978 Convention - Chapter VI: Proficiency in survival
The Chapter establishes requirements governing the
issuing of certificates of proficiency in survival craft.
An appendix lists the minimum knowledge required for the
issue of certificates of proficiency.
Resolutions adopted by the 1978 Conference
The 1978 Conference which adopted the STCW Convention
also adopted a number of resolutions designed to back up
the Convention itself. The resolutions, which are
recommendatory rather than mandatory, incorporate more
details than some of the Convention regulations.
Resolution 1 - Basic principles to be observed in keeping
a navigational watch. An annex contains a recommendation
on operational guidance for officers in charge of a
Resolution 2 - Operational guidance for engineer officers
in charge of an engineering watch. An annex to the
resolution deals with engineering watch underway and at
an unsheltered anchorage.
Resolution 3 - Principles and operational guidance for
deck officers in charge of a watch in port. Detailed
recommendations are contained in an annex.
Resolution 4 - Principles and operational guidance for
engineer officers in charge of an engineering watch in
port. Recommendations are in an annex.
Resolution 5 - Basic guidelines and operational guidance
relating to safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance for
radio officers. A comprehensive annex is divided into
basic guidelines and safety radio watchkeeping and
Resolution 6 - Basic guidelines and operational guidance
relating to safety radio watchkeeping for radio telephone
Resolution 7 - Radio operators. Four recommendations are
annexed to this resolution dealing with (i) minimum
requirements for certification of radio officers; (ii)
minimum requirements to ensure the continued proficiency
and updating of knowledge for radio operators; (iii)
basic guidelines and operational guidance relating to
safety radio watchkeeping and maintenance for radio
operators; and (iv) training for radio operators.
Resolution 8 - Additional training for ratings forming
part of a navigational watch. Recommends that such
ratings be trained in use and operation of appropriate
bridge equipment and basic requirements for the
prevention of pollution.
Resolution 9 - Minimum requirements for a rating
nominated as the assistant to the engineer officer in
charge of the watch. Recognizes that suitable training
arrangements are not widely available. Detailed
requirements are contained in an annex.
Resolution 10 - Training and qualifications of officers
and ratings of oil tankers. Refers to resolution 8
adopted by the International Conference on Tanker Safety
and Pollution Prevention, 1978 (TSPP), which deals with
the improvement of standards of crews on tankers.
Recommendation in annex.
Resolution 11 - Training and qualifications of officers
and ratings of chemical tankers.
Resolution 12 - Training and qualifications of masters,
officers and ratings of liquefied gas tankers.
Resolution 13 - Training and qualifications of officers
and ratings of ships carrying dangerous and hazardous
cargo other than in bulk.
Resolution 14 - Training for radio officers. Detailed
recommendations in annex.
Resolution 15 - Training for radiotelephone operators
Resolution 16 - Technical assistance for the training and
qualifications of masters and other responsible personnel
of oil, chemical and liquefied gas tankers. Refers to
requirements in several Convention regulations and
recognizes that training facilities may be limited in
some countries. Urges Governments which can provide
assistance to do so.· Back to top
Resolution 17 - Additional training for masters and chief
mates of large ships and of ships with unusual
manoeuvring characteristics. Is designed to assist those
moving to ships of this type from smaller vessels, where
characteristics may be quite different.
Resolution 18 - Radar simulator training. Recommends that
such training be given to all masters and deck officers.
Resolution 19 - Training of seafarers in personal
survival techniques. A recommendation is annexed.
Resolution 20 - Training in the use of collision
Resolution 21 - International Certificate of Competency.
Invites IMO to develop a standard form and title for this
Resolution 22 - Human relationships. Emphasizes the
importance to safety of good human relationships between
seafarers on board.
Resolution 23 - Promotion of technical co-operation.
Records appreciation of IMO's work in assisting
developing countries to establish maritime training
facilities in conformity with global standards of
training and invites the organization to intensify its
efforts with a view to promoting universal acceptance and
implementation of the STCW Convention.
Amendments to the 1978 STCW Convention's technical Annex
may be adopted by a Conference of STCW Parties or by
IMO's Maritime Safety Committee, expanded to include all
Contracting Parties, some of whom may not be members of
Amendments to the STCW Annex will normally enter into
force one and a half years after being communicated to
all Parties unless, in the meantime, they are rejected by
one-third of the Parties or by Parties whose combined
fleets represent 50 per cent of world tonnage.
The 1991 amendments
Adoption: 22 May 1991
Entry into force: 1 December 1992
The amendments were mostly concerned with additional
requirements made necessary by the implementation of the
Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
The 1994 amendments
Adoption: 25 May 1994
Entry into force: 1 January 1996
The amendments replaced Chapter V on special training for
crews on tankers.
The 1995 amendments
Adoption: 7 July 1995
Entry into force: 1 February 1997
The 1995 amendments, adopted by a Conference, represented
a major revision of the Convention, in response to a
recognized need to bring the Convention up to date and to
respond to critics who pointed out the many vague
phrases, such as "to the satisfaction of the
Administration", which resulted in different
interpretations being made.
Others complained that the Convention was never uniformly
applied and did not impose any strict obligations on
Parties regarding implementation. The 1995 amendments
entered into force on 1 February 1997. However, until 1
February 2002, Parties may continue to issue, recognize
and endorse certificates which applied before that date
in respect of seafarers who began training or seagoing
service before 1 August 1998.
One of the major features of the revision was the
division of the technical annex into regulations, divided
into Chapters as before, and a new STCW Code, to which
many technical regulations have been transferred. Part A
of the Code is mandatory while Part B is recommended.
Dividing the regulations up in this way makes
administration easier and it also makes the task of
revising and updating them more simple: for procedural
and legal reasons there is no need to call a full
conference to make changes to Codes.
Some of the most important amendments adopted by the
Conference concern Chapter I - General Provisions. They
include the following:
Ensuring compliance with the Convention
Parties to the Convention are required to provide
detailed information to IMO concerning administrative
measures taken to ensure compliance with the Convention.
This represented the first time that IMO had been called
upon to act in relation to compliance and implementation
- generally, implementation is down to the flag States,
while port State control also acts to ensure compliance.
Under Chapter I, regulation I/7 of the revised
Convention, Parties are required to provide detailed
information to IMO concerning administrative measures
taken to ensure compliance with the Convention, education
and training courses, certification procedures and other
factors relevant to implementation.
By 1 August 1998 - the deadline for submission of
information established in section A-I/7 of the STCW Code
- 82 out of the 133 STCW Parties had communicated
information on compliance with the requirements of the
revised Convention. The 82 Parties which met the deadline
represent well over 90% of the world's ships and
The information is reviewed by panels of competent
persons, nominated by Parties to the STCW Convention, who
report on their findings to the IMO Secretary-General,
who, in turn, reports to the Maritime Safety Committee
(MSC) on the Parties which fully comply. The MSC then
produces a list of Parties in compliance with the 1995
The first list of countries was approved by the MSC at
its 73rd session held from 27 November to 6 December 2000
it included 71 countries and one Associate Member
Port State control
The revised Chapter I includes enhanced procedures
concerning the exercise of port State to allow
intervention in the case of deficiencies deemed to pose a
danger to persons, property or the environment
(regulation I/4). This can take place if certificates are
not in order or if the ship is involved in a collision or
grounding, if there is an illegal discharge of substances
(causing pollution) or if the ship is manoeuvred in an
erratic or unsafe manner, etc.
Other regulations in chapter I include:
Measures are introduced for watchkeeping personnel to
Parties are required to establish procedures for
investigating acts by persons to whom they have issued
certificates that endanger safety or the environment.
Penalties and other disciplinary measures must be
prescribed and enforced where the Convention is not
Technical innovations, such as the use of simulators for
training and assessment purposes have been recognized.
Simulators are mandatory for training in the use of radar
and automatic radar plotting aids (regulation I/12 and
section A-I/12 of the STCW Code).
Parties are required to ensure that training,
certification and other procedures are continuously
monitored by means of a quality standards system
Every master, officer and radio operator are required at
intervals not exceeding five years to meet the fitness
standards and the levels of professional competence
contained in Section A-I/11 of the STCW Code. In order to
assess the need for revalidation of certificates after 1
February 2002, Parties must compare the standards of
competence previously required with those specified in
the appropriate certificate in part A of the STCW Code.
If necessary, the holders of certificates may be required
to undergo training or refresher courses (regulation
Chapter II: Master and deck department
The Chapter was revised and updated.
Chapter III: Engine department
The Chapter was revised and updated.
Chapter IV: Radiocommunication and radio personnel
The Chapter was revised and updated.
Chapter V: Special training requirements for personnel on
certain types of ships
Special requirements were introduced concerning the
training and qualifications of personnel on board ro-ro
passenger ships. Previously the only special requirements
in the Convention concerned crews on tankers. This change
was made in response to proposals made by the Panel of
Experts set up to look into ro-ro safety following the
capsize and sinking of the ferry Estonia in September
1994. Crews on ro-ro ferries have to receive training in
technical aspects and also in crowd and crisis management
and human behaviour.
Chapter VI: Emergency, occupational safety, medical care
and survival functions
The Chapter incorporates the previous Chapter VI:
Proficiency in survival craft and includes mandatory
minimum requirements for familiarization, basic safety
training and instruction for all seafarers; mandatory
minimum requirements for the issue of certificates of
proficiency in survival craft, rescue boats and fast
rescue boats; mandatory minimum requirements for training
in advanced firefighting; and mandatory minimum
requirements relating to medical first aid and medical
Chapter VII: Alternative certification
Regulations regarding alternative certification (also
known as the functional approach) are included in a new
Chapter VII. This involves enabling crews to gain
training and certification in various departments of
seafaring rather than being confined to one branch (such
as deck or engine room) for their entire career.Although
it is a relatively new concept, the 1995 Conference was
anxious not to prevent its development. At the same time,
the new Chapter is intended to ensure that safety and the
environment are not threatened in any way. The use of
equivalent educational and training arrangements is
permitted under article IX.
Chapter VIII: Watchkeeping
Measures were introduced for watchkeeping personnel to
prevent fatigue. Administrations are required to
establish and enforce rest periods for watchkeeping
personnel and to ensure that watch systems are so
arranged that the efficiency of watchkeeping personnel is
not impaired by fatigue.
The STCW Code
The regulations contained in the Convention are supported
by sections in the STCW Code. Generally speaking, the
Convention contains basic requirements which are then
enlarged upon and explained in the Code.
Part A of the Code is mandatory. The minimum standards of
competence required for seagoing personnel are given in
detail in a series of tables. Chapter II of the Code, for
example, deals with standards regarding the master and
Part B of the Code contains recommended guidance which is
intended to help Parties implement the Convention. The
measures suggested are not mandatory and the examples
given are only intended to illustrate how certain
Convention requirements may be complied with. However,
the recommendations in general represent an approach that
has been harmonized by discussions within IMO and
consultation with other international organizations.
The 1997 Amendments
Adoption: June 1997
Entry into force: 1 January 1999
The amendments concern training for personnel on
passenger ships. The amendments include an additional
Regulation V/3 in Chapter V on Mandatory minimum
requirements for the training and qualifications of
masters, officers, ratings and other personnel on
passenger ships other than ro-ro passenger ships. Related
additions are also made to the STCW Code, covering Crowd
management training; Familiarization training; Safety
training for personnel providing direct service to
passengers in passenger spaces; Passenger safety; and
Crisis management and human behaviour training.
The 1998 Amendments
Adoption: 9 December 1998
Entry into force: 1 January 2003 (under tacit acceptance)
Amendments to the STCW Code are aimed at improving
minimum standards of competence of crews, in particular
relating to cargo securing, loading and unloading on bulk
carriers, since these procedures have the potential to
put undue stresses on the ship's structure. The
amendments concern sections A-II/1 and A-II/2 under
"Cargo handling and stowage at the operational and
The White List
The first so-called White List of countries
deemed to be giving full and complete effect
to the revised STCW Convention (STCW 95) was published by
IMO following the 73rd session of the Organizations
Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), meeting from 27 November
to 6 December 2000.
It is expected that ships flying flags of countries that
are not on the White List will be increasingly targeted
by Port State Control inspectors. A Flag state Party that
is on the White List may, as a matter of policy, elect
not to accept seafarers with certificates issued by non
White List countries for service on its ships. If it does
accept such seafarers, they will be required by 1
February 2002 also to have an endorsement, issued by the
flag state, to show that their certificate is recognized
by the flag state.
By 1 February 2002, masters and officers should hold STCW
95 certificates or endorsements issued by the flag State.
Certificates issued and endorsed under the provisions of
the 1978 STCW Convention will be valid until their expiry
The list will be kept under review and may be added to as
other countries meet the criteria for inclusion.
Information courtesy of the IMO updated 2002