What is STCW?

STCW Convention (International Convention and Code on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers):

STCW Convention and Code set out the minimum standards to be achieved to obtain the relevant certification required to hold certain positions onboard ships of all types. Officers and Crew can be trained and certified and be ready to work. STCW Convention entered into force on 28 April 1984, with amendments in 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2010. Amendments show the constant evolution of the STCW Convention to meet the shipping industry’s need for change in the education and training of seafarers to keep up with ship operational requirements.

STCW Convention is split into two (2) parts:

  1. Part A: mandatory provisions
  2. Part B: recommended guidance



Ratings must be properly trained and today the traditional differences between those who work on deck (seamen) and those who worked in the engine room (stokers and donkeymen) have disappeared. Most ratings today are trained as General Purpose seamen. Certificates of Competence are issued by the Flag administrations. There have been, and indeed still concerns about the quality of training imposed by some countries or indeed the ability to obtain Certificates without being properly examined.

STCW Convention (International Convention and Code on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) establishes the minimum standards that should be achieved in each of the relevant areas. There is tremendous responsibility resting on the shoulders of a few officers in any one ship. Consider the many millions of dollars of capital represented by the ship itself plus more millions for the cargo she is carrying. Compare that with the same investment ashore where decisions are usually made by a board of directors assisted by several layers of management each carrying its own share of responsibility. In a ship, the officer on the bridge can be faced with a few minutes in which to make his decision with no time to seek anyone else’s advice. It follows that there cannot be too much care taken in selecting Masters and Officers for the ships under management.  Ironically, many senior managers and directors in a shore-based enterprise have grown up with the company and have therefore had many years to show their qualities. Ship’s officers, on the other hand, are often quite unknown to their employers before the time of making the appointment. There should be no reluctance to check into the previous employment of such candidates. Any inconsistencies should be investigated and hints of problems such as ‘demon drink’, should be double-checked. Most ship management companies ensure that shore-based ex-masters and ex-chief engineers in their role as Marine and Engineer Superintendents respectively are closely involved in the recruitment process.