Training facilities keep pace as STCW milestone is reached

By Domenic A. Sammarco, R.Ph., EMT

While no serious shortages of certified mariners seemed to be developing in the United States, other countries were having problems meeting the STCW provisions.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that it would abide by the IMO recommendation for the delay; however, STCW requirements other than crew certification would be strictly enforced. "Vessels may still be detained for other reasons, including demonstrated crew incompetence, such as failure to perform critical drills," the Coast Guard said.

STCW is positive in one regard because it raises industry standards and makes sure mariners are qualified to do their jobs.

Most people would agree that the long awaited - some say dreaded - STCW rules are the most sweeping set of maritime training regulations ever implemented. The Coast Guard estimates that the new rules will affect around 20,000 U.S. mariners and will forever change how they receive their training and demonstrate their abilities.

"This covers everybody from entry to master. There's nobody left out in STCW.", states Coast Guard representative.

The roots of STCW go back to 1978 when the IMO adopted international training standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships. Those standards, known as STCW '78, went into effect in 1984.

STCW requires at least 11 weeks of training to upgrade to chief mate or master. Below deck, some upgrades, will take up to 10 weeks of training.

The maritime industry has stood divided concerning the higher standards of training as well as expectations. As with other professionals continual education is a requirement for registration or license renewal. The maritime industry must stand united and realize that personnel development is a primary and basic investment which will only result in safety more cost-effective outcomes. All marine officers must consider themselves professionals and not merely tradesmen. As far as economic investment is concerned both employers and employees must be willing to contribute establishing that the U.S. maritime forces are best trained and leaders in the international sea-going arena.