a crew member on a sailing ship

IMO to start comprehensive review of STCW Convention and Code

Published: 05 May 2022

In an effort to keep seafarer training, certification and watchkeeping aspects in line with developments in the shipping industry, and to address several challenges faced by seafarers, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed to start a comprehensive review and revision of the STCW Convention and Code. The work is expected to begin at the HTW sub-committee next year.

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 (STCW Convention), the IMO instrument governing the training, certification and watchkeeping standards of seafarers, was adopted in 1978. Since then, the Convention has gone through several small amendments and a couple of big ones. In 1995, the STCW Code was introduced and in 2010, the Manila amendments were introduced. Both changes improved the convention significantly, including introducing tables of competence, functions, levels of responsibility for seafarers, and prevention of fraudulent practices associated with certificate of competency (CoCs). Furthermore, in 2010, new requirements for the prevention of seafarers’ fatigue and abuse of drugs and alcohol were introduced. Measures to further increasing the levels of competence standards for personnel serving onboard all types of tankers were also introduced.

In 2010, it was also recommended that the STCW Convention and the Code should, to the extend possible, be comprehensively revised every ten years to address any inconsistencies identified in the interim, and to ensure that they are up to date with existing and emerging technologies.

This matter was brought up at Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) sub-committee in 2021. Several countries expressed support for conducting such a comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code.

Following the procedures of the IMO, this topic was brought up formally to the parent committee, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 105 in April this year, and a new work output was proposed.

Our maritime industry is presently going through immense change. We are seeing a massive push towards decarbonisation and digitalisation. The systems on board are getting more complex and we are slowly moving towards potential operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). We are exploring options for using newer and greener fuels and at the same time trying out newer technologies to make our ships more energy efficient.

Not only this, new modes of training have been introduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and technology for electronic certificates is also maturing at rapid pace.

Several maritime accident reports have pointed towards inappropriate watchkeeping practices leading to casualties, and there have also been concerns raised in the quality of on-board training for seafarers who are in the process of obtaining their first certificate of competency. For cadets, it has been difficult to complete the required seagoing service due to non-availability of seagoing berths. Revalidation of certificates during the pandemic has also been a challenge for both seafarers and shipping companies, despite many countries taking pragmatic approaches towards this.

Furthermore, there have been incidents of bullying and harassment on board ships, including sexual harassment, which have been brought to the attention of the IMO at MSC 105.

Looking at all the above reasons, the MSC approved a new work output called “Comprehensive review and revision of the STCW Convention and Code”. Noting that this is no easy task, the committee instructed the HTW sub-committee to make a preliminary assessment and prepare a roadmap on how this proposal should be moved forward.

BIMCO supports this new work proposal and will closely work with the IMO and member states in a fair review of the Convention and Code.

Should members have queries or would like to bring up specific issues or comments to the BIMCO secretariat,  please contact the author.

Ashok Srinivasan


Ashok Srinivasan

Manager, Maritime Safety & Security

Copenhagen, Denmark