1.1 ABOUT STCW International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended, sets qualification standards for masters, officers, and watch going personnel on seagoing merchant ships. STCW was adopted in 1978 by conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered into force in 1984. The Convention was significantly amended in 1995. The 133 current stateparties to the Convention represent approximately 98 percent of the world’s merchant vessel tonnage. 1.1.1 Limitations discovered Between 1984 and 1992, significant limitations to the 1978 Convention became apparent. Many people felt that the Convention included vague requirements that were left to the discretion of parties to the Convention. Others felt that there were growing problems with: (a) a lack of clear standards of competence, (b) no IMO oversight of compliance, (c) limited port state control, and (d) inadequacies that did not address modern shipboard functions. Meanwhile, the U.S. deferred ratification efforts and worked for almost a decade to effect necessary changes to our licensing regulations. 1.1.1 Amendments adopted in 1995 On July 7, 1995, a conference of parties to the Convention, meeting at IMO headquarters in London, adopted the package of amendments to STCW. The amendments entered force on February 1, 1997. 1.1.2 Effective dates The provisions of the Convention not tied to individual mariner certification became effective when the IFR (Interim Final Rule) was published. However, provision was made for certain new requirements to be introduced over a longer period. Full implementation is required by February 1, 2002. For issuance of licenses and documents, the effective dates of the new requirements will be according to transitional guidance published by the STW Subcommittee. Mariners already holding licenses have the option to renew those licenses in accordance with the old rules of the 1978 Convention during the period ending on February 1, 2002. Mariners entering training programs after August 1, 1998 are required to meet the competency standards of the new 1995 Amendments. For persons seeking original licenses, the Coast Guard anticipates that most new training requirements will be incorporated into courses approved by the Coast Guard, or by equivalent courses. To ensure that the competency objectives of the 1995 amendments are met, parties must implement quality assurance programs, with IMO reviewing each parties’ national program. Again, this represents a fundamental change in thinking for the international community. It will be mandatory that the "pulse" of the new system be checked on a recurring basis to ensure its "good health."
1.1.3 Familiarization training: Both the STCW Convention and the U.S. implementing regulations use the term familiarization training or similar terminology five different ways: a. Companies are required to ensure that seafarers who are newly assigned to a ship are familiarized with their specific duties and with all ship arrangements, installations, equipment, procedures and ship characteristics that are relevant to their routine or emergency duties. Written instructions are to be issued by the company to each ship to ensure this ship-specific familiarization takes place. b. All persons who are employed or engaged on a seagoing ship other than passengers are required to receive approved familiarization training in personal survival techniques or receive sufficient information and instruction to be able to take care of themselves and take proper action when an emergency condition develops. This includes locating and donning a lifejacket, knowing what to do if a person falls overboard, and closing watertight doors. c. Officers and ratings who are assigned specific duties and responsibilities related to cargo or cargo equipment on tankers must complete an approved tanker familiarization course if they