What Is STCW and Who Must Comply

The “Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping,” more commonly known as the STCW is a type of treaty known as a “convention.” Generally treaties between nations come into force as a means to resolve conflicts and end disagreements. By contrast, a “convention” is an attempt by many countries to work on global issues. A “convention” is a process which begins with deliberations and ends with an agreement signed and ratified by member countries.

The STCW Convention was ratified in 1978. It did not have a significant effect on US mariners because its standards were essentially those of the United States. But an amendment to the Convention in 1995 introduced significant changes, including rigorous enforcement of its standards and the creation of a “Code.” This Code consists of regulations imposing strict requirements on mariners operating internationally. The Manila Amendments to the STCW of 2010 have imposed still more requirements for mariners.

Certain vessels and the mariners who man them are not subject to the STCW Code. These include the following:

  1. Uninspected passenger vessels as defined in 46 US Code 2101(42)
  2. Fishing vessels as defined in 46 US Code 2101(11)(a)
  3. Fishing vessels used as fish-tender vessels as defined in 46 US Code 2101(11)(c)
  4. Pleasure yachts not engaged in trade
  5. Wooden vessels of primitive build
  6. Barges as defined in 46 US Code 2101(2) , including non-self-propelled mobile offshore drilling units
  7. Vessels operating exclusively on the Great Lakes or on the inland waters of the US. Inland waters means those waters shoreward of the Boundary Line.

Certain vessels and the credentialed personnel who operate them are considered compliant with STCW by virtue of their US license and are under no further obligation to STCW. These vessels are less than 200 GRT operating on a domestic Near Coastal voyage. “Near Coastal” is defined as those waters within 200 miles of the US shore and within the jurisdictional water of the US.