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Web Alert: Compliance with the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW ConventionWeb Alert: Compliance with the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention

26 January 2017

1 January 2017 marked the end of the transitional period and the beginning of the full implementation of the 2010 Manila Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping of Seafarers (STCW) 1978 (Manila Amendments).

The Manila Amendments included new and updated requirements to the competency tables, seafarer grades and certification. In order to be compliant, seafarers were required to complete mandatory upgrading courses and hold the requisite certification.

However, in November 2016, during the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee 97th Session (MSC 97), it was recognized that a number of flag states, class and other recognised organisations (RO) (Administrations) may not be in a position to issue STCW certificates in accordance with the requirement of the amended convention by the deadline of 1 January 2017. The difficulties appear to have arisen due to a mismatch between the large number of seafarers who needed to meet the training requirements and the limited capacity of the Administrations to process the documentation necessary to issue the required endorsements within the original time frame.

Consequently, the IMO issued MSC circular 1560 urging port state control authorities to adopt a ‘practical and pragmatic approach’ for a 6-month period expiring on 1 July 2017 during inspections, in cases where the seafarers’ documentation complied with the requirements in force immediately before 1 January 2017, but was not in accordance with the requirements of the 2010 Manila Amendments.

The circular further recommended Recognised Organisations (RO’s) issuing International Ship Management (ISM) Code certification pursuant to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention 1974 (SOLAS 74) that, until 1 July 2017, if a seafarer's documentation was not in accordance with the 2010 Manila Amendments, it would be sufficient to inform the Administration when assessing compliance with the provisions of the ISM Code.

Additionally, the US Coast Guard (USCG) and Paris MOU have indicated that they will follow the IMO’s recommendations in the circular in respect of enforcement of the Manila Amendments to the STCW. However, a deficiency may still be recorded and the ship’s master will be instructed to rectify the deficiency before 1 July 2017. It is also worth noting the USCG’s caution in these terms: ‘… It should be noted that the decision to relax the use of the control actions as an enforcement measures applies only to those new transitional provisions within the STCW requirements. Vessels may still be issued deficiencies, which may lead to detention, for other reasons…’