Guidelines on the IMO STCW Convention and Code

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In June 2010, IMO adopted substantial amendments (the ‘Manila Amendments’) to the STCW Convention governing seafarers’ training. This third edition of the ICS Guidelines for shipping companies has been fully revised and updated to take account of these changes. It should be read by anyone connected with the employment and training of merchant seafarers.

The Manila Amendments take account of technical developments and also include new training requirements for leadership and teamwork, enhanced refresher training for qualified seafarers, new competence standards for tanker personnel and for the new grade of Able Seafarer (Deck and Engine) and new requirements for maintaining records of ratings’ training.

The amendments also introduced major changes to IMO regulations concerning seafarers’ minimum rest hours, including detailed advice on company obligations and compliance and information about the changes to STCW and when they come into effect.

The International Shipping Federation (ISF) leads the representation of maritime employers at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In June 2010, in Manila, this included representation of shipowners at an IMO Diplomatic Conference which adopted a wide ranging set of amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

The competence of seafarers is a most critical factor in the safe and efficient operation of merchant ships, and has a direct impact on the safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment. The STCW Convention constitutes a comprehensive set of regulations intended to maintain the highest standards of competence globally. In particular, the STCW Convention places important responsibilities on maritime employers, obligations with which they must fully comply.

This third edition of the ISF Guidelines for shipping companies has been completely updated to take account of the latest changes to the IMO Convention – the so called ‘Manila amendments’ adopted in 2010.

There are numerous amendments which take account of recent technical developments requiring new shipboard skills, such as the use of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) or the need to give more emphasis to environmental management. But the changes also cover such matters as new training requirements for leadership and teamwork, enhanced refresher training for qualified seafarers, and the introduction of standards of competence for the new grade of Able Seafarer in both the deck and engine departments. Importantly, the 2010 amendments also introduce major changes to IMO regulations concerning seafarers’ minimum rest hours, which are intended to prevent fatigue. Given their significance to shipboard operations, a new section of these Guidelines has been added to explain these new rules, which at first sight are rather complex.

The principal purpose of these ISF Guidelines is to advise shipping companies and shipboard personnel of their fundamental obligations as required by the revised STCW Convention. In addition to providing advice on compliance, the Guidelines are intended to provide background information on the philosophy underlying the ‘competence-based’ approach to training which the STCW Convention seeks to promote, and which – together with the introduction of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code – has coincided with a dramatic reduction in the number of accidents at sea.

Since the 1990s, when the STCW Convention was previously radically revised, the training of seafarers has been substantially overhauled, and the 2010 ‘Manila amendments’ will hopefully consolidate this improvement in standards. Particularly in developing countries, from where about two thirds of the world’s seafarers are currently employed, the competence-based approach to training – i.e. the attainment of the professional ability required to perform tasks on board, as opposed simply to gaining knowledge to pass an exam – is now universally applied. Rather than training standards being left to the satisfaction of local administrations, the international Competence Tables in the STCW Code now underpin maritime education around the world. Moreover, flag states are also now required to take direct responsibility for the competence of the seafarers serving on their ships, which is clearly most important given that the majority of seafarers now work on vessels that fly a flag that differs from their own nationality.

As a consequence, compared to the early 1990s, employers should now generally have far greater confidence in the validity of seafarers’ certificates, regardless of the country of issue. This is not to say that there is no longer room for improvement in many training institutes. However, there is now a clearer sense that all seafarers working internationally are part of the same global profession, in which the paramount importance of safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment is more widely recognised.

The overriding objective of ISF, and its member national shipowners’ associations, is that the standards required by the STCW Convention, as amended in 2010, are put into effect as soon as possible, and that the highest standards of seafarer competence will continue to be maintained worldwide.


1.1 Shipping Company Responsibilities
1.2 Uniform Standards of Competence
1.3 Measures to Ensure Implementation by Governments
1.4 Other Provisions
1.5 Implementation Dates of 2010 Amendments
1.6 Structure, Format and Contents of STCW 2010


2.1 STCW 2010 and the ISM Code

2.2 Definition of Shipping Company

2.3 Explicit Company Responsibilities
2.4 Minimum Rest Periods

2.5 Additional Familiarisation and Basic Training
2.6 Training for Particular Ship Types
2.7 Other Requirements
2.8 Additional Training and Certification Requirements

3.1 Training ‘Outcomes’

3.2 Standards of Competence
3.3 Specification of Standards of Competence
3.4 Criteria for Defining Competence
3.5 Alternative Certification

4.1 Ensuring Compliance by Companies
4.2 Ensuring Implementation by Governments
4.3 The STCW ‘White List’
4.4 Quality Standards
4.5 Flag State Responsibilities

5.1 Summary of STCW Requirements
5.2 Changes Introduced by 2010 Amendments
5.3 Record Keeping and Schedules
5.4 The ‘Manila Exceptions’

6.1 Changes to Competence Tables
6.2 Leadership and Teamwork
6.3 Refresher Training
6.4 Tanker Training
6.5 New Seafarer Grades and Certification

1. Summary of 2010 Amendments
2. Summary of Chapter I (General Provisions) of the 73 STCW Convention and Code
3. Summary of Chapters II–VIII of the STCW Convention and Code
4. Implementation of ISM Code Relevant to STCW 77
5. Recommendatory Guidance on Shipboard Familiarisation
6. Special Training for Personnel on Passenger Ships
7. Qualifications of Instructors, Supervisors and Assessors
8. Analysis of Changes to Rest Hour Provisions
9. Sample Table of Shipboard Working Arrangements and Rest Hour Records
10. Recommended Industry Publications


The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is the principal international trade association for the shipping industry, representing shipowners and operators in all sectors and trades.

ICS membership comprises national shipowners’ associations in Asia, Europe and the Americas whose member shipping companies operate over 80% of the world’s merchant tonnage.

Established in 1921, ICS is concerned with all technical, legal, employment affairs and policy issues that may affect international shipping.

ICS represents shipowners with the various intergovernmental regulatory bodies that impact on shipping, including the International Maritime Organization.

ICS also develops best practices and guidance, including a wide range of publications and free resources that are used by ship operators globally.

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International Chamber of Shipping