If you are looking for a job as crew, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to set foot on board a yacht without having taken the STCW Basic Training course. Here’s what makes this certification so important…
What is the STCW?
The STCW stands for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping and is an international convention that is regarded as the lateral standard of training for anyone working on a commercial vessel. It is an absolute must if you are looking to work as crew on a luxury yacht. The STCW was formed in 1978 in an attempt to standardize maritime code by introducing a basic set of rules for seafarers worldwide. Over time, the rules have become more and more comprehensive and eventually evolved into the STCW certification that is required by any member of crew working on a commercial vessel over 24 meters.
Why Do I Need an STCW?
In most cases, the STCW Basic Safety Training certification is a mandatory requirement and you won’t be able to score a job on a yacht without that all-important piece of paper. Even yachts that fall short of the 24-meter threshold or are used only privately will require the STCW Basic Training qualification at the very minimum.
The STCW certifies that an individual is able to identify safety hazards at sea and know how to respond in an emergency situation. "It is designed to provide those starting out in the industry with the minimum technical knowledge to be able to assist the vessel, her crew, and passengers in the event of an emergency at sea," says Gregor McGowan, MCA Training Manager at UKSA.
“Working at sea is an amazing job but Mother Nature continues to remind us who’s boss,” says Jay Lasner, CEO of Bluewater Training USA. “As the first responders on board we must be trained for all eventualities." A good mantra to follow is plan for the worst and hope for the best, which the STCW certification allows you to do.
What Does the STCW Involve?
There are five key elements of an STCW Basic Safety Training certification:
Personal Survival Techniques (A-VI/1-1) How to survive at sea in the event of an emergency, including how to launch a life raft and use safety equipment.
Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting (A-VI/1-2) How to identify and extinguish different types of fire, including practical knowledge of fire fighting equipment and breathing apparatus, and how to prevent fires from starting.
Elementary First Aid (A-VI/1-3) How to respond to and care for an injured member of crew, including CPR, bandaging, the dos and don’t of moving a patient, and how to improvise.
Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (A-VI/1-4) How to prevent accidents and understanding safety procedures and safe working practices
Proficiency in Security Awareness (A-V1/6) Initially, the STCW Basic Safety Training course was split into just four core modules. Proficiency in Security Awareness was added to the revised STCW 2010 Code in 2014 to provide essential training to crew in the event of a security threat such as piracy or armed robbery.
While some parts of the course will be theoretical, other parts will be much more physically demanding and candidates will likely be required to complete a medical declaration form before starting the course. During the course you will be asked to complete tasks such as carrying casualties from a burning building, pulling yourself and others from deep water into a liferaft and lifting crewmates out of enclosed spaces on a stretcher. "Before you book onto an STCW course, I would strongly recommend that you book in for a maritime medical examination called the ENG1" advises McGowan. Just like the STCW Basic Training Certificate, the ENG1 medical certificate is another mandatory requirement for those working at sea.
How Long Does it Take to Complete?
The STCW Basic Safety Training course typically takes place over five consecutive days.
How Much Does it Cost?
A five-day STCW Basic Safety Training course costs approximately £700–£1,000 in the UK and Europe and approximately US$900–$1,000 if taken in the United States.
Does the STCW Certificate Expire?
An STCW certification will need to be renewed every five years. Those who hold an STCW can take part in a refresher course. "STCW compliance is not a one-time achievement," says Captain Ted Morley. "It is designed to be an ongoing process of professional development."
Advice for Crew Taking the STCW for the First Time
The number one rule of taking any STCW course is to read the notes and arrive prepared. "Enter the class as informed as possible", advises Capt. Morley.
McGowan agrees. "Like most things in life, the more you put into it – the more you will get out of it," he says, "so bring an open mind, a notepad and pen, get plenty of sleep, and ask lots of questions." He also recommends watching some good old-fashioned disaster movies like Jaws, Backdraft and Titanic. "Watching these sorts of films will raise your understanding of first aid, sea survival, and firefighting," he says. "This should arm you with some questions, which your instructors will be only too happy to answer."
Meanwhile, Lanser reminds candidates that first impressions count. "Remember that the yachting industry is a small world and the people you meet in this first week could help land your first job and another job in a few years’ time."
"Oh, and don’t drink too much until Saturday night — getting into a fire suit or an immersion suit with a hangover is not fun," he adds.
What is the Difference Between an STCW 95 and STCW 2010?
Old salts who have been in the industry for many years will be much more familiar with the STCW 95. The STCW code was reviewed in 2010 with a number of new rules and regulations for seafarers to adhere to and effectively replaced the STCW 95. The main changes were that crew must now update their certification every five years with a refresher course as well as the introduction of the Proficiency in Security Awareness module as part of basic STCW training.
Who Offers STCW Courses?
- Allabroad Sailing Academy (Gibraltar)
- Bluewater Yachting
- D&B Services (France)
- Formacion Alpher (Spain)
- Seascope (France)
- Zephyr Yachting (France)
- ERGT (Australia)
- Great Barrier Reef International Marine College (Australia)
- Ocean Sailing Academy (South Africa)
- SSTG (South Africa)
- TAFE NSW (Australia)
Capt. Morley reminds prospective crew that while yachting is a wonderful way to travel and gain personal experiences, "you are being paid as a professional and you will need to have the core knowledge and skills that a captain or owner expect of a professional."