The 101 on STCW Refresher Courses

15 January 2016 By Hillary Hoffower

It’s never fun when new regulations and requirements are imposed on the industry, adding yet another headache for crew who already have a lot on their plates. The new STCW 2010refresher requirements are no different, creating confusion among crew about who needs to take them — and when and why.

“Collectively,the superyacht community has questioned the actions needed to comply with the new Manila Amendments and the impact it will have,” says Anthony Sands, founder and director of Edge Yachts. “With clear and readily accessible information thin on the ground, many captains and senior crew have postponed addressing how the requirement for STCW refresher courses was goingto impact them and the running of the yacht come January 1,2017.”

Postpone no further. Here’s the guide to what you need to know.

Who needs to take it?

According to JohnWyborn, training director at bluewater, any crewmember with STCW safety certificates, both basic and advanced, that are more than five years’ old will need to sit for the refresher courses (this applies to every position on board).

Sound like hassle? It could be worse — luckily, you don’t need to re-sit your entire STCW. Bluewater’s website states that you are only required to update your Basic FirePrevention & Fire Fighting, Personal Survival techniques, Advanced FireFighting and Advanced Sea Survival.

It’s important to note you only need to take these courses if they’re applicable to you. “[For]example, if you only took basic [courses] in the past, you only refresh onbasic,” says Amy Morley-Beavers of Maritime Professional Training.“If you took advanced [courses] in the past, you will refresh both basic andadvanced.”

When do I need to take them by?

Accordingto bluewater, the Manila Amendments require the STCW safety training courses to be refreshed by January 1, 2017, so you have until December 31,2016, to refresh your courses.

“We do anticipatethat many people will wait until the last minute to take these courses, thus wesuggest that you take them as soon as you have the opportunity,” recommends born.

But this yearwon’t be your last time sitting for the refresher courses if you plan on makinga home in the industry.

“The refreshercourses are not a one off — the regulations state that they need to berefreshed every five years,” says Wyborn.

Is there a difference between USCG and MCAimplementation of the new requirements?

“Everycountry/maritime administration has the authority to implement the IMOrequirements as they feel is most appropriate,” says Morley-Beavers, addingthat the general standards are the same.

The USCG offerstwo options dependent on whether the seafarer has 360 days of qualifying seatime, which Morley-Beavers describes as sea service that includes propercontinuing competency training and onboard demonstrations in STCW VI.

If the seafarer hassaid sea time, they only need to take the shorter, “revalidation” levelcourses. “[These] are only practical in nature (no theory, no written tests),”says Morley-Beavers.

If the seafarerdoesn’t have said sea time, which means they didn’t go to sea enough or at allor if they were serving on vessels without proper documentation of continuingcompetency in these areas, says Morley-Beavers, they need to take the refreshercourses by January 1, 2017.

Unsure if youhave qualifying sea time? You’re better safe than sorry. “Opt for the refreshercourse, not the revalidation, just to be safe,” she suggests.

The MCA’sapproach is slightly different. “They are allowing for the continuingcompetency on board to be signed off on declaration forms, which can be foundin MSN 1865, and then short, shoreside courses are undertaken to complete therenewal,” explains Morley-Beavers. “Without the onboard declarations, longercourses for renewal, and in some cases the full original course, must be takento maintain competency.” These requirements also need to be met by January 1,2017.

When and where are the courses available?

Edge Yachtspoints out that with the exception of Advanced Fire Fighting, which someschools are permitted to teach on board, most of the refresher courses cannotbe taken remotely or on your yacht.

According toSands, course providers approved by the MCA are scarce and there’s limitedsupply for course demand, as 1.4 million seafarers are affected worldwide bythe new Manila Amendments. Edge Yachts has a summary of some of theoptions for the courses, which you can view here (note that this is current as of December 15, 2015, and some schools,such as bluewater, have implemented full programs since then).

Bluewater’s fullprogram started this month. The basic refresher courses there run for two days,and the advanced refresher courses only take one day.

Morley-Beaverspoints out that some schools, like MPT and International Crew Training,generally have their courses approved for both USCG and MCA, but most otherschools offer one or the other.

“Make sure youtake training approved or accepted by the country you are applying to or servingon board, and in some cases, both,” she says, adding that first priority is thecountry issuing your credential, and the second priority is to ensure you havealso met any additional or different requirements for your flag state.

“For example, anAmerican holding a USCG credential and serving on an MCA vessel must take aUSCG-approved course, but [they] may have to do that earlier than would berequired by the USCG in order to meet the onboard carriage requirements for theMCA of a certificate for courses taken within the previous five years,” sheexplains.

What if I don’t complete the courses intime?

“We are facing adisturbing reality for those who continue to ignore the deadline forcompletion of these courses,” says Sands. “Failure to take the courses willmean you are not legally allowed to be employed as crew on a yacht above a twenty-four-meterload line length come 2017, whether commercial or private.”

And you may notbe the only one who suffers — your yacht might, too.

According to EdgeYachts, it looks as though Port State Control (PSC) will be heightening itsinspections on certifications because of the new regulations. If your yacht isinspected by PSC after January 1, 2017, and those on board don’t have originalcopies of their basic STCW and refresher courses, “the yacht could be inserious trouble and prevented from operating.” So make sure your certificationsare up to date and that the proof of such is kept on board.

“Technically, ifyour yacht is out of water at a refit yard come January 2016, you may buyyourself a couple of months on the certification front as long as it is highand dry, but there is still likely to be a significant backlog of crew lookingto get certified at this point,” states Edge Yachts.

If one thing isfor certain, it’s that you should take sooner rather than later. Edge Yachtpoints out that the likelihood of postponement of implementation of the rulesis very slim.

As Wyborn putsit, “Get them done as soon as possible to avoid the rush, and embrace thechance to update your knowledge and thus your confidence when faced with apotentially dangerous situation on board.”