Mariners step up gap training to meet new STCW deadline

Mariners face another deadline to remain compliant with the updated Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). By Jan. 1, deck and engineering officers must comply with new training requirements for management and teamwork under the 2010 STCW Manila Amendments, which also created a mandate for other mariners for additional renewal and skills refresher courses.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s final rule on STCW went into effect March 24, 2014. It covers approximately 1,044 U.S. commercial vessels operating on ocean or near-coastal voyages and about 60,000 mariners. Mariners are expected to revalidate several types of training every five years.

The STCW standards are met largely by training courses to ensure that mariners have the skills and knowledge they need to operate safely on national and international waters. Professionals must report completion of courses to the Coast Guard, which endorses them for those skills on the Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).

“The U.S. Coast Guard expects the vast majority of the estimated 60,000 STCW mariners will meet the new requirements,” said spokeswoman Lt. Katie Braynard.

Operational- and management-level deck officers and operational- and management-level engineering officers must provide evidence of meeting the required leadership, teamwork and management skills, either through assessments or completion of classes. As the deadline approached, mariners were flocking to schools for gap training.

As of the beginning of October, student demand for the stopgap courses at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS) and the Pacific Maritime Institute (PMI) had been heavy, according to Executive Director Glen Paine. He said some 2,300 mariners have taken the Leadership and Managerial Skills (LMS) course and another 279 were booked for future sessions.

As a precaution, the school was offering a large number of stopgap classes in November and December, and will offer them in the first quarter of 2017. The classes include LMS; Electronic Chart Display Information Systems (ECDIS) for deck officers; Engine Resource Management; and Management of Electrical and Electronic Control Equipment.

“If there are problems, it probably will be on the engine side,” Paine said. The ECDIS classes have had the lowest demand since that has been a requirement for the operational level since 2003, he added.

Endorsements of STCW deck officers could have a limitation of “not valid for service on ECDIS-equipped vessels” if they do not complete required ECDIS training by Jan. 1. This limitation can be removed by submitting a credential application seeking a modification.

There are new requirements that will take effect the first time a mariner renews an MMC with STCW endorsements on or after Jan. 1. Renewal of basic training, advanced firefighting and proficiency in survival craft requires evidence of revalidation training, refresher training or a retake of the original training course.

Mariners now must be evaluated by a Coast Guard-approved qualified assessor, but there is a grandfathering provision. Assessments performed by someone not approved by the Coast Guard will be accepted through Dec. 31.

By Professional Mariner Staff