USCG Issues Interim Policy for STCW Compliance

The US Coast Guard has published some interim guidance on implementing two aspects of the 2010 Manila Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) and the STCW Code. The Amendments entered into force on New Year’s Day. The guidance was issued in a Notice of Policy printed in the January 4th issue of the Federal Register. The two aspects are changes to the hours of rest requirements and maritime security training and certification requirements for personnel working on vessels to which the STCW Convention applies.
Pending formal regulatory changes necessary for full implementation of the Manila Amendments by the US, the Notice offers guidance to owners/operators of US-flag vessels subject to the STCW Convention and Code. ((The process for changing the regulations has been ongoing for years, including implementation of the 1995 STCW Amendments, most recently with the issuance of a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking—SNPRM—last August that dealt with far more than hours of rest and security training.) While the Coast Guard will not enforce the new provisions on hours of rest until the new regulations are in place, it “encourages” US-flag vessels operating in foreign ports to implement the requirements and to document each crewmember’s hours of rest in the vessel’s logbook “to avoid any potential port state control detentions.”
As to implementing the maritime security training and certification requirements, the Coast Guard has adopted the approach of an IMO STCW Circular adopted last May that recommended that Port State Control authorities accept, at least until January 1, 2014, compliance with the training requirements of Section 13 of the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code as meeting the Manila Amendments, even though a mariner’s documentation might not comply with the latter. Having determined that the requirements in 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 104.220 (maritime security training for vessel personnel with security duties) and 33 CFR 104.225 (maritime security training for all other personnel) meet the requirements of Section 13 of the ISPS Code, the Coast Guard will continue to enforce those provisions and recommends that US-flag vessels operating in foreign ports ensure that all personnel working aboard have their appropriate course completion certificates or company letters attesting to their compliance with 33 CFR 104.220 or 104.225. The exception is the Vessel Security Officer (VSO), who must have a VSO endorsement on his or her Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).
The Notice of Policy provides an interim means for the US to comply with the Manila Amendments while the Coast Guard pursues a formal rulemaking to its ultimate conclusion.
Tip of the Hat: To my good friend Dennis Bryant, from whose most excellent Bryant’s Maritime Blog I learned of a Coast Guard Marine Safety Information Bulletin announcing the forthcoming publication of the Notice of Policy.
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By Professional Mariner Staff