What is the STCW Convention?
The Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention was drafted in 1978. In it’s first version, it had little impact on the US mariner because it really just formalized a system nearly identical to the US system, around the world. It established such things as the requirement for 4 years of experience for a Master 1600 gt license.The big change came in 1995 when the US Coast Guard approached the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and asked them to amend the convention. Significant changes were made to the convention. The STCW 95 amendments did not have to be ratified like the original convention because it was an amendment to an existing convention. The amendments, however, completely re-wrote enforcement related to the Convention, and more importantly created an STCW Code (similar to the USCG licensing regulations) that set stringent standards for mariners to meet.Unlike the original 1978 Convention, the 1995 Amendments required a separate piece of paper to certify that the mariner met the requirements. The STCW Certificate was the result. People get confused about these certificates because there is a 1978 Certificate and a 1995 Certificate. Both of these certificates were created at the same time!!!
The STCW 1978 Certificate means that a mariner was working aboard ship before August 1, 1998 and hasn’t completed all of the grandfather requirements, yet. New mariners (1st day aboard ship after Aug. 1, 98) cannot get an STCW 1978 Certificate. They have to comply with all of the Convention requirements! STCW 1995 Certificates are issued to grandfathered mariners after they do the "gap closing" training. (click here to see what you have to do). In the United States of America, after January 31, 2003, existing mariners will no longer be able to get an STCW 95 Certificate by just completing the "gap closing" training. Starting February 1, 2003, all mariners will have to fully comply with the STCW 95 amendments. This February 1, 2003 deadline represents a 1 year extension from the original deadline. Note: Even though the deadline for completing "gap closing" training has been extended 1 year for US mariners, they are still required to have the STCW 95 certificate BEFORE they can enter the waters of another country.Some mariners who only operate in US waters have less requirements. The mariners who have licenses for 200 gross registered tons or less; and/or, Z-card holders working on Offshore Supply Vessels of 500 gross registered tons or less have different requirements.