STCW revisions to include Polar Code requirements

STCW revisions to include Polar Code requirements

During the IMO Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) meeting in February requirements for the training and certification of personnel serving on board ships operating in Polar waters were agreed.

Amendments were made to chapter V of the STCW Convention and Code relating to reflect the training requirements for officers and crew on board ships in the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code).

The Sub-Committee approved new STCW Convention and Code amendments to define the necessary competences for seafarers on ships operating in polar waters. The requirements when a certificate is obligatory are laid down in the Polar Code. The STCW amendments will be forwarded to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval and subsequent adoption.

It was the intention that the new tables contain only a minimum of duplication to other training requirements in the Convention and Code. The Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) was introduced after a controversy discussion whether a CoP or documentary evidence is the best way to prove qualification. In addition seagoing experience is required. The local administration has to determine what is to be considered equivalent as sea service time compared to experience gained in polar waters. The CoP has to be revalidated every five years, but no endorsement is required. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2018, while the Polar Code is expected to enter into force by 1 January 2017. To close this gap, administrations will be urged to arrange for early implementation.

Transitional arrangements are set up as follows:

  • The grace period will be two years after entry into force
  • Seafarers need to prove seagoing service in a relevant position on board in accordance with the CoP they aim for (operational level for the basic certificate, management level for the advanced certificate)
  • Depending on the level, seafarers may voluntarily, or are required to, successfully complete a training course in compliance with the current valid section B-V/g of the STCW Code

The mentioned training requirements will be relevant for all deck officers serving on ships operating in polar waters.

The Polar Code was adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee at its 94th session (MSC 94) in November 2014. The Polar Code and related SOLAS (and MARPOL) amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017.