What is STCW and who needs it?

STCW stands for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping. It is a worldwide convention that ensures a lateral standard of training is achieved across all countries in the world. So for instance, if you’re a Captain from Europe or America, you will have to undergo similar training in accordance with the STCW convention.

Who is STCW for?

Anyone wishing to work on commercial vessels that are over 24 metres long will have to obtain STCW qualifications/courses before they seek employment. The type of courses/qualifications you’ll need will greatly depend on the position you’re applying for and the post you’ll be assigned to once you’re on-board.

At the very minimum, you will need to obtain STCW Basic Safety Courses in order to apply to work on a ship. These courses can usually be completed within a week – during one block booking – at a designated STCW training centre.

The four basic STCW courses are as follows:

  1. Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities– This is a classroom-based course that focuses on teaching the essentials of basic safety.
  2. BASIC Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting– This firefighting course covers both practical and theoretical situations that are taught by professional firefighters.
  3. Personal Survival Techniques– A theory and practical course, you will be taught how to abandon ship using life rafts and also how to don life jackets correctly.
  4. Elementary First Aid– A theory and practical course, during this session you will be taught vital basic 1st aid and life savings skills.

Proficiency in Security Awareness – This course is not normally part of basic STCW week; however it is a required course that you must complete prior going to sea. Normally, if you book onto the 4 mandatory courses listed above, your course supplier will include this one for free. It’s a half day course that can easily be slotted into your training week, and is designed to explain how security systems work on board.

Other things to know:

You can easily book the whole STCW Basic Safety Course as a single package and immediately save yourself time and money. Compacted into just one week of teaching; instead of doing these courses separately, this package combines all 4 or 5 modules together, and instantly ensures you have all the necessary qualifications you need to work on board a ship within a more efficient time frame.

Certificates which require revalidation every 5 years

  • STCW Personal Survival Techniques*
  • STCW Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting*
  • Advanced Fire Fighting*
  • Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats
  • Fast Rescue Boats
  • Medical Care

Refresher course

As of the 1st January 2017, all STCW Refresher courses will become mandatory in accordance with the STCW Manila amendments.

This means, if you’re currently serving on board ship and hold a valid STCW BST certificate, from the beginning 2017 you will have to provide documented evidence proving that you have either completed the training course or have updated your training in the last 5 years.

However, should you discover that your course dates will be older than 5 years at the start of 2017, it is essential that you refresh your training before the end of 2016.

What does this mean for me?

All refresher courses are valid for 5 years, so it is likely that every seafarer will have to do a certain amount of STCW refresher courses before the beginning of 2017. Fortunately, most of these can easily be completed during one block booking.

What courses will need refresher training?

As mentioned before, it is possible to attend all of these mandatory modules in a single week, thanks to the Updated STCW Basic Safety Training Week (Package). 

Refresher Courses FAQs

What certificates do I need to update?

This depends on what you currently hold but the list below covers what is outlined in MSN 1865(M) – (available as a download at the bottom of this page).

Most seafarers who are working using their basic qualifications will only need the first two.

  • STCW Personal Survival Techniques
  • STCW Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting
  • Advanced Fire Fighting
  • Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSCRB)
  • Fast Rescue Boat

What about my First Aid certificate?

STCW Elementary First Aid is the basic qualification that all seafarers must hold. Whilst working aboard a large vessel the Captain and/or some of the officers will hold a higher qualification called “Proficiency in Medical Care”; this certificate is renewed every 5 years (Reference: MGN 96 (M)). It is considered by the IMO that because there is someone with recent advanced training just a few minutes away at all times, the Elementary First Aid certificate held by crew members should not need updating. However if you are using your STCW Elementary First Aid qualification as the certificate to authorise you to skipper small vessels under an RYA Commercial Endorsement or instructor qualification for instance, you must renew your STCW First Aid certificate every 5 years or as specified by the authority who issue your certificate of competence.

Why do all my STCW Certificates have expiry dates?

The certificates we issue in India under the jurisdiction of the DG Shipping will expire on the date printed on it, it is not valid after that date and refresher training (if available) is required for that course or you will need to take part in the full course again.

How long do the courses take to complete?

The PST updating course takes a little over 4 hours. The Basic fire-fighting update takes 7 hours.

I have an Advanced Sea Survival Certificate, does this need updating?

To have this certificate you either work as a deck officer or engineer of a super-yacht or you have completed this course for personal development. The course was developed to cater for personnel who would normally need to be trained in the course, Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSCRB) but normally work on vessels that don’t carry davit launched lifeboats.

Title 2010 Manila Amendments

Programmed Marine believe that the competence of seafarers is one of the most critical factors in the human element to ensure safe and efficient ship operations. It is directly related with safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment as well.

The Manila Amendments were adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in Manila, the Philippines which was held on the 25th June 2010. After 1st January 2017 Manila Amendments will come into force.


On the 5th December 2016 the IMO (International Maritime Organization) issued advice for Port State Control Authorities that they have recognised that some seafarers on board ships may not yet hold their certificates or flag state endorsements meeting the 2010 Manila Amendments to the Convention. Until 1st July 2017 they have recommended that Port State Control Authorities take a pragmatic and practical approach during inspections of 2010 Manila Amendments certificates or flag state endorsements.

The amendments identify the crucial role human factors play in high risk, high stress environments and encompasses team training, as well as simulation, interactive group debriefings and improvement of crew performance. Due to the greater technical reliability and automation, there is no longer an alibi for human error, the human element has been identified as being the weakest link. The amendments are aimed at ensuring the necessary global standards will be in place to train and certify seafarers to operate technologically advanced ships in a safe manner for some time to come.

The important changes to each chapter of the Convention and Code include the following:

  • Improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and strengthen the evaluation process (monitoring of Parties’ compliance with the Convention).
  • Revised requirements on hours of work and rest and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as updated standards relating to medical fitness standards for seafarers.
  • New certification requirements for Able Seafarers
  • New requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic charts and information systems (ECDIS)
  • New requirements for marine environment awareness training and training in leadership and teamwork
  • New training and certification requirements for electro-technical officers
  • Refresher of competence requirements for personnel serving on board all types of tankers, including new requirements for personnel serving on liquefied gas tankers
  • New requirements for security training, as well as provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained to cope if their ship comes under attack by pirates
  • Introduction of modern training methodology including distance learning and web-based learning
  • New training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters
  • New training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning Systems


Emphasis is given to the need for seafarer’s standards of competence to be maintained throughout their careers. Therefore seafarers are now required to complete or update the following within the last 5 years.


  1. Proficiency in Personal Survival Techniques (PST)
  2. Proficiency in Fire prevention and Fire Fighting (FP&FF)
  3. Proficiency in Advance Fire Fighting (AFF)
  4. Proficiency in Survival Craft & Rescue Boats other than Fast Rescue Boats (PSC&RB)
  5. Proficiency in Fast Rescue Boats (PFRB)*

* PFRB is not a requirement for any Certificate of Competency but is instead an on board requirement. Therefore it is not listed for CoC issue, however if as part of the seafarers role on board they currently are required to hold it, then they will need to have it refreshed in the same way.

Note: In addition to the above Nautical Officers required ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System)


  1. Basic Safety Training STCW
  2. Proficiency in Survival Craft & Rescue Boats other than Fast Rescue Boats (PSC&RB)
  3. Proficiency in Advanced Fire-fighting (AFF)
  4. DG SHIPPING4 High Voltage (or any DG Shippingrecognised High Voltage)
  5. HELM Human Element Leadership & Management (the level will depend on your CoC)
  6. Proficiency in Security Awareness


  1. Proficiency in Personal Survival Techniques (PST)
  2. Proficiency in Fire prevention and Fire Fighting (FP&FF)
  3. Proficiency in Survival Craft & Rescue Boats other than Fast Rescue Boats (PSC&RB)