What is STCW and who needs it?

Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, normally referred to as STCW, sets international standards of for seafarers to keep the world’s seas, environment and ships safe for all.

In 1978, the first IMO STCW Convention was the first held to establish minimum basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level. Prior to this the minimum standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, which many times did not match the standards of the country the ship was in. As a result, minimum standards and procedures varied widely leading to confusion and delays in port.

One especially important feature of the Convention is that it applies to ships of non-party states when visiting ports of States which are Parties to the Convention.

There were many amendments since 1978, but perhaps the most significant were the Manila Amendments in 2010. These amendments were necessary to keep training standards in line with new technological and operational requirements that require new shipboard competencies. The Manila Amendments were effective as of 1 January 2012. There was a transition period until 2017.
The most significant amendments are:

  • New rest hours for seafarers
  • New grades of certificates of competency for able seafarers in both deck and engine
  • New and updated training, refreshing requirements
  • Mandatory security training
  • Additional medical standards
  • Specific Alcohol limits in blood or breath.

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.

This training is intended to ensure that seafarers are aware of the hazards of working on a vessel and enables him/her to respond appropriately to an emergency.

To begin a career at sea every seafarer is required to complete four entry level courses.  Such a training will ensure that every crew member on board has the minimum required level of training that is the same the world over and which will teach him teaching safety techniques and coordinated survival procedures. 

The mandatory training courses are called STCW Basic Safety Training courses and the package is spread over 10 days consisting of the following modular courses:

Personal Survival Techniques (PST)

The module provides knowledge of essential prevention and survival techniques. It includes both theoretical and practical sessions, investigating causes of distress, knowledge and use of equipment, launch and recovery of life rafts, preparation for survival, personal survival skills and use of search and rescue organisations.

Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention (FPFF)

The module deals with the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of fires aboard ship, how fires are caused and the first means of extinguishing them. The course includes practical training in the use of fire fighting equipment and the use of breathing apparatus for fire fighting and rescue.

Elementary First Aid (EFA)

The module is a combination of theory and practical training for basic first aid and life saving skills. This course provides an introduction to the principles of first aid and shows how to respond to the most common medical emergencies.

Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR)

The module gives basic induction training in safety procedures and accident prevention and familiarizes novice seafarers with employment and working conditions aboard. It is a classroom based course.

Security Training for Seafarers with designated Security Duties (STSDSD) This course is not normally part of basic STCW Safety Courses, however all seafarers employed or engaged in any capacity on ships which have to comply with the ISPS code are required to undertake this.

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?

  • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting;
  • Advanced Fire Fighting;
  • Personal Survival Techniques;
  • Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (other than Fast Rescue Boats);
  • Proficiency in Fast Rescue Boats.

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.


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 Shipping recognised 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)