Article "ripped" from IMO's Website


The simple list of Parties giving full and complete effect to STCW 95 hides a long and detailed body of work.

Flick through the pages of any of the leading shipping industry magazines today and you will discover a wealth of technical innovation designed to make ships more efficient and safer. In the modern ship, everything from the propulsion plant, through the hull design to the navigation suite is the result of intense research and development activity. The only exception to this rule is, ironically, the one key component on which everything else so often depends - the officers and crew.

It is widely quoted that 80 per cent of transport accidents are due to human error. It is the human element on board ship that can either provide the skills that may prevent a disaster, or the frailty or plain lack of competence that can cause one. And, while the capability, complexity and sheer power of technology seems to be accelerating exponentially, the human element remains a basic component with all its strengths and all its weaknesses. That is why the international maritime community has now evolved from an approach which traditionally seeks technical solutions to safety-related problems and is focussing instead on the role of human factors in maritime safety.

The 1995 STCW Convention is one of several key initiatives that underpin this new philosophy at IMO. It seeks to establish a baseline standard for the training and education of seafarers throughout the world and, by placing an emphasis on quality control and competence-based training, it establishes a structure that can ensure not only that the required standard is met, but that it is seen to be met.

One of the key differences between STCW 95 and the previous Convention is the emphasis on competence rather than knowledge. STCW 95 stipulates in detail the required competences associated with different tasks, the knowledge and understanding required to perform them, methods for demonstrating competence and criteria for evaluating it. The Convention embodies provision for "hands-on" training and the development of basic skills through use of simulators, laboratory training equipment and other practical training aids. Although experience at sea will remain an important part of a seafarers overall career development, it will no longer be enough simply to "serve your time."

STCW 95 will reach a crucial stage of implementation in 2002, when all seafarers must be trained in compliance with its provisions and carry certificates to that effect. The authority for assessing that individual Member States are in full compliance with STCW has been delegated by the Member States to IMO in what represents a significant new role for the Organization. For the first time, IMO has been asked to take a central role in verifying that the measures it stipulates are effectively put in place. The first publicly visible step in this process has been the issuing of the so-called "White List."

What the White List reveals is those Parties currently deemed to be giving full effect to the provisions of STCW 95. But a simple list such as this cannot reveal the huge body of work at all levels that has gone into - and is still going into - achieving White List status. The process began with Article IV and regulation I/7 of STCW 95, in which Parties were required to submit to the IMO Secretary-General information to show that they are giving full and complete effect to the Convention This information is then handed over for evaluation to panels of "competent persons" approved by the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee. Based on the outcome of this evaluation, the Secretary-General reports to the MSC on those members that are giving full effect to the Convention.

It is a tough process and certainly no rubber-stamping exercise. Some 82 Parties met the first deadline for submitting their information to IMO. Of these, more than 12 per cent were still trying to achieve White List status at the time the Committee agreed that the Secretary-General should make his report. And, of those that did make the list many found that their initial submissions were not accepted, prompting what for some became a thoroughgoing series of clarifications, meetings and re-submissions.

In the Philippines, for example, the country's labour secretary Bienvenido Laguesma told the influential Philippines Business World that the country had been working for inclusion on the White List for more than three years. The changes it implemented during that period were significant. As well as adopting revised syllabi meeting STCW 95 requirements, it introduced quality standards systems in training institutes and in the agencies involved with STCW implementation, established national assessment centres and, with the assistance of IMO, trained a group of national assessors. It also reduced the number of approved training programmes and institutes from more than 100 to around 50.

A panel made up of competent persons from Australia, Japan, Norway, Singapore and the United States was appointed to evaluate the Philippines report. After the initial assessment had revealed a number of problems, two further meetings, one in Singapore and one in Japan, were needed before the panel were satisfied that all the difficulties had been ironed out.

The extensive work undertaken in the Philippines is typical of many. A number of Parties used the evaluation process to help identify shortcomings in their training or legislative structures and several enlisted the help of the IMO's technical co-operation resources to overcome them. Others took the opportunity to instigate a thorough review of their entire maritime education and training provisions and make whatever adjustments were necessary to embrace the new Convention.

In India, for example, the legislative process was simplified to allow the incorporation of amendments without amending an act or approaching the Parliament; a new electronic database of all certificates pertaining to training and certification was introduced to enable single-point verification of the validity and authenticity of any certificate and a formal quality assurance scheme was introduced, ensuring independent evaluation of all aspects of training, assessment and certification of seafarers can be effectively carried out.

The UK also established an electronic database of certificates, as well as simplifying and consolidating all the appropriate legislation and guidance. The certification structure was simplified to come fully into line with STCW 95 requirements and the arrangements for approving training institutes was revised and updated. Not least, the principle of competence-based training, one of the major planks of STCW 95, was formally accepted as fulfilling all the education and training requirements for issuing a certificate of competency.

In Sri Lanka, too, there was a sharp decrease in the number of approved training institutes and in others, limitations placed on the level of approved training. Both the national Administration and the country's training institutes had a quality standards system established, and the training syllabi were revised to include provisions for competence-based training as set out in the STCW Code. Perhaps most importantly, an Examination Unit within the Administration was established and given additional resources.

All of these measures are typical of the work that has been done by each of the White List members to ensure that their compliance with STCW 95 is real. There is no room on the White List for anyone who will settle for just paying lip-service to the Convention. Although the first White List has now been published, the process of evaluation continues. Countries that made their submissions in time for the initial deadline but were not included on the first White List are now working to put right all the things the evaluations have highlighted as needing attention with a view to being added to the White List at the earliest possible date in the future. Other countries that missed the initial deadline but have subsequently communicated information are having their submissions assessed now. Still more countries are working on their initial submissions.

Even for those countries that did make the initial list, the work of improving and maintaining standards will continue. STCW 95 requires their training provisions to be independently evaluated every five years and the result of that evaluation reported to IMO. Their continued presence on the White List will thus be under constant scrutiny and, where appropriate, the list will be updated by the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee.


White List checklist

Each IMO Member on the White List has submitted and had verified the following information:

the name, postal address and telephone and facsimile numbers and organization chart of the ministry, department or governmental agency responsible for administering the Convention;

a concise explanation of the legal and administrative measures provided and taken to ensure compliance, particularly with (STCW) regulations I/6 and I/9;

a clear statement of the education, training, examination, competency assessment and certification policies adopted;

a concise summary of the courses, training programmes, examinations and assessments provided for each certificate issued pursuant to the Convention;

a concise outline of the procedures followed to authorize, accredit or approve training and examinations, medical fitness and competency assessments required by the Convention, the conditions attaching thereto, and a list of the authorizations, accreditations and approvals granted;

a concise summary of the procedures followed in granting any dispensation under article VIII of the Convention; and

the results of the comparison carried out pursuant to (STCW) regulation I/11 and a concise outline of the refresher and upgrading training mandated.

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