Training Requiements for Existing and New Mariners

I have been a mariner for a while (since before Aug 1, 1998) AND I am NOT upgrading my existing license or document. (click here)

I am a new mariner (my 1st shipboard day was after Aug 1, 1998) or I am an existing mariner who is upgrading. (click here)

Existing Mariners - Getting an STCW –95 Certificate
(Ref: USCG NVIC 4-00) This "gap closing" training provision disappears for US mariners on 1 February 2003.

Deck Officers* whose first day of sea service was before Aug 1, 1998:

1. Basic Safety Training (BST) – The STCW 95 Code requires that you take this 5-day course of instruction. BST is actually 4 courses – Basic Firefighting, Personal Survival, Personal Safety and Social Responsibility, and Elementary First Aid. This course has to be renewed every 5 years, or under certain conditions, you have to show that you have at least 1 year of service on board vessels of 200 grt or more within the last 5 years..

2. Bridge Resource Management (BRM) – This is also called Bridge Teamwork Management. Normally a three day course of instruction.

3. Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSC) – This course is only required of deck officers who do not have an AB – Unlimited, AB- Limited, AB-Special (AB-OSV will not do it!), or Lifeboatman endorsement on their Z-card. The requirement is really for Lifeboatman, but this endorsement is embedded in all of the AB’s except AB – OSV.

Engineering Officers* whose first day of sea service was before Aug 1, 1998:

1. Basic Safety Training (BST) – Unless you have been on board a vessel that has a routine training and drill program (good only until Feb 1, 2002), you have to take this 5-day course of instruction. BST is actually 4 courses – Basic Firefighting, Personal Survival, Personal Safety and Social Responsibility, and Elementary First Aid. This course has to be renewed every 5 years.

2. Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSC) – This course is only required of engineering officers who do not have an AB – Unlimited, AB- Limited, AB-Special (AB-OSV will not do it!), or Lifeboatman endorsement on their Z-card. The requirement is really for Lifeboatman, but this endorsement is embedded in all of the AB’s except AB – OSV.

Unlicensed ratings (O.S., AB’s, QMEDs, deck hands, etc.) whose first day of sea service was before Aug 1, 1998:

1. Basic Safety Training (BST) – Unless you have been on board a vessel that has a routine training and drill program (good only until Feb 1, 2002), you have to take this 5-day course of instruction. BST is actually 4 courses – Basic Firefighting, Personal Survival, Personal Safety and Social Responsibility, and Elementary First Aid. This course has to be renewed every 5 years.


New Mariner** - Getting an STCW – 95 Certificate
(Ref: USCG NVIC 4-00)

First of all, let’s clarify what a certificate is and what it is not! An STCW certificate is a piece of paper that is attached to your license or Z-card (US Merchant Mariners Document). It is separate and distinct. You can have a license or Z-card without getting the STCW certificate (although you can not get the certificate without first having the license or Z-card).

So why would you want one? Because, the license or Z-card only allows you to work on inland waters. On the east and west coasts of the US, this means you cannot operate in the ocean. In the Gulf of Mexico the boundary line lies 12 miles offshore. And maybe most importantly, only the STCW certificate is recognized by foreign governments – not your license or Z-card!

O.K., so is there only one kind of these certificates? No! Mariners who had Z-cards and licenses when this new requirement was passed, were given 5 years to comply with the provisions. So, the first certificate that "existing" mariners got was an STCW – 78 certificate. That means that their license or Z-card complied with the 1978 STCW Convention. These certificates are good until February 1, 2002.  

An existing mariner has until February 1, 2002 to do the extra things s/he needs to do in order to comply with the new provisions of the 1995 amendments to the STCW Convention. If they do not convert the STCW 78 certificates to STCW 95 certificates by that date, they will be treated as though they never had a license or Z-card. [Since originally writing this the USCG has extended the deadline on the use of STCW - 78 certificates being used IN DOMESTIC SERVICE ONLY until February 1, 2003.]

However, new mariners have to complete a program (not a course) in order to get an STCW – 95 Certificate. Additional requirements exist for the license.

For new mates (Officers in Charge of a Navigation Watch in STCW speak) on vessels of 200 gross registered tons (500 g.t. ITC), as part of a USCG approved program:
Have seagoing service of at least one year (360 days) which includes on-board training and is documented in an approved training record book, or otherwise have approved seagoing service of not less than three years;
Have performed, during the seagoing service, bridge watch-keeping duties under the direct supervision (s/he is on the bridge with you) of the master, chief mate or a navigator for a period of not less than 6 months;
Complete other specified training and education as part of the USCG approved program.

For new assistant engineers
(Officer in Charge of an Engineering Watch) on vessels with at least 1000 shaft horsepower (750kW) propulsion units, as part of a USCG approved program:
Have completed at least 6 months seagoing service in the engine department; and
Have completed approved education and training of at least 30 months which includes on-board training documented in an approved record book.

For new AB’s, Lifeboatman and Ordinary Seaman part of the navigation watch (All AB’s and anyone else standing helm and lookout watches) on vessels of 200 gross registered tons (500 g.t. ITC), as part of a USCG approved program:
Have completed at least 6 months training and experience; and
Have completed special training, either pre-sea or on board ship, including an approved period of seagoing service which shall not be less than two months, plus the requirements in the regulations for AB.

** Licenses and STCW 95 certificates restricted to the Offshore Supply Vessel (OSV) service have different requirements. For OSV requirements, click here.

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