The IMO Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watch-keeping held its 7th Session (HTW 7) remotely from 15 through 19 February 2021.  Given that HTW did not meet during 2020 thanks to the Corona-virus pandemic and hence had not carried out the election of Officers,  Mrs Mayte Medina (USA) was elected as Chair, supported by her Vice Chair, Mrs Farrah Fadil (SINGAPORE) at the opening of the session; both were subsequently re-elected for 2022.   Two Working Groups (WG) were formed and chaired as follows:



WG 1


Comprehensive Review of the 1995 STCW Convention,

Mrs F Fadil (Singapore)


WG 2


Implementation of the STCW Convention, Mr L Harden,

(United States)




The meeting was attended by representatives from Member States,  Associate Members, UN  Specialised Agencies, Inter-Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations.


Items of particular interest to InterManager Members are as follows:


ADDRESS  BY SECRETARY GENERAL.  As the Secretary-General of IMO, Mr Kitack Lim, was unable to attend the meeting, Ms Heike Deggim, the Head of the Maritime Safety Division welcomed delegations on his behalf and wished them a successful week.



DECISIONS OF OTHER IMO BODIES.  The Sub-Committee, having noted the decisions and comments pertaining to its work made by MEPC 74, MSC 101, TC 69, C 122, NCSR7, and SDC 7, as well as those made by C/ES.32, ALCOM/ES 1, MSC102 and SSE7, agreed to take action under the relevant agenda items.


Outcome of NCSR 7


Concerning the consequential amendments to the STCW Code and model courses as a result of the modernisation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), HTW 6 had agreed that any necessary amendments to the STCW Code would be considered in conjunction with other actions required when modernisation of the GMDSS is finalised.


Outcome of SDC 7


SDC 7 had agreed that, with respect to the need for advice from the HTW Sub-Committee on training requirements for industrial personnel, who are not subject to the STCW Convention and Code, there is no need for any specific input from the HTW Sub-Committee.  It requested HTW 7 to note the draft International Code of Safety for Ships Carrying Industrial Personnel and the provisions for training of industrial personnel therein.


Outcome of C/ES 32


Concerns were expressed by France, supported by the Bahamas and ITF, that some training gaps in the provisions of the draft International Code of Safety for Ships Carrying Industrial Personnel might impact maritime safety.  However, it was noted that action had not been requested of HTW by SDC and, after consideration, the Sub-Committee invited France and other interested Member States to submit comments and proposals to the Committee.  In this connection, the view was expressed that HTW should be involved in all matters where training requirements were under consideration since this was within the remit of the Sub-Committee.

It was noted that a document submitted by Spain (C/ES.32/4/13) highlighted the fact that the Strategic Plan of the Organisation should have a dedicated direction for the human element, taking into account that strategic directions described areas of special interest for a given period.  This is particularly so, in the context of the global crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the protection of seafarers, allowing the Organisation to meet its vision and mission; the need for this to be raised with MSC 103 was subsequently agreed, whilst taking into account the broad spectrum of areas that the concept embraces and its ongoing relevance, especially during the pandemic.


Outcome of ALCOM/ES 1


The Sub-Committee noted that, as part of ALCOM/ES 1 (All Committees in Extraordinary Session, first meeting), the Maritime Safety Committee, at its second extraordinary session, had adopted resolution MSC.473(ES.2) on Recommended action to facilitate crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Outcome of MSC 102


MSC 102 approved MSC.1/Circ.1636 on Industry recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.




An earlier decision was recalled, that only the planning of work for HTW 9 would be considered under this agenda item at this session.  Consideration of all remaining documents was thus deferred to HTW 8.


Model courses planned for validation by HTW 8


  • New model course (MC) on Passenger Safety, cargo safety and hull integrity training;
  • Revised MC 2.03 on Advanced training in firefighting;
  • Revised MC 1.22 on Bridge resource management;
  • New MC on Engine-room resource management;
  • Revised MC 3.25 on Security awareness training for all port facility personnel;
  • Revised MC 3.26 on security training for seafarers with designated security duties; and,
  • Revised MC 3.27 on Security awareness training for all seafarers.


Model courses planned for validation by HTW 9

  • MC 1.23 on Proficiency in survival craft and rescue boats other than fast rescue boats;
  • MC 1.24 on Proficiency in fast rescue boats; and,
  • MC 1.20 on Fire prevention and firefighting.


The Sub-Committee subsequently approved the draft terms of reference and corresponding time frames for all course revisions.




The Sub-Committee recalled its earlier decision that only COVID-19 related documents submitted under this agenda item would be considered at this session and the remainder deferred to HTW 8.


Outcome of LEG 107


The Sub-Committee noted that LEG 107, had considered document LEG 107/14/3 (Secretariat) regarding coordination with ILO on the potential activation of a joint working group on the fair treatment of seafarers detained on suspicion of committing maritime crimes.  It was agreed to request, as a matter of urgency, the Special Tripartite Committee of ILO to authorise the establishment of an ILO-IMO tripartite working group to identify and address seafarers’ issues and the human element, which would need to be endorsed by the ILO Governing Body during its meeting in November 2021, as recommended by the ILO Sectoral meeting.  MSC was also invited to make a similar request to the Council when considering document MSC 102/13/2.


Process for the issuance of certificates


The Sub-Committee considered document HTW 7/4/4 by the United States providing information on the challenges experienced by them during COVID-19.  Of particular note was the requirement for seafarers to meet the medical fitness standards in section A-I/9 of the STCW Code prior to the issuance of a certificate of competency (CoC) or proficiency (CoP).  In this context, the USA is  considering the submission of a new output to the Committee to amend the STCW convention and Code in order to alleviate the burden of seafarers having to meet standards of medical fitness in order to qualify for the issuance of the relevant certificates in accordance with STCW regulation 1/2.

In the ensuing discussion, the following views were expressed:

  • The approach seemed pragmatic and might be generally useful to prevent delays and alleviate burden on both seafarers and Administrations;
  • The approach might only be practical during the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic;
  • Consideration from a broader perspective not limited by the pandemic is necessary and this could be addressed at the next comprehensive review of the Convention; and
  • Before introducing amendments to the Convention modifying the current provisions for the issuance of medical certificates and CoCs or CoPs, possible unintended consequences should be assessed.


Following discussion, the Sub-Committee noted that additional consideration of this matter would indeed require a proposal for a new output and invited the United States and other interested parties to submit one accordingly


The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on seafarers’ certification and training


The Sub-Committee also considered document HTW 7/4/5 by Norway emphasising the main issues in certification and training faced during the pandemic, in particular:


  • Renewal of certificates/documents, endorsements and extensions of validity and related measures adopted by STCW Parties beyond the regime established in the 1978 STCW Convention;
  • Provision of continued professional competence through refresher training due to training institutions not being able to operate;
  • Adoption of a variety of national measures on an interim basis with regard to the extension of validity of CoCs, CoPs and medical certificates by the individual parties to the STCW Convention; and,
  • Possible adverse effects of the measures adopted when normality returns, taking into account that these essential interim national measures had to go beyond the established regime of the 1978 Convention and Code for the validity of CoCs, CoPs, and also endorsements plus requirements for their renewal as well as medical certificates.


The Sub-Committee noted these many points and acknowledged the wide variety of approaches to address the issues.  Following further consideration, the Sub-Committee recognised that:

  • The interim national measures should be harmonised to the extent possible in the short term, i.e. in the context of the pandemic;
  • That the possible adverse effects of the measures adopted when normality returns should be addressed in the medium term; and,
  • Possible changes to the existing regime requiring amendments to the STCW Convention and/or Code should be addressed in the long term.

Subsequently, the Sub-Committee agreed that as a first step, detailed consideration should be given to certification and training issues faced by Member States during the pandemic with a view to developing guidance to harmonise measures to be adopted in order to facilitate the actions of both flag and port States.   It was also decided to set up a correspondence group (CG) and, due to the proximity of this Sub-Committee session to that of MSC 103 (3-14 May), together with the need for prompt action, the CG should submit a report to MSC 104, HTW having invited MSC 103 to approve proceeding in this manner.


Establishment of the correspondence group


The CG on COVID-19 Training and Certification Matters was established under the coordination of Norway, and instructed, taking into account the comments and decisions taken at this session, as well as document HTW 7/4/5, to:


  • Identify the main challenges faced by STCW parties with regard to issuance and renewal of certificates/documents, endorsements and extensions of validity, also the provision of continued professional competence through refresher training;
  • In order to facilitate the harmonisation of national interim measures related to certification and training of seafarers as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic  to be applied by STCW parties in the short term, prepare guidance containing a relevant set of measures and solutions, taking into account the national measures adopted by STCW Parties beyond the regime established in the 1978 STCW Convention and communicated by the Secretary-General in various circular letters;
  • Consider possible adverse effects of the measures adopted, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, from the flag and port States’ perspective, advising the Committee accordingly; and
  • Submit a report to MSC 104

The Sub-Committee agreed that, taking into account the current circumstances and in order to make as much progress as possible intersessionally, the coordinator of the CG should be granted the flexibility to convene virtual meetings using a suitable platform in order to produce answers to any of the terms of reference as necessary.




The Sub-Committee agreed to defer consideration of this agenda item to HTW 8.


IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STCW CONVENTION.  MSC 102, when considering the report required by STCW regulation 1/7, agreed that the actions to be taken by MSC with regard to the review of the list of Parties to the 1978 STCW Convention should be given priority, and included it on the agenda for HTW 7.  Three documents were considered relating to the implementation, including provisions for communications of information:


HTW 7/6 (Secretariat), which provided an outline of high-level implementation challenges identified by the Secretariat in its coordinating role as a result of the information communicated by STCW Parties.  In particular, it reported on:

  • Difficulties relating to the knowledge and understanding of the STCW Convention;
  • Complexity of national regulatory and administrative processes;
  • Development and consistency of requirements for training programmes;
  • Issues relating to the application and evaluation of Quality Standard Systems; and,
  • Difficulties to identify the limits of verification of compliance schemes within the Convention and their coexistence with regional schemes.


HTW 7/6/1 (Japan), providing:

  • Their experience on the process of communication of information in accordance with STCW regulations I/7 and I/8, and the corresponding sections of the STCW Code; and
  • Proposals on the necessity for technical assistance related to independent evaluations, and the establishment of a mechanism for collecting Parties and panels’ feedback.


HTW 7/6/2 (United States), providing a number of concerns regarding implementation of the process in communication of information provisions in STCW regulation I/7 and section A-I/7 of the STCW Code.  This includes workload and resources, with a clear distinction between the process for implementation and compliance with the corresponding STCW provisions, which resides with the Parties, whereas the process for administering the scheme lies with the Secretariat.


In the discussion that followed, the Secretariat made a few additional points:

  • Of the activities conducted by the Secretariat for administering the communication of information scheme, the continuous technical advice provided and coordination of the system, including the role of ensuring timely feedback, were particularly burdensome;
  • Further to the current STCW workload on this matter, the review of the STCW-F Convention (known as “the fishing Convention”) might bring an equivalent oversight system with all of the consequent work and resource implications involved; and
  • The new STCW GISIS module is in its final stages of preparation following delay caused by challenges faced by the Secretariat’s IT department during the pandemic.  This module is intended to provide a structured system for the submission of information arranged provision by provision, to ensure completeness and accuracy.


Following the Secretariat’s further information, views were expressed as follows:

  • Changes introduced by the communication of information process should ensure its simplification, harmonisation (including the reporting format), and transparency;
  • The maritime community needs confidence in the “White List” and the ongoing process for its update;
  • Lack of appropriate knowledge and understanding of the Convention are the cause of additional challenges faced by parties, including difficulties to undertake independent evaluations;
  • Clarification regarding the type of evaluation, the scope of the independent evaluation being conducted and definition of independent evaluator is necessary;
  • Competent persons should have appropriate skills and experience to undertake tasks emanating from the Convention;
  • There is a need for clarification of the different roles in the communication of information process, as well as their functions and responsibilities;
  • It might not be appropriate to integrate the STCW oversight system into the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS) and overlaps should be avoided;
  • Guidance for all Parties involved would be useful and offer an opportunity to eliminate duplications such as those in current MSC.1/Circ.1448 and 1449;
  • Long term solutions should be addressed as part of the next comprehensive review of the Convention;
  • Implementation issues faced by Parties should be addressed by means of the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP); and,
  • Collection of feedback from Parties and panels should be non-mandatory to avoid creating an additional and unnecessary burden.


After due discussion, the Sub-Committee agreed that a working group should be established.  It was instructed to identify gaps in the communication of information system and, based on the gaps identified, develop an action plan for enhancing the system, including, but not limited to, resource implications, possible use and revision of the “White List” and the need for developing guidance or procedures addressing the communication of information provisions. The WG was also tasked to consider whether it would be necessary to establish a correspondence group and, if so, to prepare draft terms of reference for consideration by the Sub-Committee.


Report of the Working Group


Having considered the report of the Working Group, the Sub-Committee approved it in general and in particular:

  • Endorsed the view of the Group concerning the intent of the process for remedial actions for the Parties that have failed to uphold their obligations under the provisions of the STCW Convention and Code;
  • Noted the list of gaps and areas for further consideration regarding the communication of information system, as identified by the Group;
  • Endorsed the recommendation to postpone finalisation of the new STCW GISIS module until  changes to the existing communication of information system have been agreed;
  • Endorsed the action plan for enhancing the communication of information system under the provisions of the STCW Convention and Code; and,
  • Approved the establishment of the Correspondence Group on the implementation of the STCW Convention to work intersessionally, under its draft terms of reference.




Consideration of this agenda item was deferred to HTW 8 and in light of the decision, the Sub-Committee invited the Committee to extend the target completion year for this output to 2022.




The Sub-Committee noted the information provided by the Chair that it is necessary to finalise the comprehensive review of the 1995 STCW-F Convention by HTW 8, taking into account the ongoing efforts to ensure the entry into force of the Cape Town agreement of 2012 in the near future, and the consequent relevance of finalising this output in a timely manner.


It is not intended to cover this item in detail but suffice to say, extensive discussions took place during the meeting, including that to scrutinise an impressive input by the appointed Working Group; the WG report included a recommendation for an intersessional Correspondence Group which was duly approved.


Should anyone require a detailed account of this item, it can easily be provided.




The Sub-Committee recalled that HTW 6 had established the Correspondence Group on the Use of Electronic Certificates and Documents of Seafarers, instructing it to report to this session.  The CG report was duly provided in document HTW 7/9 (Russian Federation) which considered in particular:

  • Draft amendments to STCW regulation I/1 (definitions and classifications) and identification of provisions in part A and B of the STCW Code that might require amendments, in order to accommodate the use of electronic certificates and documents of seafarers; and,
  • Draft guidelines on the use of electronic certificates and documents of seafarers, and the associated draft STCW.7 circular.


In the ensuing discussion, the following views were noted:

  • The well established principles relating to the issuance of a certificate by an Administration, the seafarers’ responsibility to hold the certificate and present it upon request, and validation by the port State control authority should be retained for electronic forms;
  • Best practices of STCW Parties on the use of electronic certificates and documents should be shared;
  • Paper form of certificates and documents should not be impacted by any amendments to introduce electronic forms;
  • Terms or expression in the Convention and Code that appear to prejudice the use or acceptance of electronic certificates and documents should be identified and addressed;
  • The draft definitions included in STCW regulation I/1 would not be consistent with the approach taken for certificates under other IMO instruments such as the Guidelines for the use of electronic certificates and might lead to confusion or less acceptance of electronic certificates or documents;
  • The term “issuing Administration” in the draft amendments to the STCW Convention and the draft guidelines should be revised since there are certificates and documents issued under the authority of the Administration and not directly by the Administration;
  • The word “accessible” should be added after “the minimum required data” in the draft definition (STCW regulation I/1) of “To hold the original form of a certificate on board”
  • The terms “holding” and “original form” throughout the STCW Convention and Code should also be considered for amendments;
  • Draft guidelines seem to be outside the scope of this work and should be referred to the FAL Committee in order to identify the need for a new set of guidelines in this regard with a view  to avoid inconsistencies;
  • The definition of “electronic certificate” in the draft guidelines should be revised since it does not address the concept “documents” as opposed to the scope of the document itself;
  • The terms “verification”, “validation”, and “authentication” should be consistently used throughout the guidelines, taking into account that verification is a procedure to confirm the authenticity and validity of a certificate;
  • The current approach to leave security and privacy provisions to the discretion of the individual administration might be insufficient; and,
  • A working group should be established at HTW 8 to address concerns raised.


Following consideration, the Sub-Committee:

  • Recognised that further work and consideration is necessary with regard to amending relevant regulations of the STCW Convention, provisions of parts A and B of the STCW Code and the development of draft guidelines;
  • Agreed that the term “issuing Administration” used in the draft STCW regulation I/1 and draft guidelines, has to be replaced with the term “competent Administration”, since there are CoPs not issued by the Administration;
  • Noted that the guidelines on the use of electronic certificates and documents of seafarers, once approved by the Committee, should only come into effect on the date of entry into force of the corresponding amendments to the STCW Convention and Code; and,
  • Agreed that a correspondence group should be established to make further progress on the output.


Establishment of a correspondence group


The Correspondence Group on STCW matters was established under the coordination of the Russian Federation and instructed, taking into account the comments made and decisions taken at this session, to:

  • Develop draft amendments to the provisions of the STCW Code identified in annex 2 to document HTW 7/9, and any other provisions of the Code identified at this session;
  • Finalise draft amendments to STCW regulation I/1 set out in annex 1 to document HTW 7/9, and any other regulations that require to be amended, as identified at this session;
  • Finalise the draft guidelines on the use of electronic certificates and documents of seafarers and the associated draft STCW.7 circular, as set out in annex 3 to document HTW 7/9; and,
  • Submit a report to HTW 8.


In light of the above decisions, the Committee will be invited to extend the target completion year for this output to 2022.




Due to time constraints, this agenda item was deferred for consideration to HTW 8 and the target completion year referred to the Committee for extension to 2023.




Again, owing to time constraints, this item was deferred for consideration to HTW 8 and the target completion date was referred to the Committee for extension to 2023.  Similarly, ‘Development of training provisions for seafarers related to the BWM Convention’ was also deferred to HTW 8 and the target completion year extended to 2022, subject to the Committees approval.




Taking into account progress made at this session, the Sub-Committee updated its report for the 2020-2021 biennium and prepared the proposed biennial agenda for the 2022-2023 biennium together with a proposed provisional agenda for HTW 8.




The Sub-Committee noted that SSE 7 had agreed to the draft interim guidelines on safe operation of onshore power supply (OPS) service in port for ships engaged on international voyages, and the associated draft MSC circular (SSE 7/21, annex 6), for submission to MSC 103 for approval, subject to consideration of the personnel, training and familiarisation provisions in the draft interim guidelines by HTW 7.  In order to facilitate consideration of this matter, the Secretariat prepared a working paper, document HTW 7/WP.5 with the corresponding section of the draft interim guidelines, i.e. section 6 (Personnel, training and familiarisation).  It was also noted that SSE 7 had invited HTW to consider whether:

  • The competences provided in section 6 of the draft interim guidelines are appropriate;
  • The provisions in section 6 of the draft interim guidelines should address training or familiarisation, or both; and,
  • A model course on OPS operations should be developed.


In the ensuing discussion, the Sub-Committee noted the following views:

  • Section 6 should address familiarisation only, to be provided by the Company, since training is addressed in the corresponding requirements for different STCW certifications referred to in this section and OPS-related equipment is unique to each ship;
  • Voltage and power of the main propulsion machinery should not be mixed to determine who could be a person in charge (PIC);
  • Differing engineer’s competence levels for high- and low-voltage OPS systems should not be provided since the training received by chief engineer officers and second engineer officers in this regard should be the same;
  • Reference to documenting training in a Training Record Book (TRB) should be deleted, since TRBs are used for candidates to obtain the First Certificate of Competency; and,
  • Some editorial changes such as the inclusion of “1978” before “STCW Convention” should also be considered.


Following further discussion, and having recognised that thorough and detailed consideration of this section is required before approval of the draft interim guidelines, the Sub-Committee agreed to postpone scrutiny until HTW 8 and invited MSC 103 to endorse the action taken by the Sub-Committee.




The Sub-Committee noted that, due to uncertainty as to which kind of meetings (physical, remote or hybrid) could be held in 2022, there is no preliminary programme of meetings available yet.  However, such meeting dates are expected to be published shortly after Council meeting C 125 this coming July.






Captain Paddy McKnight




























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