With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to impact work practices, the IMO has set out how it intends to improve conditions for all seafarers.
When the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) met for its 7th session, from 15-19 February, it was the first time any IMO sub-committee had convened remotely online – mirroring, appropriately, the changes in work practices being brought about by the pandemic for many people around the world.
The HTW Sub-Committee is tasked to deal with the human side of shipping – including training and certification; the review, updating and revision of IMO model courses; and guidance on other issues such as fatigue.
With the past year having proved so hard for many seafarers, the sub-committee agreed on a number of measures aimed at improving work conditions now, and in the future.
The first was to establish a correspondence group – due to report to the Maritime Safety Committee in October 2021 (MSC 104) – which will develop guidance to harmonise the measures to be adopted by both flag and port States, and to address any adverse effects of the measures adopted so far.
The group will focus on the issuance and renewal of certificates and documents, and extensions of validity beyond the regime established in the 1978 STCW Convention. It will also identify hurdles to the provision of continued professional competence through refresher training.
STCW Convention and the White List
The HTW Sub-Committee also established a working group to discuss implementation of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 including matters related to the list 'of confirmed Parties, also known as the ‘White List’, those countries assessed by the IMO as properly implementing the STCW-95 convention.
It highlighted the need to ensure confidence in the ‘White List’, and facilitate knowledge and understanding of the STCW Convention, and ensure competent persons have the skills and experience to undertake tasks emanating from the Convention.
It also noted gaps and areas for further consideration around communication, and endorsed an action plan to enhance it.
STCW-F Convention – focus on fishing
The HTW Sub-Committee continued its work on the comprehensive review of the STCW-F Convention for fishing vessel crews and agreed, in principle, to a number of draft provisions, including medical standards, the definition of “limited waters”, mandatory requirements for certification of engineer officers and radio operators, revalidation of certificates, and provisions for basic training.
The work plan for completion of the review was updated with the goal of finalising the draft amendments for adoption in 2024.
The HTW Sub-Committee noted the postponement of the joint ILO/IMO Working Group for the development of guidelines on the medical examination of fishing vessel personnel to the 2022-2023 biennium, which was due in 2021. This will be considered by MSC 103 with a view to approval.
Further work will continue on issues such as sustainable fisheries training; engineering watch-keeping provisions; and a draft resolution addressing training on response against piracy and armed robbery for skippers, officers and engineer officers of fishing vessels entering high-risk areas.
The HTW Sub Committee also agreed on training-related text in draft guidelines for fishing vessels of at least 24m-long and operating in polar waters, and there was agreement on the need to include a specific strategic direction on the human element in the IMO’s Strategic Plan at the earliest opportunity.
“If we want efficient, safely operated ships that protect the environment with happy, motivated crews, with good shore support, then we have to give them the tools to do their job well and listen to what they are saying,” said Richard Vie, FIMarEST.
“Hopefully, over time, this will mean that the performance of the marine sector continues to improve for the benefit of all.”
Read the IMO’s full HTW7 summary.
Dennis O’Neill is a journalist specialising in maritime.