STCW Certificate – a Basic Introduction

STCW is an acronym for ‘Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping.’ It was first introduced in 1978 to set a standard set of rules, regulations, and safety standards for marine training internationally and they were amended and updated with STCW ‘95. Today, it is mandatory for every seafarer to undergo STCW Certificate Course if they wish to work on a commercial vessel – such as a merchant ship, ferry, cruise ship, or a superyacht. 

Since the STCW 2010 came into effect, you will have to renew your certificate every five years. You will have to go through revalidation courses to constantly update yourself with the knowledge and guidelines. This is done to keep the seafarers updated with the latest security and survival techniques. Refresher Courses are shorter in duration.

Along with the STCW, you will also need a seafarer’s ENG1 medical certificate or a SAMSA medical if you wish to work offshore or on commercial vessels.

So, do you need an STCW certificate? If you wish to work on the commercial vessels, then yes, definitely. Let’s see more about what you will learn in STCW courses.


What will you learn in STCW?

It takes 11 days to complete an STCW. It is a set of multiple basic safety courses that are required for you to complete if you aim to work on commercial vessels. This training covers five basic aspects of marine safety.

  • Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention (FF&FP).
  • Personal Safety Social Responsibilities (PSSR).
  • Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD).
  • STCW Proficiency in Elementary First Aid (EFA).
  • Sea Survival – Personal Survival Techniques (PST).

Let’s understand each of them individually.

Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention (FF&FP)

FF&FP training runs for 3 days and covers theory and practical training. In this training, you will learn about the necessary precautions to minimize fire hazards, what conditions may cause fire, and how to control/extinguish them aboard ships. This training includes practicals on how you may act in such situations. These practicals will give you a clear idea of how to use firefighting equipment, breathing apparatus, safety during such situations, and rescue operations.

Training mainly includes:

  • Fighting and extinguishing fires.
  • Minimising the risk of fire.
  • Maintaining a state of preparedness to deal with such situations.
  • The Fire Triangle: Elements that cause fire and explosion.
  • Classification of Fire and applicable extinguishing agents.
  • Types and Sources of Ignition.
  • Location of fire-fighting appliances and emergency escape routes.
  • Fire and Smoke alarm system.
  • Live fire-fighting.
  • Use of breathing and other safety apparatus.
  • Rescue scenarios.

Personal Safety & Social Responsibilities (PSSR)

Personal Safety & Social Responsibilities (PSSR) is a mandatory offshore training course that covers basic safety and general social responsibilities as a seafarer. It is a 2-days course that covers the following basics:

  • Understanding and complying with emergency procedures.
  • Understanding safe working practices.
  • Contributing to effective human relationships on the ship.
  • Understanding orders and your duties as a seafarer.
  • Types of emergencies that may occur.
  • Knowledge of shipboard contingency plans in response to emergencies.
  • Basic environment protection and anti-pollution measurements.
  • Social responsibilities.

Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (PDSD)

Proficiency in Designated Security Duties is required to work on ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) compliant vessels, such as international passenger ships, superyachts, and cargo ships of 500 tons and above. This 2-days high-level course was introduced in STCW 2010 that provides detailed and high-class training with onboard security. This is a mandatory course for all seafarers since 2010.

In this course, you will learn about:

  • How to maintain a ship’s security plan.
  • Recognise security risks, threats, and how to counter them.
  • Regular security inspections of the ship.
  • Proper use of security equipment and systems. 

Other information includes the ISPS Code, Introduction to Maritime Security, Key Threats, Plans, Policies & Procedures, and Communication & Reporting.

STCW Proficiency in Elementary First-Aid (EFA)

STCW First-Aid course is a 2-days course that covers all the basic theoretical and practical first-aid knowledge for emergency situations. All the seafarers should have first-aid knowledge in case of emergencies on board. This course consists of:

  • Dealing with casualty emergencies.
  • Basic Life Support (CPR).
  • Casualty transport.
  • Priorities of Treatment.
  • Shock management.
  • Bandaging.
  • Tending to wounds, bleeding, burns, and scalds.

Sea Survival – Personal Survival Techniques (PST)

STCW Sea Survival or Personal Survival Techniques (PST) is a 2-days course that focuses on how you would keep yourself safe and alive in dire situations. This course will cover theory and practical for demonstration and training purposes. A candidate willing to take this course must be physically and medically fit and they should have a document stating the same. This is a mandatory course for seafarers.

Personal Survival Techniques consists of:

  • Introduction to life-saving equipment and how to use them.
  • Emergency situations one may face onboard.
  • Equipment in Survival Craft.
  • Principles concerning survival.

The practicals may include:

  • How to use a life jacket.
  • How to use an immersion suit.
  • Proper diving techniques from various heights.
  • Flipping and correcting inverted rafts in the water while wearing safety equipment.
  • Boarding a life raft and proper methods to do so to increase the chance of survival.
  • Keeping afloat.
  • Properly using drogue or anchor.
  • Operating radio and other location devices.

If you have any questions regarding the STCW courses in South Africa, feel free to reach out to us and we will be pleased to answer your questions. If you need more details on the STCW course, please visit the STCW section on our website.