Relief for seafarers and administrators after IMO extends new certification deadline by six months to July 2017


Pretoria: 07 December 2016

Seafarers across the world, including South Africa, are breathing a great sigh of relief after the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee announced an extension of six months for the issuance of new certificates compliant with the Manila Convention 2010 and which every seafarer needed to have by January 2017.

The IMO’s safety committee has now extended the deadline to July 2017, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confir20151207_151556 (2)med in Pretoria on Wednesday.

SAMSA, the country’s seafarer certificates issuing authority said the reprieve was agreed to with administrators that are party to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers STCW Convention at a five day meeting held with the IMO in London, United Kingdom, a couple of weeks ago.

According to SAMSA, the reprieve came in the wake of growing pressures experienced by seafarers’ certificates issuing administrations worldwide, and against which some appeared unlikely to meet the January 2017 deadline, thereby putting at risk thousands of seafarers’ jobs, with severe consequential disruptions to shipping liners’ operations globally.

SAMSA has since published the Marine Notice 38 of 2016 – Extension of Validity of STCW Certificates, which details the conditions under which the extension applies to seafarers holding South African certificates, as well as South African ships.

SAMSA said according to a previous arrangement announced in May this year, revised certificates covering a whole range of seafarer skills levels were being issued in terms of the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention (Manila Amendments) effective from May 2016.

IMG_1270Administrators worldwide would have until January 2017 to achieve this as all certificates issued prior to the Manila Amendments, in terms of The Merchant Shipping (Training and Certification) Regulations (1999 as amended) would expire at the end of 2016.

A Marine Notice (No.24 of 2016) to the effect was published by SAMSA on 24 May 2016, advising all affected parties of the need for affected band of seafarers to renew or revalidate their certificates prior to their expiry date on 31 December 2016.

According to the May 2016 notice (published on SAMSA’s website: applicants could use any number of ways to lodge their applications including delivering them in person or via a proxy to any of SAMSA’s offices countrywide, or filing their application online especially if they are out at sea or abroad.

At the time of the issue of the May 2016 Marine Notice, SAMSA anticipated issuing out as a matter of top priority, as many as 2300 Certificates of Competency and about 4000 Certificates of Proficiency compliant with the new Manila Amendments by December 2016.

This would be followed in sequence by as many as 5000 local certificates for fishing and port operations.

However SAMSA, as with several others administrators worldwide; experienced disruptive challenges related specifically to IT systems, and the situation simply piled on pressure.

IMG_4707 (2)IMG_4705 (2)Two weeks ago in London and following to appeals made by seafarers’ certificates issuing administrations worldwide, the IMO’s safety committee agreed to extend the deadline to July 2017.

In a statement the IMO safety committee said: “The Maritime Safety Committee, at its 97th session (21 to 25 November 2016), expressed concern with the implementation of the 2010 Manila Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers {STCW), 1978, as amended, in light of the imminent end, on 1 January 2017, of the transitional provisions laid down in STCW Convention, regulation 1/15.

“The Committee noted that a large number of certificates needed to be issued by certificate issuing Parties confirming that their seafarers complied with the provisions of the 2010 Manila

“The Committee was particularly concerned about, and regretted the fact that, so close to the end of the transitional period, seafarers were reportedly unable to obtain certificates and/or the necessary endorsements required by regulation 1/10 meeting the requirements of the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention.

“The Committee, therefore, urged all concerned, including certificate-issuing Parties and Administrations, to do their utmost to ensure that seafarers are issued with the appropriate certificates and necessary endorsements.

IMG_6394“The Committee agreed that, in cases where a seafarer’s documentation complies with the requirements in force immediately before 1 January 2017, but is not in accordance with the requirements of the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention, port State control authorities, until1 July 2017, are recommended to take a pragmatic and practical approach during inspections and to notify the ships, seafarers and Administrations concerned accordingly,” the IMO Maritime Safety Committee said

In Pretoria on Wednesday, SAMSA said due to the postponement, certificates previously issued by SAMSA before it commenced issuing the ‘Manila’ compliance certificates would remain acceptable for service for seafarers until 01 July 2017.

“We are fortunate that this pressure on administrations has been recognised by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the IMO during their 97th Session  and extended the deadline for the transitional provisions from 01 January 2017 to 01 July 2017. This gives us an additional six (6) months in which to issue all outstanding certificates,” said SAMSA.