Maritime regulators, trainers and stakeholders from the Pacific region took part in a seminar to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the Manila Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and Code.

The Amendments were adopted by the IMO Diplomatic Conference in Manila in June 2010, and will come into force on 1 January 2012, with a five-year grace period.

The seminar was organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) from 7-11 November 2011 in Suva, Fiji.

The Amendments are important to Pacific Island nations that train and certify seafarers. They include new certification requirements for able seafarers, revised requirements for hours of work and rest, new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, and updated standards relating to medical fitness for seafarers.

The changes will have a significant impact on maritime administrations and maritime training institutes, as existing maritime training courses have to be reviewed and new ones developed to cater for the new requirements.

Furthermore, countries will have to incorporate the new requirements into existing legislation and enforce them, if they are to remain on the IMO White List (a list of countries that are compliant with the STCW Convention).

Lack of compliance with the STCW Convention can result in loss of jobs for seafarers employed on international ships. This can be detrimental for countries such as Tuvalu and Kiribati, whose economies are highly dependent on remittances of seafarers.

Milhar Fuazudeen, Senior Technical Officer for IMO, reiterated IMO's appreciation of SPC for its support to IMO's Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme and for organising and hosting a successful regional seminar.

Presenting completion certificates, Fuazudeen said to the participants, 'I am sure that you now realise the important role each of you will play on returning home in facilitating the preparation by your countries through your maritime administrations to effectively implement the 2010 Manila Amendments.'

Sharing similar sentiments, John Rounds, Acting Manager of the Transport Programme in SPC's Economic Development Division (EDD), said that it is an opportune time for the region's seafaring stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the 2010 Manila Amendments and to better prepare Pacific Islands countries and territories (PICTs) to implement them.

One of the key functions of SPC's Transport Programme is to assist PICTs in the implementation of maritime conventions. Work on addressing the amendments to the STCW Convention commenced last year.