Certificate of competency

Seafarers need to note the new STCW rules that required them to undertake additional training to keep their UK certificate of competency valid for sea service after 31 December 2016.

The new requirements were introduced as part of the ‘Manila amendments’ to the Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping Convention (STCW) which were agreed at an international conference in 2010.

They will mean that seafarers submitting certificates for revalidation will need to provide evidence of having undertaken certain specific courses, and will also require seafarers to complete refresher courses in basic maritime safety and fire-fighting.

As well as introducing new refresher training requirements for all officers, the rules also set out additional ancillary technical training requirements for deck, engine and electrotechnical officers.

Jump down to: Countdown checklist | What to do in the UK | STCW ETO requirements

Countdown checklist

Download the CoC checklist graphic  (pdf) from Related Documents or check the latest update in the Telegraph.

STCW requirements

Members are encouraged to refer to the relevant M-Notices or alternatively contact the professional and technical department [email protected] for additional assistance.

What to do in the UK

Revalidation and updating

From 1 January 2017, all UK deck officers working onboard ships fitted with ECDIS must have completed one of the following approved training courses:


  • MCA-approved Navigation Radar and Simulator (NARAS) or

  • Navigation Aids & Equipment and Simulator Training (NAEST) at the operational level, completed on, or after, 1 January 2005

  • MCA-approved NARAS or NAEST at the management level, completed on, or after, 1 January 2002

  • MCA-approved ECDIS course, completed on, or after, 1 January 2005

  • an ECDIS simulator training course in compliance with the current IMO Model Course 1.27 and accepted by the MCA for the purpose of CoC revalidation only.


  • If you are unable to provide evidence of the above when submitting your CoC for revalidation, it will be endorsed as not valid for service on ships fitted with ECDIS from 1 January 2017. This endorsement can be removed at any time once the training has been completed.

    As of July 2013, all MNTB-approved programmes contain specific training on Human Element, Leadership & Management (HELM). Deck officers applying to have CoCs revalidated using sea service or time spent in an acceptable qualification will be considered to have already gained sufficient knowledge of HELM and will not be required to undertake additional training.

    However, those applying for a new CoC and upgrading to the next level will be required to provide evidence of having completed an approved HELM training course.

    From 1 January 2012, seafarers revalidating tanker endorsements have been required to provide evidence of continued professional competence. Acceptable evidence is defined as either:

    • approved seagoing service, performing duties appropriate to the tanker certificate or endorsement held, for a period of at least three months in the preceding five years, or

    • successfully completing an approved relevant training course[s]


    • Those who are unable to provide this evidence but meet the current revalidation requirements will have their tanker endorsement(s) revalidated until 31 December 2016. For any endorsement where the required evidence cannot be provided, the relevant limitation will be added to the CoC. As with the ECDIS requirements, this can be removed once you are able to provide the evidence.

      Engineer officers will be required to undergo education and training in high voltage systems (over 1,000V). This requirement will come into force on 1 January 2017, but affects revalidation from 1 January 2012.

      If you do not, and do not intend to, work on ships with high voltage systems you do not need to take any additional action and your CoC will be endorsed as not valid for service on ships with high voltage systems after 1 January 2017.

      To avoid having this limitation placed on their CoC, engineering OOWs will need to provide evidence of either having completed a high voltage course or the following sea service in the engine room of a ship fitted with a high voltage system:

      • six months in the preceding five years, or

      • three months during the last 12 months


      • Senior engineering officers (second or chief engineer) will need to provide evidence of completing a high voltage course in order to avoid having the limitation placed on their CoC. If you have a limitation placed on your CoC, it can be removed once you are able to provide the required evidence.

        Engineer officers will also be subject to the same HELM and tanker endorsement requirements as deck officers. For any endorsement that you are unable to provide the required evidence, the relevant limitation will be added to your CoC. As with the high voltage requirements, this can be removed once you are able to provide the evidence.

Refresher training

The Manila Amendments also introduced a new requirement for all seafarers to provide evidence every five years of having maintained the required standards of competence to undertake the tasks, duties and responsibilities related to emergency, occupational safety and survival functions.

If you are serving onboard and are qualified in any of the following,
you must — as of 1 January 2017 — have documentary evidence of
either completing the training course or refresher training within the last five years:


  • proficiency in Personal Survival Techniques (PST) — Pre-31/01/2000 equivalent = Basic Sea Survival

  • proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats other than Fast Rescue Boats (PSC&RB) — Pre 31/01/2000 equivalent = Proficiency in Survival Craft or Lifeboatman’s Certificate

  • proficiency in Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting (FP&FF) — Pre 31/01/2000 equivalent = MNTB three-day Fire Fighting Course

  • proficiency in Advanced Fire Fighting (AFF) — Pre 31/01/2000 equivalent = MNTB four-day Fire Fighting Course

  • proficiency in Fast Rescue Boats (this is only required if you already hold a certificate)


If you hold any of the following certificates, you are deemed to be qualified and are therefore required to complete refresher training:


  • any of the above certificates as a stand-alone qualification

  • an STCW Certificate of Proficiency as a Navigation or Engine Room Watch Rating

  • an STCW Certificate of Proficiency as an Able Seafarer (Deck), Able Seafarer (Engine) or Electro-Technical Rating

  • any Certificate of Competency holder

  • a GMDSS certificate and work as a radio operator


It is permitted for some elements of the refresher training to be carried out onboard ship, which is evidenced by the seafarer completing and signing a self-declaration form. The only course which does not allow for self-declaration is FP&FF. This is because the elements of training that are permitted to be carried out onboard would not signifi cantly reduce the time of the shore-based programme.

Ahead of the 1 January 2017 deadline, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency is treating revalidation and refresher training as separate issues. If you revalidate your CoC before 1 January 2017, you will not be required to submit evidence of completing the safety short courses, but it will be a requirement to have completed the training and to carry the certificates onboard after that date.

Inclusive packages of refresher training are available at most colleges, appropriate to the certificate held and duties undertaken. Nautilus urges members to book on a relevant course as soon as possible, as places are likely to become increasingly limited as the deadline approaches.

  • Members who need to know more can contact the Nautilus professional and technical department — email [email protected]

  • Further information on revalidating a CoC is contained in the M-Notice MIN 494. Details of updating and refresher training are published in MIN 469. A list of approved courses and providers can be found at www.gov.uk: search for ‘MCA ATP’.

  • You can also contact the MCA seafarer training and certification branch — Tel: +44 (0) 23 8032 9231 or email [email protected]

Working ashore?

If you are a member working ashore, you can either choose to keep your certificate valid for sea service immediately or accept the endorsements and avoid the expense of training until you wish to use the CoC for sea service.

Endorsements can be removed at any time in the future, once the required courses are completed. If you revalidate before 1 January 2017, you will not be required to provide evidence of having completed the refresher training. When you revalidate after 1 January 2017, you will be required to do the four basic STCW refresher courses plus FRB, if held.

These are generally offered in blocks of four to five days by all the main maritime colleges.

If a member working ashore allows their certificate to expire, it can still be renewed on the basis of three years’ service in the previous five years in an acceptable profession.

STCW ETO requirements

The 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention introduced long-awaited measures to formally recognise the role of the electrotechnical officer (ETO).

The Union campaigned for more than 25 years to secure training and certification requirements for ETOs to ensure better recognition of their role, increased job security and career progression opportunities.

It is important to stress that the ETO CoC is not compulsory unless you are signing on as an ETO or an ETO is required by the safe manning certificate of your vessel. You may still continue working in the same role after 1 January 2016, but under a different ‘title’ — for example Chief Electrical Officer.

UK ETO requirements

Full details of the UK requirements for ETOs are set out in the M-Notice MSN 1860. Section 3.3 deals with the requirements for existing ETOs who have more than 12 months’ sea service as an ETO or carrying out similar duties to an ETO. These are:

a) pass the SQA Chief Engineer Electro-technology written exam
b) pass the AMERC Electronic Principles written exam
c) complete the MNTB Officer Competency Record Book for ETOs
d) hold the applicable ancillary course certificates
e) hold a valid ENG1 or accepted equivalent
f) pass the MCA oral examination for ETO Officers
You may also choose to complete the following, or have the relevant limitation applied to your CoC:
g) complete an AMERC Electronic Navigation Equipment Maintenance Course (ENEM)
h) complete an AMERC GMDSS Radio Maintenance Course
i) complete an MCA-approved High Voltage management level course.

Depending on your existing qualifications, you may be eligible for exemptions to the academic requirements listed above. In the first instance you should contact the International Association of Maritime Institutions (IAMI) to have your existing qualifications mapped to the STCW standard ([email protected]).

You will then be provided with a detailed plan of the academic route you must follow.

For existing ETOs, the Officer Competency Record Book tasks may be signed off retrospectively by a chief engineer or superintendent, providing that person has first-hand knowledge that the task has been completed.

The ETO Training Record Book is available from Witherby Semanship and can be obtained directly at www.witherbyseamanship.com. All tasks can be signed off retrospectively by the chief engineer or superintendent, providing they have personal knowledge that the task was completed.

Before your notice of eligibility for the oral exam can be issued, you must achieve both the basic and advanced STCW safety training certificates.

The final step towards obtaining your CoC is the oral exam.

Candidates are examined by a chief engineer with extensive electrical knowledge. The exam will be approximately one hour in length and the examiner will be able to ask questions on any topic given in the syllabus. Questions will generally be tailored to the type of vessel you are working on or have experience of and will be more in the form of an interview.

Although not included in the STCW Convention, the UK MCA is also offering a Senior ETO (SETO) endorsement to those that have exceeded the STCW requirements, both academically and in terms of service.

To qualify for a SETO endorsement you must:

a) hold a UK ETO certificate of competency
b) have successfully completed a HND, Foundation Degree or Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering
c) have 12 months’ seagoing service as an ETO after being issued with an ETO CoC (or 24 months’ sea service as ETO or equivalent for existing ETOs)
d) hold an MCA-approved HELM management level certificate
e) hold an MCA approved High Voltage management level certificate;
f) pass a SETO MCA oral examination.

To obtain a CoC via the existing ETO route, the sea time used must be obtained before 1 January 2016 and the route will be closed on the 1 January 2020. After this date, the standard route for those that have not followed an MNTB-approved programme must be used.

Nautilus can provide ETO members with up to £17,500 towards the cost of obtaining their first CoC, through the Union’s JW Slater Fund. Applications can be made via the Marine Society & Sea Cadets.