New framework now in force

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 46, August 2014

The next generation of seafarer certification has arrived, with the official start in April of SeaCert – the new Seafarer Certification and Operational Limits framework for New Zealand seafarers.

The framework sets out where seafarers can operate in local and international waters, and replaces the former Seafarer Licensing system. It introduces the most significant changes to seafarer certification since the system was last updated 16 years ago and is the culmination of five years of development, involving wide consultation with stakeholders and the maritime community.

MNZ General Manager Maritime Standards Sharyn Forsyth says the old system no longer met the maritime sector’s needs, particularly for competency-based, internationally transferable certificates. “SeaCert is a simple, robust system that has been designed with modern seafaring and the needs of seafarers in mind,” she says.

SeaCert introduces three certificate types: national certificates; certificates that comply with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 (STCW); and certificates that are aligned with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F).

All of the certificates have competence as a central theme. Sharyn says, “Seafarers must demonstrate competence to gain, maintain and advance certificates, and privileges are clearly described.

“We’re confident SeaCert will meet the maritime sector’s training and certification needs for years to come.”

Sharyn says the framework also gives clearer career progression for seafarers and will allow increased recognition of New Zealand certificates overseas, making it easier for New Zealand seafarers to work internationally.

MNZ’s Personnel Certification team has been guiding seafarers through the new requirements and processes for obtaining and updating maritime certificates of competency and proficiency, and endorsements.

The team’s initial work has largely involved pending applications – those that were already underway when SeaCert came into force. There has also been a steady stream of enquiries from people whose certificates have no expiry date (these certificates have up to five years to transition). More than 240 certificates and endorsements were issued in the first three-and-a-half months of SeaCert.

Sharyn says all the necessary groundwork has been done to ensure the changes are as seamless as possible and seafarers can easily move into the new system. “We’ve worked closely with industry bodies, government agencies and training providers to design the framework. And guidance and forms have been developed and added to MNZ’s website, covering every certificate and endorsement so that no matter what maritime document a seafarer is looking to obtain, there is information designed specifically for it.”

The new national and STCW-F-aligned certificates are designed to be more durable, portable and harder to falsify. They have a similar format to driver licences, with the seafarer’s photograph digitally printed onto the front and any endorsements and/or conditions listed on the back.

Existing certificate holders will be transitioned to the SeaCert framework, with appropriate recognition of their skills and experience.

Current certificates that transition to a national or STCW-F- aligned certificate can be used until they expire or, if the certificate has no expiry date, up to and including 31 March 2019. Certificate holders who may transition to an STCW certificate must do so by 31 December 2016.

Seafarers should check the guidelines for transitioning to a new certificate to see if their existing certificate has been deemed (carried over), or is an old or legacy certificate requiring transition. Different processes and deadlines apply, according to whether the existing certificate can be confirmed as a new certificate (when it is renewed), or needs to be transitioned to a national, STCW-F-aligned or STCW certificate.

Seafarer certification

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