The first version of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention was crafted in 1978. However, it was later amended in 1995. As a result, the STCW certificate was created. There are two STCW certificates: STCW 1978 certificate and STCW 1995 certificate. Mariners who worked aboard ship before August 1, 1998 have an STCW 1978 certificate; mariners who began work after August 1, 1998 hold an STCW 95 certificate.
An STCW certificate is a separate document from your license or Z-card. You can hold a Z-card or license without getting a STCW certificate; however, you must have a license or Z-card to obtain a certificate. A Z-card or license only allows for work on inland waters; however, the certificate allows for work away from inland waters, specifically in the ocean.
Training and demonstration of proficiency are critical to obtaining a STCW certificate. To obtain a certificate one must complete basic safety training, survival craft and rescue boat training and bridge team/resource management. The STCW basic safety training course is a 5 day course broken down into 4 parts: personal survival technique, personal safety and social responsibilities, basic fire prevention and elementary first aid. The Coast Guard also requires you to take and pass two written exams: the engine exam and the deck exam. The demonstration of skills needed for specific positions must be demonstrated to a designated examiner specially trained in that skill. The documentation of demonstration is kept in a training record book and must be submitted with the application to the Coast Guard.