Ever since the STCW Convention was amended in 2010 sailors and administrators dreaded January 1, 2012. The Manila Amendments came into force that day and many of the concerns proved to be valid. This is most true of mandated rest periods which are difficult for small operators that do not have the redundant skilled personal to meet their scheduling requirements. The additional jobs are welcome but the small operator needs to be protected as well as the sailor.
To be clear and reduce anxiety you need to know that most of these changes are not fully in place until January 1, 2017.
All personnel are affected in some capacity by these new rules so a detailed review of the IMO Conventions is required. The Convention is a legal document and is written for precision, not everyday clarity. Do not base your operational changes on hearsay because there will be many scams associated with theses changes. The changes for STCW 95 did not have any major fraud but in the online world of today it's easy to be found and targeted with a pitch for SCTW 2010 consulting.
If you are a student in a maritime program or currently licensed under STCW 95 then the transition should be smooth as long as steps are taken gradually and you plan to take required classroom time before the mad rush of 2016.
One particular situation that might cause trouble is if you are a grandfathered license holder from the days before STCW 95. There are many licensees who fit this description and a semi-retired member of a family operation might need classroom hours in order to act as an emergency hand if required.
The introduction of re-certification every five years will end many careers for a variety of reasons. Those who are unwilling or unable to undertake the expense of travel and coursework will end individual careers in some cases and put small companies out of business.
Some of the training is aboard the vessel so and this will be the savior of many organizations and individual sailors. Without on the job training STCW 2010 will make the independent sailor obsolete.
All of these trade offs will make a better and safer work environment and improvements will make commercial maritime work more attractive as a career path.
As mentioned above the issue of rest periods makes it to the top of everyone's frustration list. The biggest change is the addition of almost all crew members to a rest log. In the past the crew members required to rest were mostly on deck or watch keepers. Now everyone must rest including the Master and the ship's cat.
These duty and rest periods must be logged and available for inspection if requested. Rest periods are generous and vary by position. If the definition of rest excludes paperwork for the Master it's a lost cause or an opportunity to reduce paperwork depending on how you see the problem.
The re-certification of skills is around the five year mark for most positions. The exceptions are some tanker crew and specialty hazard workers who may need to re-certify annually.
Competence is being expanded in scope as well, so what was not formerly your responsibility may now be in your domain. Training and re-certification will be required in addition to much more detailed logs of all training that must meet strict criteria.
Medical certifications will also become much more short lived and many guideline for fitness have changed. A standard for alcohol intoxication is being adopted and now stands at 0.05 percent blood alcohol content.
The most interesting additions are broad based initiative meant to improve workplace conditions. The Amendments include provisions for assertiveness training and communication skills. This is likely to be the butt of many funny jokes but the workplace must evolve. A better working environment makes a ship more efficient and mistake free but don't expect to see any dog-eared guides to etiquette laying around the mess.