In nearly two years, as of 1 January 2017, the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Code will have come fully into force. As part of these changes, crewmembers’ basic and advanced STCW safety courses must either have been completed or refreshed within the past five years. Among these courses are Personal Survival Techniques and Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats (PSCRB); the latter, as of yet, is not held by as many officers as some would hope. We hear from Lars Lippuner, business development manager at Warsash Superyacht Academy, about his concerns surrounding the January 2017 deadline.

“Many yacht officers hold the MCA Advanced Sea Survival [ASS] for Yachtsmen and have probably got the wrong advice years back,” Lippuner explains. “I’ve been telling crew everywhere they should be very careful with this course and will be much better off doing the PSCRB, which is only one and half days longer and only marginally more expensive, if at all; but it feels like a losing battle.”

Lippuner has no problems with the quality of the ASS course; the concern simply lies with the fact that the PSCRB is STCW approved whereas the ASS is not. As a principle of STCW, all deck and engineering officers are required to hold the PSCRB and, while the MCA allows the ASS as a compromise for the issuing of an OOW yacht certificate, other flag states do not recognise this course. “Most notably, the Italians and Spanish will not accept ASS and we see many students who then come here to do PSCRB in a rush having done the ASS course in the past,” adds Lippuner.

Until now the issue was somehow contained as, according to Lippuner, Port State Control (PSC) officers were advised to check the main Certificate of Competency and then assume that the issuing authority had checked for all supporting short course certificates. However with the STCW 2010 amendments coming into force, PSC inspections will have to check if crewmembers hold the PSCRB certificate or evidence of it having been refreshed. “In many cases, the ASS may not be accepted due to the missing STCW approval, potentially even leading to a PSC deficiency against the yacht. No port state is required to accept the ASS, and many don’t, however all have to accept the PSCRB course,” Lippuner explains.

Also, worth noting is that there is no refresher course for ASS. The PSCRB updating course will not be an alternative, as much of the course content relates to lifeboats and, concludes Lippuner, you cannot update a skill that hasn’t been part of the initial training.

"I know of at least two cases in the last few weeks where the yacht got into trouble after a PSC inspection because of officers holding the ASS instead of the PSCRB certificate."

Lippuner’s concerns are based on a number of students coming to him, having felt caught out in the above-outlined situation – some cases as recent as the past few weeks. “Unfortunately for some officers and yachts my gloomy prediction has become a reality – I really wish it didn’t as I feel for those affected,” says Lippuner. “I know of at least two cases in the last few weeks where the yacht got into trouble after a PSC inspection because of officers holding the ASS instead of the PSCRB certificate. This is a very serious operational issue both for the individual as well as the yacht and even charter guests.”

As the 1 January, 2017, deadline approaches, it is imperative that crewmembers understand what is required of them by law, and any questions or queries should be raised now. Lippuner concludes, “Let me very clear; this is not about promoting Warsash – there are plenty of other places that offer PSCRB. This is about ensuring that crew are getting the best possible advice, as it is they who will be suffering when they have to fork out twice for a course – a situation that they easily could have prevented had they been given the best advice in the first place."