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MPs improve rules for seafarers, training

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Parliament passed a bill that sets clearer rules for maritime courses, clarifies the calculation and proof of seafarers’ service at sea and regulates the revalidation of the certificates of captains of coastal and small passenger vessels.

The bill amends and replaces earlier legislation that eases implementation of the STCW convention, as adopted by the entire shipping community in 1978.

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), sets minimum qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships and large yachts.

It was ratified by Cyprus in 1985 and amended several times.

The Cyprus legislature approved the latest amendments unanimously during Thursday’s plenary session, where it was tabled by the House Committee on Transport.

Welcoming the passage of the bill, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping said it provides a holistic approach to issues regarded seafarers, and in particular their training.

“The passing of the amending law regulates issues which over time needed clarification, so that they correspond to the current and anticipated realities, and at the same time introduces new regulations, especially in relation to the maritime training schools,” the ministry announcement said.

“At the same time, the clarification of the issues regarding the calculation and proof of seafarers’ sea service, as well as their educational qualifications makes the maritime profession more attractive.”

“A substantial step is being taken towards digitisation and the abolition of paper certificates, a development resulting from the international trend and practice. It is now possible to issue, by decision of the Deputy Minister of Shipping, in digital format only, certificates of competence, their visas, certificates of proficiency and supporting documents of seafarers.”

The time of issue of these certificates by the authorities is also extended, from three to six months, allowing applicants more time to compile the necessary paperwork, especially if they happen to be working on board vessels.

Protecting seafarers

“Essentially, the regulation in relation to maritime training schools is clarified by introducing provisions regarding their operation. The new provisions have the sole purpose of protecting seafarers who choose to train at these schools and clarifies the courses they will follow and the certificates issued.”

The junior ministry announcement added that this is done only at recognised academies and enhances the maritime professions, making this sector more attractive for future careers.

The amendments to the bill were submitted to the House Transport Committee on September 16, 2021., The committee debated the bill and consulted with stakeholders over five sessions, chaired by MP Marinos Moushouttas, while non-committee deputies also attended, showing the maritime sector’s impact on education, the labour force and the economy in general.

During the committee discussions, the Authority for Quality Assurance and Certification of Higher Education (DIPAE) clarified that the maritime academies offer vocational training and are thus certified, as they are not universities or colleges.

At the same time, to safeguard a cadet’s qualifications, any institution falsely offering graduate or post-graduate degrees without DIPAE’s approval will be fined €20,000, up from the previous fine of €8,500.

The new legislation also clarifies that candidates to obtain a certificate of competence for second officer, third engineer and electrical officer must be high school graduates in Cyprus or abroad.