For centuries, seafarers learned their trade by going to sea. They began as young as 12 or 23 and learned by copying their elders and trying to do what they were told. In time, they picked up enough knowledge to become competent seafarers in their turn. By the 18th and 19th centuries training had become more formalised and many seafarers ? especially those wanting to become officers ? spent some time at training establishments on shore. These were sometimes operated by governments, sometimes by the industry and sometimes by individual shipping companies. But by the second half of the 20th century it was recognized that something more was needed.
The IMO's International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978 was the first internationally-agreed Convention to address the issue of minimum standards of competence for seafarers. In 1995 the STCW Convention was completely revised and updated to clarify the standards of competence required and provide effective mechanisms for enforcement of its provisions.
A comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and the STCW Code commenced in January 2006, and culminated in a Conference of Parties to the STCW Convention which was held in Manila, Philippines from 21 to 25 June 2010