There is a pop culture saying that comes from the London subway system: “Mind the Gap.”

It is a reminder not to fall, perhaps fatally, between the edge of the platform and the train cars. Another type of gap is fast opening for U.S. mariners.

Enrollment in training classes swelled across the workboat industry as the Dec. 31 deadline approaches to comply with the U.S. Coast Guard’s updated Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.

“You will need this to work in 2017,” warned Richard Wells, vice president of the Offshore Marine Services Association, in a July 22 conference call with members. With five months remaining, Wells cautioned that “realistically you’ve got to take 60 days off” to safely account for anticipated delays before obtaining updated credentials.

An update to the code, introduced in 2010, added several training requirements in things like management and team working, and created additional renewal and skills refresher courses. Additionally, mariners are expected to validate several types of training every five years.

Regulatory changes that took effect in March 2014 set a Dec. 31, 2016 deadline for mariners to fulfill “gap-closing” requirements in training, and obtain endorsements in areas including leadership and team management, engine resource management and electrical equipment management. Counting weekends and holidays, that really means Dec. 29, Wells noted.

With long wait times to enroll, masters, mates and engineers must act quickly to fit in their training, Wells said, noting “that’s about 15 days of courses the engineers are looking at.”

At the State University of New York Maritime College at Throgs Neck, N.Y.,  enrollment by professional mariners passed 570 by June 30 compared to 405 the year before, and the college added four courses to meet new STCW requirements.

“The standards have also meant a great deal of work for mariners; we have added several courses this year to meet the increased demand,” said Capt. Ernie Fink, dean of SUNY Maritime’s professional education and training department.

To meet that need the SUNY department offers approximately 30 stand-alone Coast Guard-approved courses, including the additional courses in leadership in management and teamwork, engine room resource management and basic training.


Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.