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STCW Mandatory Requirements for Ship Security Officers and Vessel Security Officers (SSO/VSO)


Frequently Asked Questions:


1.   Who do the Ship Security Officer (SSO) STCW requirements apply to?

The SSO requirements apply to all vessels subject to STCW under current regulations.

This includes all seagoing vessels, as defined in 46 CFR 15.1101 to mean self-propelled vessels engaged in commercial service that operate beyond the Boundary Line established by 46 CFR Part 7, EXCEPT those vessels which have been determined to be otherwise exempt from STCW and/or not subject to STCW as per 46 CFR 15.103(e)(f) and NVIC 7-00.

Accordingly, all self-propelled vessels engaged in commercial service that operate in near coastal and oceans waters are subject to the SSO requirements, EXCEPT the following: 1.) vessels < 200 GRT / 500GT engaged in domestic voyages, other than passenger vessels subject to 46 CFR Subchapter H; 2.) small passenger vessels subject to 46 CFR Subchapter T or K engaged in domestic voyages; 3.) uninspected passenger vessels as defined in 46 USC 2101(42); 4.) fishing vessels and fishing vessels used as fish-tender vessels as defined in 46 USC 2101(11a) & (11c); and, 5.) vessels operating exclusively on the Great Lakes.

2.      Do the requirements apply to the Vessel Security Officers?

Yes.  The term SSO is used by the International Maritime Organization in the various maritime Conventions and Codes.  As such, the term VSO is interchangeable with the term SSO.

3.      How often should VSO training be renewed?

At the present time there are no domestic requirements imposing refresher training for VSO. 

4.      Are the STCW requirements for VSO applicable to all officers or only to those persons serving as VSO?

The STCW requirements are only applicable to persons serving as VSO.

5.      When will the Coast Guard start issuing VSO endorsements?

The Coast Guard will propose amendments to 33 CFR 104.215 in order to include a provision for the issuance of an endorsement to the STCW certificate .  The endorsements will be issued following the entry into force of these future regulatory amendments.

6.      Where would the VSO endorsement be displayed?

Since the training requirements are part of the STCW Convention, it is envisioned that the endorsement will be displayed on the STCW Certificate.


Notice Regarding SSO/VSO Requirements


TO:      Seafarers, Shipowners/Operators, Labor Unions and Training institutions

SUBJ:  STCW requirements for Ship Security Officer


The mandatory requirements for ship security officer (SSO) contained in the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention, 1978, as amended will come into force in 1 January 2008.  The requirements also provide transitional provisions that can be applied until 1 July 2009.


The United States intends to continue our existing practice for SSO.  We urge vessel owners and operators who operate vessels on foreign trade to ensure that SSOs carry proof of their qualifications.  Examples of documents that will be accepted as meeting the requirements of the STCW Convention:


-         Course completion certificate (in accordance with the MTSA regulations and the ISPS Code; and/or in accordance with the  International Maritime Organization’s SSO model courses) from a course provider

-         Company letter/certificate attesting to the qualifications (in accordance with the MTSA regulations and ISPS Code).


We have determined that our existing regulations, 33 CFR 104.215 are substantially equivalent to the STCW requirements.  To continue to meet our Convention responsibilities the CG will seek to amend 33 CFR 104.215 in order to include an STCW endorsement provision and transitional provisions.  Once the regulations are published all US mariners will be required to carry an endorsement on their STCW Certificate.  Per the Convention requirements, the cut-off date for obtaining the license endorsement using our existing practice (transitional provisions) will be 1 July 2009.


We will inform Port State Control officials worldwide of this arrangement.


If you have any questions or comments on this arrangement, please contact Ms. Mayte Medina at or at (202) 372-1406.


Contact the Maritime Personnel Qualifications Division:


Commandant (CG-OES-1)
ATTN (Job Title/Function/Office)
U.S. Coast Guard
2703 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE
Washington DC 20593-7509
Tel: 202-372-1401

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Last Modified 2/11/2016