We’re dumbfounded. The 2011 edition of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), including the 2010 Manila Amendments Code, is being retailed in Manila for a whopping £73 equivalent (US$115). One can order it from IMO London for £40 (US$63). But that’s still plenty of money for a book of 350-plus pages that comes in cheap spiral binding, not hardbound. Just as disconcerting to us is that the obra maestra is copyrighted to IMO, so one can’t freely download it from the internet in digital format.

We get the point that the STCW print edition can’t be given away for free. The publisher, after all, has to recover the cost of printing and distributing the material with some margin of profit. Even the Christian bookstores earn from selling copies of the Bible. Why deny the IMO and its agents the same privilege in the case of the STCW? What’s beyond our comprehension is IMO holding the copyright to something that really embodies the collective intellectual effort of individual member states. This is akin to copyrighting the traffic regulations and asking motorists to buy the book so they’ll know what rules govern the road and their driving. Or the United States of America copyrighting its Constitution, copies of which Americans will then need to buy from the bookstore so they’ll all be law-abiding citizens. No free downloads, folks.

Apparently because of the copyright issue, it’s nearly impossible to find the full text of the updated STCW in the internet – except as an e-book that one needs to purchase. There was a time when the US Coast Guard had the pre-2010 version in its website. It was presented in sections but everything was there. The USCG-posted document appears to have vanished into thin air. Recently we found the STCW in a little-known website based on Faroe Islands but it was the text of the old (1995) Convention. Whether the IMO admits it or not, it’s making it difficult for seafarers to have access to that one document that governs their profession and affects their lives. It is also bolstering the impression that the IMO is a business-driven organisation, which is just as lamentable. ~Barista Uno