Every seafarer should have a personal copy of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). After all, it is the bible of the merchant marine. Seafarers are obliged to meet the STCW’s minimum standards on pain of being barred from working at sea. But would they pay for a copy of the Convention, or would they rather go to Starbucks and enjoy some cappuccino?

The average seafarer would probably choose Starbucks. In London, where the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is headquartered, the current price of a cup of cappuccino (tall) is £2.25 ($2.76) whilst espresso costs £1.6 (http://food-prices.co.uk/starbucks-menu/).

On the other hand, the electronic edition of STCW 2017 (including the 2010 Manila amendments) will set the seafarer back £50 with the IMO throwing in its free proprietary e-reader. One can go for the print edition of STCW 2017, which is available from the IMO’s global network of distributors. Witherby Seamanship International is selling it for $61.51 (about £50), excluding any applicable taxes.

Either way, the price can put be off-putting for the seafarer. For the same price, one can have twenty-two cappuccinos or thirty-one espressos! Coffee, of course, will not last unlike a digital copy of the STCW. But why should seafarers pay for the electronic version of  the very document that governs their profession? The International Labour Organization provides free online access to the full text of ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. The same goes for all other ILO conventions. Why can’t the IMO do likewise?

All this — not surprisingly — has encouraged the copying and distribution of STCW 2017 in cavalier disregard of the IMO copyright notice. Some individuals have even shared digital copies online. The whole caboodle can be found here and here. Everyone ought to respect intellectual property rights. But can seafarers be blamed for wanting to keep their money for a nice cuppa joe at Starbucks?

~ Barista Uno


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