disasters. Usually international professional standards for mariners have been preceded by national requirements. The licensing of masters and mates remains a national responsibility of maritime nations that operate a merchant marine (these nations are referred to as flag states). The licensing of marine pilots is typically administered at the port level rather than nationally (NRC, 1994).
Because mariners operate across national and international boundaries and must effectively interact with the shipping of other flag states, the qualification of mariners licensed by flag states is of interest to other flag states. Major marine accidents, especially since the Exxon Valdez grounding, have focused attention on improving these standards.
The qualification of marine pilots is also an important international issue, especially to the master of each vessel using pilotage services and that vessel's operating company. Most marine pilots, however, do not operate across national boundaries. Their service is highly specific to the locale in which they serve. Although pilotage has been implicated as a contributing factor in a number of marine accidents, corrective action that may be necessary has been viewed by the international maritime community as largely within the purview of the port-state pilotage authorities and has not stimulated review and improvement of international professional standards for pilots.
Systematic international efforts to improve marine safety originated with the establishment of the Inter-government Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) as a specialized consultative organization of the United Nations. IMCO held its first meeting in 1959. The first Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention was held in 1960. The result was the delineation of responsibilities for the safety of vessels during at-sea operations. During the 1970s, IMCO began to develop technical standards.
In 1978, IMCO promulgated the STCW guidelines. The STCW established a common standard based on marine certification practices of the traditional maritime nations, including the United States. The objective was to raise standards to a minimum level worldwide. The STCW was amended in 1991 (IMO, 1993).
In 1982, IMCO changed its name to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO is currently revising the STCW guidelines (IMO News, 1994). Much attention has been directed to strengthening STCW guidelines for the development and demonstration of competency, including the use of marine simulation. Considerable attention is being paid to the role of marine simulation in meeting STCW guidelines, and substantial guidance on using simulation is anticipated. In addition to the STCW guidelines, the IMCO also published marine pilot standards in 1981 (IMO, 1981).
IMO has relied on member countries to ratify and enforce international guidelines and standards. Generally, member countries are required to conform