Basic Training For Seafarers: Updating, Refresher, & Full Course

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | COP, Training and Certification | 2 comments

The Manila 2010 amendments of the STCW Convention came into force on January 1, 2012. However, there is a five-year transitional period wherein the provisions of this new amendment are implemented.

After January 2017, all seafarers must meet the 2010 STCW standards.

BT-U, BT-R, and BT Full Course

The first training requirement for every person who wants to be a seafarer is Basic Training (BT). This course has many names including Basic Safety Course (BSC), Basic Safety Training (BST), and SOLAS Training.

Basic Training has four sub-courses each covering safety aspects of the vessel. When we talk about safety, we don’t only focus on the people on board but the equipment as well.

The basic training course teaches us fundamentals about fire and firefighting, simple first aid, survival techniques when the worst happens, and safety within ourselves, and the people around us.

Here are the four courses covered under the Basic Training:

1. Fire Prevention and Firefighting

Minimum standard of competence for Fire Prevention and Firefighting. A trainee will be competent to take appropriate measures for the safety of personnel and the ship.

He will also know about fire prevention as well as using fire appliances.

2. Personal Safety and Social Responsibility

This course will give seafarers an insight into the various elements of a ship and the working procedures on board. It will enable them to adjust to the shipboard environment.

Also, they will be better prepared to cope with any unforeseen circumstances. By applying this course, their transition from shore to sea career will be smooth.

They will have basic knowledge of how a ship operates before they step on board a vessel.

3. Personal Survival Techniques

The trainee will have minimum standards of competence in personal survival at sea in the event of ship abandonment.

This includes the following:

  • donning of lifejackets and immersion suits
  • operate survival craft equipment
  • location devices and radio equipment
  • swim and keep afloat while wearing a lifejacket
  • many others.

4. Elementary First Aid

The trainee will have competence in taking immediate action upon encountering accidents.

He or she will have the know-how to apply first aid during medical emergencies until professional help arrives.

Basic Training Updating and Refresher Certificates from training Center which is in compliance with the Manila 2010 Amendment.
Updating and Refresher Certificates Basic Training.

Differences between BT-U, BT-R, and BT- Full Course

These three can be quite confusing at first. If you don’t know which one to take, you’ll be wasting time and money after MARINA tells you to take the right course.

Some training centers also suggest Basic Training Full Courses since this is the cure-all training and nobody gets wrong with this. That might be true.

However, you could be wasting again your precious time and money when all you need to take is a refresher course of 2 days.

Now let’s take a look at the differences between the three.

Basic Training- Updating (BT-U)

If you took your Basic Safety Training before August 30, 2013, you have to take an updated module of that training which is Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR).

This is because new rules and regulations were introduced in some parts of this course. Thus, seafarers must take this training to “update” their knowledge.

In other words, Basic Training – Updating is a structured program that ensures seafarers know about changes to national and international regulations related to SOLAS. It also covers any updates or revisions to the relevant standards of competence.

The course only takes eight hours or one day and you will be given a new updated training certificate aside from your original full BT Certificate.

Basic Training – Refresher

Not all the time new information are introduced in the Basic Training Course. However, seafarers must “refresh” their knowledge about this training every five years. This is where the refresher course comes in.

Basic Training Refresher course (BT-R) is a training program aimed at confirming that seafarers maintain the necessary level of competence every 5 years, as per the Convention’s requirements.

This is to show evidence of having maintained the required standards of competence.

If you want a Certificate of Proficiency (COP) for this training, you must do it within two years of taking this course. Otherwise, you may have to retake the refresher course again.

Refresher for BT only covers two courses namely:

  • Personal Survival Techniques
  • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting

The course takes 16 hours or 2 days. You will receive a new refresher training certificate aside from your Updating and full BT Certificate. You will also have to exhibit competence in this training upon visiting the training site.

Fire fighters with firehose and nozzles extinguishing flames on board ship.
Firefighters in action. Credits:

BT Full Course

This applies to fresh graduates and non-maritime professionals who want to seek employment on board ships. Additionally, seafarers who didn’t apply for a COP of their BT within two years must take the full course.

BT Full Course is around 60 hours long or about 5 to 9 days depending on the course structure.

In this training, you will learn theoretical and practical assessments in all four modules listed above. Hence, you will learn the basics of fire prevention and fire fighting which is very important on board.

Dealing with different nationalities and different cultures can be a shock. The PSSR module will teach you how to blend in.

During distress and the need to abandon, the knowledge that you learn on PST will help you get through the toughest times until rescue arrives.

Ships have very limited medical facilities. Elementary First Aid will compensate for that lack until professional help is present.

Old BT Certificates

For seafarers who have really old BT Certificates, you may also have to take the full course. After that, you will receive a brand new certificate that is in compliance with the Manila 2010 Amendments.

This is just one of the requirements to work at sea. There are other training, vaccinations, documents, visas, and costs that seafarers must also bear which can be very expensive.

Are you ready to become a seaman?

May the winds be in your favor.



  1. Steve

    How do I begin I have zero experience?

    • Gibi

      Hello. You have to take a maritime course in college and choose between Marine Engineering and Marine Transportation. Or you can opt in for an actual seagoing experience as part of your curriculum and there you will decide if this job is for you.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *