§ Ms Walley
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that crews on ships(a) registered in the UK and (b) sailing in UK waters comply with international safety standards. 
§ Mr. Jamieson
International safety standards for seafarers are enshrined in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping 1978, as revised in 1995, known as STCW 95. Those200W standards are implemented in the UK through the Merchant Shipping (Training and Certification) Regulations 1997 and the Merchant Shipping (Safe Manning, Hours of Work and Watchkeeping) Regulations 1997.
All Parties to the STCW 95 Convention have until 1 February 2002 to comply with the requirements of the Convention. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) have worked closely to ensure that all maritime training courses properly reflect STCW 95.
To comply with the revised international standards, and to revalidate their certificates under STCW 95, seafarers have to undertake further short courses in, for example, Advanced Fire Fighting and Proficiency in Survival Craft and Fast Rescue Boats.
Seafarers holding foreign Certificates of Competency will only be able to sail on UK registered ships if the country issuing the certificate has been assessed by the MCA to be of STCW 95 standard with training equivalent to that of the UK. The certificates of seafarers on foreign registered ships calling at UK ports are checked as part of the inspections carried out under the Port State Control regime.
§ Ms Walley
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to improve the recruitment rate of merchant ships' officers. 
§ Mr. Jamieson
Recruitment is a matter for the individual shipping companies themselves. There are Government measures, however, to assist and encourage the training and employment of British seafarers. We provide financial support for seafarer training through the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme. Following a review of SMarT in autumn/winter 2000 and the receipt of EU state aid clearance, additional courses will be included in the scheme and levels of funding will be increased. We introduced the tonnage tax option as part of the Finance Act 2000, a key feature of which is a minimum training obligation. This feature is unique to the UK, and requires each shipping company opting for the tonnage tax to recruit and train one officer trainee each year for every 15 officer posts in its fleet and also give consideration to employment and training opportunities for ratings.