STCW recognition of prior learning policy—MT03

This procedure outlines the process for Registered training organisations to offer recognition of prior learning to students of AMSA approved courses.


As defined in the National standards for RTOs:

Recognition of prior learning means an assessment process that assesses the competencies of an individual that may have been acquired through formal, non-formal and informal learning to determine the extent to which that individual meets the requirements specified in the training package or VET accredited courses.

  1. Formal learning refers to learning that takes place through a structured program of instruction and is linked to the attainment of an AQF qualification or statement of attainment—for example, a certificate, diploma or university degree.
  2. Non-formal learning refers to learning that takes place through a structured program of instruction, but does not lead to the attainment  of  an AQF  qualification or statement of attainment—for example, in-house professional development programs conducted by a business.
  3. Informal learning refers to learning that results through experience of work-related, social,  family,  hobby or leisure activities—for example the acquisition of interpersonal skills developed through several years as a sales representative.

For clarification of other terms and abbreviations used within this procedure refer to MT 01 definitions.

Associated documents

  • National Principles and Operational Guidelines for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as contained in AQF Implementation Handbook, 4th Edition, 2007
  • Higher Education sector comply with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s (TEQSA)
  • Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2011 
  • Standards for Registered Training Organisation (RTOs) 2015 
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO) Model Courses
  • The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended (STCW)
  • Marine Order 70 (Seafarer certification) (MO70)
  • Marine Order 71 (Masters and deck officers) (MO71)
  • Marine Order 72 (Engineer officers) (MO72)
  • Marine Order 73 (Ratings) (MO73)
  • Marine Order 74 (Masters and deck officers – yachts) (MO74)
  • Maritime Training Package (MTP) latest version published by the Australian Industry Skills (AIS)

In the case of the Australian Maritime College (AMC) reference should be made to the accredited curriculum documents.


Our policy is for an applicant for a Certificate of Competency or Certificate of Proficiency issued under MO70 to MO74 to have completed a training course at an AMSA approved RTO based on the AIS Marine Training Package (MTP).

The Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 requires all RTOs, including AMSA approved RTOs, to offer recognition of prior learning  to students. The standards for the offering of recognition of prior learning that are contained in the AQF National Principles and Operational Guidelines for Recognition of Prior Learning are acceptable to AMSA.

Our policy is to require approved RTOs to align their recognition of prior learning  procedures with the AQF National Principles and Operational Guidelines for recognition of prior learning, and should include the following:

  • Parity of esteem for qualifications gained through (or partly through) recognition of prior learning.
  • Recognition of prior learning  policies and procedures that ensure the quality, integrity and standing of Australian qualifications.
  • Participation in exactly the same or modified versions of the assessment the student would be required to complete as part of the full course. 
  • The model of recognition of prior learning  that is implemented being aligned with the outcomes, goals and objectives of the qualification.
  • Recognition of prior learning assessment processes are of a comparable standard to those used to deliver and assess the qualification.
  • Being subject to the quality assurance processes used to ensure the standard and integrity of assessment processes within sectors or institutions, and validated and monitored in the same way other assessment processes are validated and monitored.
  • Recognition of prior learning  policies, procedures and processes being explicitly included in quality assurance procedures within organisations to ensure that qualifications achieved in part or in full through recognition of prior learning are of the same quality and have the same standing as qualifications achieved as a consequence of formal education and training.
  • It not being normally possible to gain an entire higher education qualification using recognition of prior learning.
  • As with all assessment, recognition of prior learning assessment should be undertaken by academic or teaching staff with expertise in the subject, content or skills area, as well as knowledge of, and expertise in, recognition of prior learning policies and procedures.
  • Recognition of prior learning  assessment processes being comparable to other assessment processes used to assess whether the learning or competency outcomes in a subject, module, unit, course or qualification have been met.
  • Recognition of prior learning  policies, procedures, processes and assessment outcomes being explicitly included in sectoral or institutional quality assurance mechanisms.
  • In some sectors, this may include advice about ‘gap or bridging’ training or education that may be necessary to meet the full requirements of the qualification.

All RTOs must clearly include the details of their recognition of prior learning  in their application when applying for approval from us. This area will be specifically evaluated by us.

Our policy, in order to ensure full compliance with international STCW requirements, is for recognition of prior learning  to only be granted after assessment to the same standard and same quality assurance as required after full normal course completion.


Formal learning (between AMSA approved RTOs)

Direct credit transfer is accepted by AMSA between AMSA approved RTOs which have the same competencies on their scopes as other AMSA approved RTOs.

Competency transfer (from non-AMSA approved RTOs)

Competency transfer from a non-AMSA approved RTO requires the applicant to have previously completed an equivalent or superior course and has passed a challenge test that is equivalent to the RTO’s final assessment (see note below for details).

Challenge test requirements relating to AMSA certificate of competency recognition of prior learning 

  • The challenge test is to be based upon MTP competencies and must cover all required competencies.
  • The challenge test must be of an equivalent standard to that of a RTO final assessment.
  • The challenge test is to be carried out under AMSA approved RTO examination criteria.
  • The applicant is allowed only ONE attempt at the examination – following the examination if the applicant does not meet the standard they must complete that competency/subject at an AMSA approved RTO.
  • To assist a person on a case by case basis, the recognition of prior learning  arrangement is intended only for a singular occurrence where a person has completed part or all of a non-AMSA approved course. It is not intended as a mechanism for AMSA approved RTOs or individuals to circumvent our obligations to approve, evaluate and continually monitor all training involved in the issue of STCW primary certificates. In this regard it will not be allowed on a permanent recurring basis for student groups undertaking part or all of their studies at a non-AMSA approved organisation (within Australia or overseas) to gain AMSA certificates.
  • Recognition of prior learning  is an administrative procedure and is not intended as an option for a candidate to proceed directly to assessment without completion of the normal pre-requisite training course. As such, and subject to the AQF appeal mechanism, assessment under recognition of prior learning  is a one-off administrative process and does not allow for the re-sitting of assessments at either that RTO or at any other RTO. If an assessment under recognition of prior learning  is unsuccessful, then the person must complete the normal training before undertaking the normal assessment.
  • The AMSA approved RTO is to keep records (including assessment papers) for review during the next AMSA audit.

STCW short courses

Candidates who hold STCW short course certificates issued by an overseas college, and those in Australia who hold NSCV Part D elements of shipboard safety certificates, will be required excepting those listed below, to complete the FULL applicable AMSA approved STCW short course. The recognition of prior learning process of challenge testing these candidates is not a practicable option, as the short courses are by nature practical hands-on courses. For a candidate to demonstrate competence they would have to complete the appropriate course in its entirety.

Special cases

Elementary First Aid - STCW Code Section A-VI/1, Table A-VI/1-3

We will allow recognition of prior learning—no challenge test—of either:

  • A current Australian issued Senior First Aid certificate—for example Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, CBD College or a similar course that includes the Training Package module HLTAID003.
  • Completion of a higher grade medical aid course conducted in Australia—for example Workplace Level 2 First Aid.

For Senior First Aid and Workplace Level 2 First Aid certificates, the valid period applies.

Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting – STCW Code Section A-Vl/1, Table A-Vl/1-2

We will allow recognition of prior learning  (no challenge test) if the applicant has completed either the RAN Advanced Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence (NBCD) course (including 2 days practical fire fighting at HMAS Creswell) or the RAN Advanced Combat Survivability (ACS) course (including the fire fighting component).

Overseas students studying for a higher level certificate

We will allow recognition of prior learning (no challenge test) if the applicant has completed a Deck Watchkeeper or Engine Watchkeeper course overseas and has applied to study in Australia for higher level certification.

Engineer Watchkeepers – STCW Code Table A-III/1


  • Trainee Engineer program
  • Engineer Experience training program

STCW Code Table A-III/l Column 1 - recognition of prior learning for Workshop Skills Equivalent:

  1. Maintenance and repair of electrical and electronic equipment.
  2. Use of appropriate hand tools, machine tools and measuring instruments for fabrication and repair on board.
  3. Maintenance and repair of shipboard machinery of equipment.

We will allow recognition of prior learning  (no challenge test). AMSA approved RTOs must carry out recognition of prior learning  in accordance with Marine Order 72 Schedule 2, taking into account any relevant education, skills or practical experience of the person. If required to meet the requirement of STCW Reg III/l the candidate must be provided with a gap or bridging training schedule to complete the recognition of prior learning  process.

Last updated: 28 May 2021