Coast Guard Licensing with the New STCW Requirements
Over the past few years, licensing has become more difficult because of the recently implemented STCW requirements. It is very important that you take some time reading over the requirements specific to your situation so that you are well-informed of the latest changes. Know what your training, sea time, and experience entitle you to before going to a Coast Guard Regional Exam center with your paperwork. More information can be found about licensing and STCW at the National Maritime Center (NMC) website http://www.uscg.mil/nmc/default.asp.
Merchant Marine or Able Seaman
Before submitting an application to your REC, all US Mariners MUST have or be in the process of applying for a Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC). If you have obtained your TWIC you may mail in your application to your local REC. To learn more about getting a TWIC, visit http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/layers/twic/index.shtm
The first step in the process is to obtain your Able Seaman card, which is a Merchant Mariner Documentation (MMD). For SEA crew, this will need to be an AB Sail w/ STCW endorsement. The "Sail" portion of this MMD simply means that your sea time was obtained sailing on a sail school vessel or equivalent sail vessel while the STCW endorsement requires that you have completed a Basic Safety Training (BST) Course.
Checklist for an AB-Sail card w/ STCW:
- 180 days of sea time on a sailing school vessel or equivalent sail vessel
- Submission of Application (Download Application Form-pdf)
- Social Security Card (You need to have your actual card, not just the number)
- Proof of Identity (Two current forms of ID, Must be government issued and one with photo)
- Physical Examination Report (Download Physical Examination Report-pdf)
- Drug Test or a letter saying that you have been involved in a random drug-screening program (Download Drug Testing Form-pdf).
Qualified Lifeboatman-Limited/PSC – (Lifeboatman-limited is for vessels not equipped with lifeboats. You will get certification as Proficient in Survival Craft (PSC) and Rescue Boats) All you need to do is attend Basic Safety Training and complete the following:
- Documentation of participation in 12 abandon ship drills (Download Abandon Ship Drills Form – ONLY pages 13 and 14 are necessary for Lifeboatman – Limited-pdf)
- Checklist of assessments of launching and recovery of rescue boats (Download Rescue Boat Form – ONLY page 15, Section II is necessary for Lifeboatman – Limited-pdf)
- Qualified Rating Forming Part of a Navigational Watch (RFPNW) (Download RFPNW checklist -pdf)
*You will need your captain's help in checking you off on practical training in rescue boats, abandon-ship drills, and RFPNW.
- Basic Safety Training (BST) course at an approved training facility. There are four categories to this course which must be completed (Personal Survival Techniques, Firefighting/Fire Prevention, First Aid, Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities) Courses are offered throughout the country.
You will need your completed application, completed physical, proof of completion of a BST course, sea time letters, and all other items found on the MMD packet. You will need to be fingerprinted at the REC and have a passport-sized photo taken. The Coast Guard evaluators are very precise, so make sure that all items are filled out completely and correctly and all copies you bring are notarized. After receiving approval, you will then be able to schedule a date for testing. Make sure that you take the sailing test so that you get the sailing endorsement on your card. When you have passed the tests, you will be issued not only an AB card with sailing endorsement but also an STCW-95 form.
- Submission of Application (Download Application Form-pdf).
- Contact the nearest REC and speak to an evaluator - after completing application.
Although you must complete basic safety training, an STCW-95 form will not be issued. You will only receive your OS card.
Merchant Mariner License and STCW-95 Form
One of the most complicated and confusing parts of the licensing process is figuring out what license you are qualified to test for. We recommend that before you visit the REC, do a little research to determine what your sea time and experience rate you in the way of tonnage and on what waters. Each level of license has a checklist of requirements specific to it, refer to the website below to find what matches your situation. Regardless of the level of license, some training courses will need to be completed (Advanced Firefighting, Radar, Bridge Resource Management, etc.).
Fill out necessary forms after completion of all course work. Questions regarding requirements for original licensing and information about applying for a raise in grade are also in these documents.
You may now proceed to the nearest Coast Guard REC and speak to an evaluator. To this meeting, you will need to bring all required and completed forms, proof of completion of the aforementioned courses, and the other items mentioned in the documents. After receiving approval you will then be able to schedule a date for testing. When you have passed the tests, you will be issued not only a license but also an STCW-95 form.
Some of the training and course work will need to be renewed on a regular basis. Your license and MMD will need to be renewed every five years. Basic Safety Training will need to be renewed every five years unless the mariner can demonstrate one year of sea service within the last five years. Radar observer will need to be renewed every five years. Bridge resource management and advanced fire fighting are one-time courses and will not need to be repeated.
Additional information for any STCW questions (U.S. Coast Guard Web site) or by calling a Coast Guard REC and speaking to an evaluator. The process can be very time consuming, especially with all of the course work and studying involved. It is recommended that you start as early as possible.
Currently, SEA is certified to teach Basic Safety Training courses, which we offer about once a year. Visit the Crew page to see our 2014 training schedule.