February 18, 2018

Part I: A Primer on How To Get Your USCG Captain's License

If you want to take people out on your boat and get paid for it, or if you want the prestige of being recognized by the USCG as a licensed Captain, then you’re most likely looking at their Operator of Un-inspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) credential.

With this Merchant Mariner Credential, you’ll be authorized to take up to six paying passengers on your vessel of less than 100 tons. This is a great credential for fishing or diving guides, small whale watching ventures or tour guides even. If six paying passengers isn’t enough, then you can upgrade to the Master 100 Ton credential and take an unlimited number of passengers aboard your vessel of up to 100 tons.

So, what’s required? Well, there are multiple websites devoted to this information. Do a quick search with your favorite engine. I can speak to my experience and that’s what I intend to do here.

My experience with the USCG and getting my OUPV credential has been a bit rocky. The biggest hurdle to get past for most mariners looking to attain a MMC is the sea time. At a minimum, you’ll need 360 days of inland or near-coastal sea time. Inland is just that, inland from the line of demarcation. Near coastal is seaward from the line of demarcation. You can have a mixture of days, but it’s best to consult the NMC website for more information as it can change.

I intended to use near coastal days from my personal sailboat and also days I had accrued aboard US Navy vessels, submarines to be exact. This is possible, as long as the job that you have on a military vessel relates to navigation. My job was as a Sonar Technician. In this position, I was a watch supervisor helping the Conning Officer drive the ship with regards to navigation and contact avoidance. The National Maritime Center uses a publication called the Marine Safety Manual to determine if your rate (job) in the military counts towards your sea time. I strongly recommend looking up your rate in this publication to see if it counts for sea time.

To document this sea time, the NMC will ask for your Transcript of Sea Service (TOSS). The US Navy does not provide this document in any fashion. The closest thing I could find was my History of Assignments and my ITEMPO, both can be found in your BUPERS access.

To document US Navy sea time, the best thing to do is write a letter that lists each vessel, how many days at sea you spent on it, your specific job, etc. There are more requirements than that, they are listed in the MSM. I also included a copy of my SMART transcript that spelled out my job duties at each paygrade level and any extra schooling the Navy provided.

I’ve had a really great crew of people on my side to help push my package through, namely the folks at Flagship Maritime Training. If you’re in the Seattle/Tacoma area, I highly recommend checking them out. Especially if you’re in a relatively similar position as I am – using military sea service to get a Merchant Mariner Credential.

Check out Part II and soon, Part III on the lessons I’ve learned regarding using military sea service to attain your captains license.


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