Mariner's School Approvals


Why isn’t there reciprocity vis-a-vis the validation and approval of maritime courses between countries? If the schools that lead up to a foreign Mariner’s STCW certifiicate are good enough, then why aren’t those same schools good enough for U.S. Mariners? ( and vice-versa) . I thought STCW was suppose to make Mariners around the world one big family as far as standards go?
Why does the USCG deem ONLY U.S. courses “good enough” for U.S. Mariners. The USCG has offices all over the world and seems to have no trouble finding my ship when it’s inspection time no matter where in the world we are! Why can’t they swing by the schools to check and approve/disapprove them?
I, (and others I know), live abroad and there is a really nice Maritime Training Facility in my town, run and staffed by European mariners; besides a bit of cost savings on tuition there could be a big savings on time spent away from home and travel time and costs. But, alas, the school isn’t USCG approved, (and never will be??).
Is it possible we will every see this policy change?


Ahhhh…but some schools in the U.S. are approved by foreign countries for their mariner’s to attend. The Norweigan Maritime Directorate has several courses that are approved at STAR Center, and others, as well as several other locations throughout the world such as the Philippines.


Freedom’s on the march, we’re better than everyone else, and that’s just the way it is. Don’t ever question the Coast Guard again, it’s unpatriotic.


when i was taking my stcw class, by coincidence the cg was in doing an inspection of the school to endure that they are maintaining compliance. i forget how often this is done, but iirc it was at least annually.

for foreign schools to be accepted, i would have to assume that they would have to be inspected as well and at the same intervals. that would mean that at least yearly, a coast guard officer would have to fly to a foreign school and observe the class(in a language he probably doesn’t understand). this would have to be done, again i’m assuming here, for every school that desired to be approved by the nmc.

the main issue here from my perspective is money. imagine the cost of hundreds of inspection junkets every year. who pays for that? the school? well then they would have to pass this cost on to the students, which could very well make it hard for students to afford their education(which would in time bankrupt the school) and i have no doubt that country would blame America for their shortage of maritime school thus mariners. should the nmc pay? well that would result in a rise in the cost of the services provided to us. i already spend enough every year on keeping my credentials current, continuing education, paperwork fees, etc. id rather not see that go up any so people in other countries can go to school down the street from their house instead of coming here, thank you very much.

one other possible solution would be to have blanket reciprocity. meaning if you have a 100gt masters ticket in finland(as an example only) then you qualify for a 100gt here. that solution abounds with problems.

there is no perfect solution.


The UK has reciprocity with the USA. £77 (iirc) gets you a UK CEC equal to your USA License and STCW. I know this is how it is with unlimited licenses - not sure about limited tonnage applications.

If only I could afford to work foreign flag on my UK CEC, I would be there. Unfortunately the IRS wants their cut, and officer’s wages overseas don’t compare to the USA. Even by working under the UK (Isle of Man) flag, it’s maybe USD$40K/yr for Junior Officers, which is somewhat equivalent to the USA Net Incomes, but after the IRS gets their hands on that 40K, it’s not worth it. This is why the LNG companies will not be taking Junior Officers. Why pay someone USD$70K+, when Stanislaw from Poland can do it for USD$20K (which works out about the same when he goes home and pays in Zloty/Euro). This is an argument that can go on in many directions, which I do not intend to start, but it’s the truth.

I agree with you Jeffrox - STCW should be equal everywhere. Unfortunately the USCG has other opinions, which neither you nor I can change. It’s ironic that the USCG mandates IMO STCW levels of education, same as a school in Singapore, and in the UK, and Canada, etc., but for some reason the USCG views their standards as “higher”. Perhaps they are. I am not one to judge. I can say the foreign mariners I have sailed with are by and large more capable than many USA mariners (particularly unlicensed on unlimited tonnage). Not necessarily education alone, but moreso in work ethic and value/pride in their work. Someday, hopefully, a USA citizen will be able to attend a foreign school (or the UK model of cadet-shipping) as though it was any normal college degree and all will be well. This may happen as soon as there is less lobbying in Congress, as we all know the USA State and Federal Merchant Marine Academies would not survive once Johnny 11th-Grader learns he can go to school in Europe for a fraction of the price (and possibly get a better education, or more/better experience in any event).

No offense intended to anyone here. Hopefully this was diplomatic enough.



I am probably conspicuousloy absent from this discussion. That is intentional. This is a political issue and I am keeping a safe distance from it. I’ve been “counseled” inm the recent past for crossing a perceived line on providing objective information and am not going there again.
I will note that it’s a lot more complicated then sending the nearest USCG inspector to look at the school. They need to be familiar with STCW, NMC policies on schools and course approvals, and be familiar with the school’s curricula. There’s a lot more involved than just dropping by for a hour. As part of the centralization of the RECs, the NMC will be directing the oversight off the schools we do approve, with the bulk of the labor being carried out by the RECs. For at least one person at the REC, this will be a full time job and they will be in the field more often than not. The larger RECs will get 2 or 3 persons doing this full time.
You also need to consider the way each country implements STCW. The STCW doesn’t specify that a candidate for Chief Mate needs to take courses in Advanced Stability, Marine Propulsion Plants, etc. and do a big pile of very detailed assessments. STCW just gives a very brief and general statement of the level of competence rerquired. Each country has to then prescribe how that standard will be acheived. So it is unliklely you’ll find an exact match for a particular course. In many cases, the U.S. standard is significantly shorter that the model course from the IMO, for example, we get a lot of complaints about the length of the GMDSS course (2 weeks), yet the IMO model is twice as long. The puzzle may look the same when it’s assembvled, but you can’t easily take a piece from one jigsaw puzzle and drop it another. Many other countries accept foreign training because they lack the schools to train their own mariners. Canada is an example.
James D. Cavo

Chief, Mariner Training & Assessment Division

USCG National Maritime Center

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