1600 master to 2m unlimited

I know you can cross over from 2M to master 1600 with one test but can you cross over to 1600 master to 2m unlimited with no test.



That’s a change that should be made.

Is it under consideration to address “the mariner shortage”?


I just read about it on linkden guys saying they have done it

1 Like

It’s not impossible to move up to unlimited tonnage, just close to it.

It’s not a practical upgrade path for very many US mariners.

The rest of the world is not so hung up on tonnage limitations as the US. Small vessel mariners can move up. A lot of foreign tugboat mariners and all the OSV mariners have unlimited licenses.

The USCG, the Academies, the unions, and their lobbyists are really committed to screwing limited tonnage mariners, and keeping almost all the unlimited tonnage jobs for academy grads.

Of course the tug companies, the OSV companies, AWO, etc. and their lobbyists are really committed to preventing limited tonnage mariners from having options and moving up in order to hold wages down.

No other country mismanages its maritime licensing system like this.

And people wonder why young folks are no longer interested in sailing.


Some of the Academies have great limited tonnage programs that cater specifically to tugs, OSVs, workboats etc. I don’t know how they are screwing them. It’s cheaper at some Academies to be in a limited tonnage program because you don’t have to pay for the regiment bull crap.

Unions have not been great at supporting limited tonnage mariners but it’s definitely a difficult environment as companies can essentially repaint a tug than so it’s non union. There’s no shortage of tug trash that will would be willing to buy a tug and run it on a shoe string budget to undercut the competition. The barrier of entry is much lower than deepsea- different environment in terms of ability of unions to be effective while maintaining work


No other country limits mariners with tonnage limits like the US. Most countries accept seatime over 25 GT and 25 meters toward an unlimited license.

I’m not aware of any other country that has a license restricted to OSVs.

For example: when I meet officers on “decent sized” Canadian tugs or OSVs they all have unlimited licenses.

Canada requires no licenses for very small tugs of either 10 GT or 15 GT depending on the year built. They also have 150 GT and 350 GT tug licenses. An unlimited license is required for the bigger tugs. In Canada, they all belong to one union too.

The Mexican tug officers I’ve met were all academy grads with unlimited licenses.

Tonnage is overrated. It does not have much practical significance.

If the USCG can give unlimited Master to guys who have spent their entire careers crew changing by helicopter and staying stationary in one spot on drill rigs, the USCG ought to be able to see its way clear to let a Master 1600 at least sail as Third Mate unlimited.


Had a mate 1600GRT back in 2015, applied to Third Mate Unlimited. USCG sent me a Third Mate 3000GRT as I was not above 1600GRT. They told me in a letter what I had to do to get unlimited. Went to MSC which all vessel are above 10,000GRT(don’t know about the MSC tugs), served as an AB to fulfill the timed they required and got the restriction taken off.
I went through the Workboat Academy(USCG Approved) Program as I already had a degree from a University. I could have applied for 2/M because I had time running vessels as 3/M 3kGRT, but decided not to.

Their is a way, I decided to step on an unlimited vessel(above 10,000GRT) so their was no questions about it for the evaluator.

46 CFR § 11.402 - (b) When the calculated limitation equals or exceeds 10,000 GRT, the applicant is issued an unlimited tonnage endorsement.

As I said in an earlier post, it’s not impossible, but it’s impractical for most guys who are already sailing Master on tugs.

Who can afford to give up a $800 to $1000 a day job sailing as Master on a tug to go be an AB on ship for two years at $400 a day?

Yes, there are a very very small number of guys (I doubt if it’s over 10 guys a year) who might do that.

Moreover, why should they need to do that?

1 Like

Had Master that told me: “The only thing I regret in life was not upgrading my license when I had the time”. He sat on 100GRT for 30 years, one day the company said we are getting rid of all the small vessels and getting bigger ones as it is more profitable (even got rig of the tug division). They told him “you can upgrade, so you can stay”. He upgraded at his age and even helped him with celestial.

That really “sink in”, so at that moment I was determined to do all the sacrifices to move up. All those sacrifices has brought a lifetime of joy. I had to do adjustments, but like you said “it’s not impossible”…

Also had an instructor at the academy that said: “the guy that has the most stuffs on their license wins”… The way I interpret that is to keep upgrading and adding endorsements…


Yep, I was reading that thread. It’s good the conversation…

By that logic, why don’t we just get rid of Jones Act crewing requirements all together? Or start accepting foreign licenses for concurrency. They are mariners certified by the STCW, their licenses should be just as good as ours on US flagged vessels. A vessel is a vessel after all.

You must be a recent academy grad. Logic? What do you think that means? You are mixing apples and oranges.

Pointing out that apparently, no other country fails to give unlimited tonnage seatime credit for service on relatively small vessels:

  1. Has nothing to do with cabotage, the Jones Act, which reserves domestic trade and jobs for American vessels and American mariners;

  2. Nor does it have anything to do with recognizing foreign licenses, or allowing foreign mariners to work in the US.


Well said. Working on tugs is a viable career path but is extremely limiting. Considering the scope of work that tugs often do, not having access to an unlimited license is insane in my opinion.

I’m biased since I’ve worked primarily on tugs, but working on them provides you with resourcefulness and competence that should translate well to larger vessels.

1 Like

Nope, not a fresh academy grad. Just a decade old username.

You specifically commented about the “mariner shortage” and foreign licensing schematics as arguments as to why we should allow mariners to hold licenses of tonnage that they haven’t sailed on. So why not take it a step further to solve the shortage? I’m not saying a 1600ton master isn’t qualified to be a 2M on an unlimited tonnage ship. I’m saying be carful which doors you open, and think about all the potential consequences.

Go ask Sam Norton how that logic works out.

I’d say that presents the same amount of risk as someone in their mid/late 20s who was able to achieve a license due to a four year degree program. Not saying that one is better than the other but that choice is already/has already been made without giving the alternative a fair shake. Asking a competent master with practical, safe experience to take a pay cut and work as a deckhand in order to achieve/gain some perceived knowledge is wild. Just saying it should be easier to make the transition with demonstrated competence w/out having to take a demotion.


A thing that I find illogical is that the USCG issues unlimited tonnage First Class Pilot licenses to tugboat Masters and Mates, but won’t issue an unlimited tonnage Third Mate to tugboat Masters or Mates.

This means that we can serve as a Federal Pilot on any unlimited tonnage vessel that is not sailing foreign on register and bring it through pilotage waters and put it alongside the dock, yet we are not qualified to be a Third Mate on the same vessel.

I would say that a Pilot has a lot more authority and responsibility than a Third Mate.

Some pilotage associations only want to train tug captains, ferry captains, and dredge captains with a lot of boat handling experience as Pilots. It seems that the pilot associations think that tonnage sailed on isn’t too important.

What is so logical about 1601 GRT seatime qualifying for an unlimited tonnage license? Ships are much bigger today. A guy can get an unlimited license by sailing on a 1601 ton OSV, and then go sail on a 100,000 GRT ship, a tonnage that he hasn’t sailed on!

There is not a dime’s worth of difference in the value of seatime experience on a 200 GRT vessel vs a 2000 GRT vessel. It’s a distinction with no meaning.

There is a big difference between a 2000 to ship and a 100,000 ton ship.

I can only conclude that experience on vessels over 1600 tons is greatly overrated.


Fair enough, and I do agree with you. You guys realize that unlimited tonnage guys take pay cuts and demotions all the time to get the shorter schedule, proximity to home, and multitude of job opportunities on smaller vessels, right? I’ve personally done this, and I know my big license doesn’t mean I know it all. Sometimes you have to make initial sacrifices to achieve the bigger goal.

If I’m understanding you both correctly, you want the option to switch to one of the dwindling in availability, lower paying (3M/2M vs Master limited) unlimited tonnage jobs. Its the principal of the matter, right? Not that you would necessarily switch to sailing deep sea.

Side note, why not give the 1600ton master their CM unlimited license? That’s the license at which you get 1600ton master with no further examination.

1 Like