1600 master to 2m unlimited

Fair points. My question to you then is where would you choose to draw the line? What skills differentiate a 200ton master from an unlimited tonnage master?

It’s harder to find the beeps and there are more of them.

I think the idea that similar sea sense is obtained on limited tonnage vessels and unlimited tonnage vessels is absurd. Propulsion differences alone make it so. My practical understanding of the forces involved does not equate to competence with those forces.

I have excellent sea sense on vessels up to ~350 ft OAL with any propulsion type that those vessels can come equipped with and I could walk aboard and Master or Chief any one you want to name. Going beyond that size I lose my sea sense, the innate understanding of the pace at which things are occurring and the corresponding priorities.

The rules may be silly but I don’t think that’s any reason to start getting silly ourselves.

I left deep sea and dredge boats to get on tugs. Took a big ole pay cut each time too. But being home more, being close to home, and the lifestyle of tugs suits me better. Plus tugboatin’ is just plain fun.


The exam for CM Unlimited is more intensive than the one for Master 1,600. Granted it’s less of a difference now since they’ve made the Master 1,600 exams a little harder but there’s still a difference.

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You could, currently, get an unlimited master’s license on those vessels then go sail as master on a 1,000 ft container ship. It’s already up to the companies to vet the people they hire as senior officers so why have any cutoff, especially once so low?

BTW, I don’t think anyone here is arguing that a 200 GRT master should be allowed to test for Master Unlimited, just that there should be an easy crossover without tonnage limits involved like Master 1,600 qualifies for 3M (or 2M since they’re not a green mate with no experience).

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It’s actually more than one test now.

Yes, kinda.


My former neighbor Bob (who is long dead now) was an MMP unlimited Master who sailed for Ijsbransen (sp) Lines on stick ships. They were the typical ships of the day (1980) and perhaps between 5000 and 10,000 tons. Bob was quite fond of drink.

He used to say (when drinking) that his job was to shake hands with the pilot getting off, go to his room, get drunk, stay out of the Mate’s way and let him run the ship across the Atlantic, then sober up in time to shake hands with the oncoming pilot on the other side.

Another friend in town was an MEBA engineer who had sailed with Bob. He said that story was not too far from the truth.

I think the typical deep sea Master running a 100,000 ton ship needs to know a helluva lot more than a 200 ton Master. That’s why the 200 ton Master should transition to unlimited Third Mate to get big ship experience, and not directly to unlimited Master.

On the other hand, experienced owners and managers at tugboat companies can tell you that their most expensive damage was caused by guys with unlimited Master licenses. Perhaps, that’s what prompted TOAR requirements and towing specific endorsements. Perhaps that’s why pilot associations want to hire tugboat Masters.


You know what. I’m wrong and I was misunderstanding you. I agree with you. I’ve worked both limited and unlimited tonnage and I agree with your assessment of the skill sets required for each. The thing that also really changed my tune was looking at the requirements for 1600ton and 3M UL. Pretty much the same tests. Sea time, roughly the same. You’re right, there should be an upward crossover. I will say that I don’t think this hypothetical crossover would raise the limited tonnage wages necessarily. It would just add mariners to a shrinking pool of unlimited tonnage jobs. But that’s a different topic.

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Or when somebody takes the CM exam, just give them 1600T Master?

I had to take the crossover test when I took my CM exam. Thought it was pretty silly.

It’s two tests, Q130 and Q131, they added Advanced Stability a few years back.

And no, you can’t go the other way.

Well said, not arguing that a 200t master can step into an unlimited role, but a higher tonnage masters license with a master of tow should qualify someone to sail as a 3m on something larger without having to take several steps back

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The Mate 500 ton, 1600 ton, and Third Mate have been the exact same test for quite awhile.

Mate OSV might be the same test too. Not sure about Mate Fishing.

One can upgrade from Mate 500 or 1600 to Third Mate only with seatime without testing,

The USCG could greatly reduce its expenses and workload, and the burden on Mariners by simplifying the license scheme:

  1. Follow the STCW scheme for tonnage using only GT tonnage on licenses: 500, 3000, unlimited (no intermediate tonnage restrictions at any level).

  2. Eliminate trade restricted licenses: OSV, Fishing, and Towing. Replace licenses limited to towing with a towing endorsement on a standard license.

  3. Provide clear, common sense, practical, readily achievable upgrade paths from one license level to the next.


They do.

They didn’t.

A Second Mate can take a simple, easy, crossover exam for Master 1600.

Master 1600 cannot upgrade to Second Mate, but he can upgrade to Master Inland (with a tonnage restriction).

Master Inland can upgrade to Second Mate (with a tonnage restriction).

It would simplify the license system, reduce the USCG’s work load, and reduce the burden on mariners and vessel owners to:

Use one uniform exam for Third Mate, Second Mate, Mate and Master 500 and 1600, and Master Inland

There is not much of a difference between most of these exams now, except that Master Inland is a ridiculously easy exam. This would just require adding a few management level topics to the Third Mate exam.

Then allow people to upgrade with just seatime, without taking another exam (the same as they now do for Third Mate to Second Mate; and for Chief Mate to Master.

The USCG should automatically issue every endorsement that an applicant qualifies for, not just the endorsements listed on the application. This would greatly reduce the number of future applications that the USCG would need to process.

For example: if a Third Mate applies for Second Mate with seatime, he should automatically get Master 1600 and Master Inland.

For example: if a Mate 1600 applies for Master 1600 with seatime, he should automatically get Third Mate.


There was a USCG/public input meeting just a couple of months ago. Part of it concerned exactly this point. It took awhile, but the people in the room eventually concurred this should occur. So I wouldn’t be surprised if a rule change is in the works already.

1600 master to master Inland with tonnage restriction without exams ?

The Master Inland exam is ridiculously easy compared to Master 1600, Oceans.

I passed Master Inland with a high score. All I studied was Rules of the Road. I just winged it on everything else. It was probably the easiest USCG exam I’ve ever taken, except maybe for AB.

But if someone thinks there is something important in Master Inland, just add whatever it is to the Mate/Master 1600 & Third Mate/ Second Mate exam.

The Mate exams and Master exams hae slightly different subjects covered and the Master exams have an entire stability module that the mate exams don’t have.

It’s automatic if you ask for it. No test required.

They incorrectly made you take extra, unnecessary exams.

It is silly. It’s also not required.