Across to 3rd or up to Chief Limited?

I know you can all sympathize with different career advice that’ll turn you like a tubesteak at 7-11. My situation is no different, so I ask collectively your advice on this matter. If you were a DDE Unlimited, with the ultimate goal of having a big ship license to prepare yourself for the next industry torpedo, would you take the 3rd Asst Engineer and move up that way…or get your Chief Limited Oceans and cross to 2nd Asst Engineer after a bit of time? Thank you, shippies.

Get your 3rd A/E, you still keep the DDE. As you build time get the limited chief as soon as you can.

Ignore the nay sayers who object to having lesser levels on their ticket.

A 3rd is an assistant and unless you sail on something that doesn’t require any kind of license you will be aced out by anyone with at least a DDE. Watch your time and grab every piece of paper you can as the days accumulate.


It seems things change all the time & who knows what the CFR’s will say in a couple of years. But right now they say you can go from CE limited to 1AE. The only problem with this path is becoming content running with the CE limited & not up grading in a timely manner.

One thing to keep in mind is having a bigger license doesn’t necessarily mean you can do the bigger job. Besides grabbing all the endorsements as steamer suggests, grab as many challenging experiences & additional education that you can so you will hopefully fit into the bigger license.


Get whatever license you have sea time for now (both of you can) and progress as much as the vessels you work on will allow.


Get both. As someone once told me, get as much as you can as soon as you can.

Some of those tests are virtually identical so while taking both a 3AE and C/E Ltd test may be a hassle if you can pass one you can pass the other


The zero to hero route doesn’t do anyone any good. It is not a wise decision to walk off a one man tug job onto a ship and pretend to be a 1st.


Do people even hire chiefs limited?

If I were you I would get my unlimited 3rd then after a year sea time test for unlimited 2 AE and chiefs limited at the same time

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Sage advice, I appreciate it.

I have new information just a few hours ago that shows expiration for the Chief Limited to 2nd AE route closed as of March next year…and even then you must have a year on your Chief Limited. It seems my hand is forced for the 3rd AE.

I have contemplated as much. Good to hear an echo.

I am not the average DDE Unlimited. 20 years offshore, 4 years in the Navy as an Engineman (ALCO’s). I don’t have big ship experience, but much of my knowledge this far will give me a leg up on the average Academy grad. I will walk into the situation humble.

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At one time the DDE licenses were restricted to less than 500 ton & not over a couple of hundred miles from shore if you were sailing on a vessel that required a licensed engineer. Also, testing into a DDE license was the first step into a managerial position for many hawspipers whereas a mariner with a Chief Engineer Limited Oceans could sail up to 1600 tons on any waters & must had 2 years as an engineer before obtaining the CE limited.

So yes, companies do hire mariners with the CE limited & some prefer them to mariners with only a DDE.

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This is still true. See 46 CFR 15.915.

Engineer licensing needs to be simplified. Too many licenses with no justification. Just follow the STCW regime.


DDE unlimited is an oceans license. The lesser two are near coastal. All three are 500 grt.
Chief limited (motor only) is a 4 module test as is dde unlimited. Sea time for the chief limited require more days and some percentage of the grand sum of time actually sailing in an engine officer capacity.

If you are looking to get the bigger license it should also mean you are either looking for, or prepared to do the bigger job. Often it is more about attitude, and the willingness to learn, than experience.

Just my 2 cents.