Bosun’s Job/Career

How does an AB actually get to become a Bosun? Especially in something like MSC. How long does it take if someone is ambitious or do the more ambitious get licensed? Searched and there wasn’t a thread. Is it just the most experienced AB?

Bosun is a very experienced AB who has ability to manage the deck force and the toughness to bring them in line. He doesn’t have to be the most experienced AB onboard but he/she does have to be experienced enough to command their respect and tough/savvy enough to keep them in check. He’s one of them, so he can get them moving sometimes when the deckhands are grumbling about the damn officers. He’s the Chief Mate’s right hand man. He can jump in and lead the deck force when the mate’s are tied up with other things or injured, sick, etc.


Ideally. But sometimes it’s whoever you can get to do it. Often the best candidates don’t want it. Also, it doesn’t have to be an AB. I have had good Bosns who didn’t hold AB, although they were very experienced and didn’t have AB because their eyesight had deteriorated to where they couldn’t meet the vision standard for AB.


Is it any different than the vision standard for anybody else?

I’m guessing he’s saying that OS, which isn’t rated to stand watch, has less stringent vision requirements.

I’m not trying to be a sarcastic ass here, even though it sounds like it.

Don’t we all have the same vision requirements? I know engineers can be color blind and mates can’t, but I wasn’t aware that an OS didn’t need 20/20 and an AB did?

I don’t really know. That was just what I inferred from his post.

Yes. See no. 19 in Table 1 to 46 CFR 10.302(a), there’s no vision test required for entry level endorsements. See also form 719 K/E, the medical form for entry level applications. it doesn’t include vision.

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Interesting to know. Thanks.

There’s no prescribed amount of time and it’s a rating, not a license. MSC promotes ABs who have demonstrated the ability fill the positions to Bosun Mate and Bosun. The ability of a candidate is based on performance evaluations and a SUPERVISORY ASSESSMENT FOR PROMOTION OPPORTUNITIES submitted by a chief mate or other supervisor in the chain of command.

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News to me on engineers. I hope these color blind engineers aren’t doing any electrical projects.

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That’s not entirely accurate. Engineers “need only the ability to distinguish the colors red, green, blue, and yellow.” See 46 CFR 10.305(b).

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For many years I was considered color blind and no way could I pass the pseudo isochromatic plate test ( the numbers in the circles). I could however pass the Farnsworth lantern test and can easily distinguish red, green, white, and amber lights. Had my Master’s license for 5 renewals with no problems.

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You’d likely have a license before making bosun if you’re that ambitious but some people can’t take tests or don’t want the responsibility or any number of reasons that they say on deck.

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Such as not having the required number of unlimited sea days to sit for a license test.

That’s not a reason people stay career deckhands though.

True. Not every AB wants to advance and take on more responsibility. Also applies to mates.

The German merchant marine did have a qualification for bosun and the subject matter covered was extensive. It used to be that the bosun would cover the mate’s cargo watch in port on general cargo ships with the mate available if needed. In later years I only found them on heavy lift ships where they were invaluable.

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And also to @dzikijohn since you specifically asked about MSC. I dug through some old files and found this:
1.pdf (474.3 KB) 2.pdf (472.5 KB) 3.pdf (493.6 KB) 4.pdf (250.4 KB)