Mariner Licensing Basics

With regards to the 100 ton license and so-called rule beaters, this is two separate issue,s the Coast Guard is not a single monolithic organization. Presumably the people who determine vessel tonnage and the people who determine the minimum requirements for a 100 ton license are not the same people.

The Coast Guard is not the only party who is responsible to ensure that mariners are qualified. The vessel operator is responsible as well, a vessel with unqualified crew may not be seaworthy.

One of the issues I see with regards to mariners with small vessel experience moving to larger vessels is that the level of risk that is considered acceptable on smaller vessels is sometime not considered acceptable on a larger vessel.

As an example, on smaller vessels navigation is sometimes less formal then a larger one. On a large vessel voyage planning is more involved, if paper charts are used the track-line is laid down in advance and the mate on watch is expected to maintain a plot. In some cases mariners with small vessel experience consider the requirement to maintain a plot to be unnecessary and may even be offended when required to do so.

On the other hand I’ve had mates with a towing experience who are much more savvy then mates without.

K.C.

I certainly agree that mariners should have the broadest possible range of experiences and skill sets, and that different vessels in different trades, of different sizes, all require different skill sets. No practical licensing system can assure that everyone is actually qualified to do everything. However, that does not mean that real experience on small vessels is of absolutely no value, and should not be counted at all toward unlimited licenses, or that large tonnage vessel experience as an OS or AB (or even a mate), by itself, is a qualification to actually be the Master of a small vessel. Seamanship is seamanship. Once one has the skill set for one type of vessel, they should have the ability to learn the skill set for others much more quickly.

The fact that a deep sea 2nd Mate is automatically qualified (after a mickey mouse limited multiple choice exam) for Master 1600 is a joke.

The notion that a 22 year old academy grad with only 120 days of seatime on a training ship under his belt is qualified to be a 3rd Mate on an unlimited tonnage ship is also a joke.

The notion that a 40 year old,199 GRT tug master with10 years of ocean towing experience can never become qualified as 3rd Mate without spending three more years sweeping, mopping, chipping, and painting on a large tonnage ship is also a joke.

You make an excellent points about the acceptable levels of risk on larger vessels, and about the inadequacy of chart plotting customs on smaller vessels. Tug personnel are pushed into routinely taking risks that would never be acceptable on a ship. The inability of deep sea personnel to handle those same risks is why they often fail (sometimes with a panic followed by a crash). I learned a lot from my academy grad mates on tugs about how to keep a properly labeled plot like a deep sea ship. Not every small vessel mariner has had the opportunity. This points out the appropriateness of requiring some unlimited tonnage seatime and training for an unlimited tonnage license. These issues could adequately be addressed by six months of large tonnage seatime, and/or a good 30 day BRM and watchkeeping simulator course. But this concern does not require three more years of chipping and painting experience.

I have never taken a 100 ton license very seriously. It didn’t mean much years ago. It means a lot less now in this era of memorizing the outdated, well publicized, multiple choice questions. I have seen plenty of people with 100 tons licenses that could not even tie basic knots. The license doesn’t make the mariner.

There is a big difference between the fisherman’s son who has been tying knots and knocking about on boats since he was six years old, and the school teacher’s son who had never seen a boat before he arrived at KP, and only went to school there because it was free.

Most people would not think that sailing experience would be of any use in towing. However, I have noticed that tugboat men with sailing experience tend to know how to use the wind and the current to their advantage when handling barges much better than guys with no sailing experience. I have also noticed that deep sea experience is not adequate preparation for towing barges. One of the first things that the typical deep sea mate without much towing experience will do on a tug (if you don’t watch him like a hawk) is drag the tow wire on bottom by passing over shoals that are covered 10 or 15 fathoms.

Northern European licenses seem to garner more respect in international shipping circles than US licenses. Now that I see that the British MCA is counting seatime on “ships” as small as 24 meters or 80 GT for OOW licenses (the international equivalent of our 2nd and 3rd mate), it makes that USCGs refusal to count any 199GRT seatime at all toward 3rd Mate seem even more unreasonable.

It seems really bizarre that I cannot get a US 3rd Mate license, but that I can probably get a British OOW. I’m going to find out if I can.

I agree with you, especially since I have been that guy. When I started with the 100 ton license, I was running a seasonal tour boat. Very relaxed owner, sometimes too informal. Over the years, upgrades and different jobs later, I realized the importance of formality and procedure.

Above all, it is absolutely your responsibility to find out just how important/liable/responsible you now become with a license running a boat, having an OUPV or more. Being young and dumb didn’t help me any, but Thank God I had a decent head on my shoulders.

Still learning, and always respectful of those who take time to teach and pass their knowledge to me.

Sent from my SeaPhone using gCaptain.

[QUOTE=tugsailor;70500]I certainly agree that mariners should have the broadest possible range of experiences and skill sets, and that different vessels in different trades, of different sizes, all require different skill sets. No practical licensing system can assure that everyone is actually qualified to do everything. However, that does not mean that real experience on small vessels is of absolutely no value, and should not be counted at all toward unlimited licenses, or that large tonnage vessel experience as an OS or AB (or even a mate), by itself, is a qualification to actually be the Master of a small vessel. Seamanship is seamanship. Once one has the skill set for one type of vessel, they should have the ability to learn the skill set for others much more quickly.

The fact that a deep sea 2nd Mate is automatically qualified (after a mickey mouse limited multiple choice exam) for Master 1600 is a joke.

The notion that a 22 year old academy grad with only 120 days of seatime on a training ship under his belt is qualified to be a 3rd Mate on an unlimited tonnage ship is also a joke.

The notion that a 40 year old,199 GRT tug master with10 years of ocean towing experience can never become qualified as 3rd Mate without spending three more years sweeping, mopping, chipping, and painting on a large tonnage ship is also a joke.

You make an excellent points about the acceptable levels of risk on larger vessels, and about the inadequacy of chart plotting customs on smaller vessels. Tug personnel are pushed into routinely taking risks that would never be acceptable on a ship. The inability of deep sea personnel to handle those same risks is why they often fail (sometimes with a panic followed by a crash). I learned a lot from my academy grad mates on tugs about how to keep a properly labeled plot like a deep sea ship. Not every small vessel mariner has had the opportunity. This points out the appropriateness of requiring some unlimited tonnage seatime and training for an unlimited tonnage license. These issues could adequately be addressed by six months of large tonnage seatime, and/or a good 30 day BRM and watchkeeping simulator course. But this concern does not require three more years of chipping and painting experience.

I have never taken a 100 ton license very seriously. It didn’t mean much years ago. It means a lot less now in this era of memorizing the outdated, well publicized, multiple choice questions. I have seen plenty of people with 100 tons licenses that could not even tie basic knots. The license doesn’t make the mariner.

There is a big difference between the fisherman’s son who has been tying knots and knocking about on boats since he was six years old, and the school teacher’s son who had never seen a boat before he arrived at KP, and only went to school there because it was free.

Most people would not think that sailing experience would be of any use in towing. However, I have noticed that tugboat men with sailing experience tend to know how to use the wind and the current to their advantage when handling barges much better than guys with no sailing experience. I have also noticed that deep sea experience is not adequate preparation for towing barges. One of the first things that the typical deep sea mate without much towing experience will do on a tug (if you don’t watch him like a hawk) is drag the tow wire on bottom by passing over shoals that are covered 10 or 15 fathoms.

Northern European licenses seem to garner more respect in international shipping circles than US licenses. Now that I see that the British MCA is counting seatime on “ships” as small as 24 meters or 80 GT for OOW licenses (the international equivalent of our 2nd and 3rd mate), it makes that USCGs refusal to count any 199GRT seatime at all toward 3rd Mate seem even more unreasonable.

It seems really bizarre that I cannot get a US 3rd Mate license, but that I can probably get a British OOW. I’m going to find out if I can.[/QUOTE]

Well said - I know you’re right about deep sea mates dragging the wire on the bottom because I’ve done it.

As to your point about mariners with sailing experience, agreed, and I’ve made a similar observations about young mates with towing experience, they often have better sea sense then those without. It is possible to get a lot of deep-sea time on, for example, a container ship on the liner trade and remain almost brain-dead.

As to your point about picking up plotting from your academy mates - this is a separate issue but this is something where some hawepipe guys come up short. Seamanship is seamanship like you said but it is possible to master a job without understanding the principles that would enable them to shift to another sector. They sometimes are not able to step back and see the big picture. I think about the old-timer who taught me the Inside Passage, he didn’t care if he had a chart or not but if he was in an area he’d never seen he was lost.

I agree that it doesn’t make sense to sail AB to get a third mate’s license.

  • good post BTW.

K.C.

Excellent thread.

Thanks to the thoughtful contributors.

[QUOTE=tugsailor;70500]This points out the appropriateness of requiring some unlimited tonnage seatime and training for an unlimited tonnage license. These issues could adequately be addressed by six months of large tonnage seatime, and/or a good 30 day BRM and watchkeeping simulator course. But this concern does not require three more years of chipping and painting experience.[/QUOTE]

I don’t understand the thinking behind the current license structure but what you say above makes sense to me. The licensing system should be screening out the unqualified not holding back the qualified. You and I both know some mariners will never be able to cut it regardless of path and some mariners, given a little time and some help. will be able to figure it out anywhere. The third mate job is not that hard if you’re willing to learn. That’s the key, some mates seem unwilling or unable to catch on.

A brand new third mate out of school is not necessarily ready to stand a watch without lots of help. The good ones however are the ones can bring themselves up to speed quickly.

A new third mate that successfully completes a 90 day voyage around the world is not the same person they were when they signed on. Or if they are I don’t want them back.

K.C.

I have never taken a 100 ton license very seriously. It didn’t mean much years ago. It means a lot less now in this era of memorizing the outdated, well publicized, multiple choice questions. I have seen plenty of people with 100 tons licenses that could not even tie basic knots. The license doesn’t make the mariner.

There is a big difference between the fisherman’s son who has been tying knots and knocking about on boats since he was six years old, and the school teacher’s son who had never seen a boat before he arrived at KP, and only went to school there because it was free…I love this! I’ve learned more on tow boats in one year than container ship guys I know have learned in ten, no disrespect.

[QUOTE=Michojay;70575]I’ve learned more on tow boats in one year than container ship guys I know have learned in ten, no disrespect.[/QUOTE]

There is a lots of factors that determine how difficult a job is. It may be possible in some cases to work on a container ship without out being challenged professionally but on the other hand running safely through traffic at 20+ kts in the English Channel. or the Taiwan Straits to name a couple spots is not something that you can pick up in a watch or two. This is especially true when working in areas where you have no local knowledge.

The point is there are plenty of mariners in other sectors that could transition to deep-sea. How difficult it is depends upon the run, schedule, the tempo of operations and so forth. In some cases container ships can be very challenging.

K.C.

Agreed. On the other hand, running down the Columbia at 15+ k on the wire 500+ feet long just trying to stay in front of your barge is not something you can pick up in a watch or three either.

Bar crossings are an art unto themselves.

[QUOTE=Michojay;70602]Agreed. On the other hand, running down the Columbia at 15+ k on the wire 500+ feet long just trying to stay in front of your barge is not something you can pick up in a watch or three either.[/QUOTE]

The river is worthy of a lifetime of study. I’ve been told that when the tug is in “slow water” and the barge is in “fast water” you’re in trouble. The river changes with time of day, day of the week and tide and season. You’ve go to learn during the day and remember at night in many cases, then there is fog etc.

I’ve worked (briefly) on the Columbia as well. I’ve recently learned a little more about river navigation that greatly increased my appreciation for what it takes to run them.

Appreciation comes with understanding. What would the typical non-mariner see if they watched you work? Not much I don’t think. They might think you’re pointing up river one way and down the other. How hard can that be?

But mariners make this error as well. From time to time you run into an engineer that literally doesn’t know the first thing about operations and yet doesn’t have the slightest doubt they know far more then the mates . Remember this thread started by Allwyn?

A Captains skillset requirement today is much lesser than what was say even 15 years ago wih the advent of accurate Global positioning and easy to use Radar and navigational equipment and extremely accurate weather analysis.

The thing about this error is we only recognize it when someone else is making it, we don’t realize when we are doing it ourselves.

An example is working with pilots and tugs.I’ve read on this forum a number of times sailing deep-sea is easy because it only requires running from pilot station to pilot station. In fact most incidences occur with a pilot on board and that portion of the trip is often the most difficult part of the entire voyage. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never been to Shuabia as an example,

One problem with learning to sail deep sea is it’s hit or miss. You might find your self being mentored in apprenticeship type situations or you might get thrown into the deep end to sink or swim. (being a hawespiper and a tugboater on a deep-sea ship run by academy types increase the likelihood it will be the later situation).

I’ve no doubt many mariners in the towing sector would do very well deep sea but I don’ think you can fully appreciate how challenging it can be until you’ve experienced it.

K.C.

I love the part when he says"extremely accurate weather predictions" that’s classic. But seriously, I see where your coming from. Good points.