Mariner Shortage

I recently spoke with a tug owner (5 boats). He said he has lost 3 captains to the Gulf in the past several months. He wants to hire asap, but remains unwilling to increase wages. His wages are about five years behind the times.

He complained about the expensive damage that some his captains are causing. Supposedly, that’s why he cannot afford to pay more. However, he’d rather hire marginal guys with a license that are too stupid or desperate to say no, rather than pay a little more for guys that are good.

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@jdcavo How many more unlimited deck licenses would be available for a sealift crisis if mariners with 1600-ton deck licenses could upgrade to an unlimited license while sailing on their 1600-ton license without having to jump through one of the few narrow potential loopholes? How would this sealift crisis landscape be changed by the removal of the requirement to serve on vessels greater than 1600-GRT in order to obtain an unlimited license?


That’s a good question.

Most countries apply limited tonnage seatime toward unlimited licenses.

I meet some Canadian and Mexican tugboat officers with unlimited licenses. I’m told that all of the Canadian OSV officers have unlimited licenses.

Many of us with limited US national licenses have
Unlimited STCW (3000 GT or more).

Third mate unlimited is an entry level license for kids fresh out of school with little or no bonafide seatime. It’s ridiculous that someone with Master 1600/3000 or Master of Towing does not automatically receive Third Mate too.


Technically, we do too. Only half the required 1080 needs to be on vessels 1600 grt and greater. The rest can be on vessels over 100. I’ve been thinking about doing this myself, but I would get the 2000 grt limitation…then I would need to sail on something between 1600-1999 grt to remove it.

Since I already hold Mate OSV, and if I had a 3rds license I would probably be on an OSV anyway, I’ve been indecisive about pulling the trigger on this.

A 2nd mate unlimited can take a short test to get 1600 grt master. Ashame a 1600 grt master can’t take a shortened test for the 3rd. Just sayin.’


As far as I know only 1600-1999 vessels are a couple fishing trawlers that were grandfathered

You can sit for Master inland (you will probably get a tonnage limit, but some guys don’t), then you can sit for 2nd mate (you will get a tonnage limit).

It’s been changed to two tests. Q130 and Q131 iirc.
Advanced stability and the 70q crossover general knowledge one.


If you can only train half the people you get maybe you shouldn’t have your job either.

Anyone that took the Mate 1,600 exams after January 2002 has already taken the 3rd Mate exams.

His point was that you don’t need ANY time over 3,000 GT to get unlimited licenses in many (most?) other countries.

Or make the rule 1,080 days of sea time as mate or master on vessels greater than, let’s say 200 GRT, is qualified for 3rd Mate Unlimited (no tonnage restriction).

Which is it’s own level of bullshit. One year as mate isn’t enough experience to be truly qualified to run master. At least they don’t get STCW Master without a decent amount of sea time so their 1,600 ton master is useless (as long as the company knows the rules).


Doesn’t do me much good since I did the 500 grt/1600 grt master route.

Still on the fence on whether to make the commitment on it…if the calculation made the tonnage limit say 3000 grt instead of the 2000 grt it would make it an easier decision for me.

You can, most likely, get a dual tonnage, 2,000 GRT/ 4,000 GT limitation. That way most large OSVs are under your limit and will count towards removing your limit.

Or, use your Master 1,600 to get Master Unlimited Inland and use that to get 2nd Mate Unlimited (with a tonnage limit).

Or, sail on your unlimited tonnage Mate OSV until you’re sailing as Chief Mate on an OSV and use that chief mate time towards Master Unlimited.


Several years ago I was building small but tough generators for export primarily to the Caribbean and Central America. The business grew beyond what myself and the other owner could handle. We needed fairly low skill workers, welders, lathe operators for cutting down armatures after dipping, painters and the like. Couldn’t find any locals that would show up on a regular basis and we were paying the prevalent wage for the jobs. The local folks weren’t interested in learning or were baked half the time. We ended up hiring recent immigrants with dubious immigration status. They were great and where their skills were lacking we sent them to training courses which they did in their off time with minimum pay. We paid them a percentage of profits in addition to wages just as we had offered the local guys. We moved some of the operation to the DR but eventually we sold the S. Florida business to the original workers and they did much better than us because they had the contacts for labor and sales. NONE of the native born S. Floridians worked out which was especially disgusting to my business partner as he was born in Key Largo


Didn’t realize the 2000 grt had a 4000 gt along with it. That changes things up a bit.

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It wasn’t automatic, I had to argue to get mine. I don’t know how it is now but if you have time on boats measured under ITC tonnage you should be able to get it if you ask.


No matter how you skin that 1600-GRT/unlimited cat the current state of affairs is one that very obviously needs to change.

What say you, @jdcavo, how much of a pipe dream is that for mariners sailing on a 1600-GRT and one day hoping to obtain a non-restricted U/L license?


I agree…but I guess there are options for me. Either push to sail on my mate OSV to get the unlimited tonnage or go back to sailing as an AB for a bit (this would be a bad financial decision for me right now.)

…and then there is the master inland - 2nd mate path that was mentioned. That would involve two full tests though from what I can see. Oh decisions, decisions, decisions…


Round up your combined tug and barge seatime. You probably already have a lot of unlimited tonnage time.

Use a good license consultant to help you present that combined tug and barge seatime to increase the likelihood that the incompetent evaluators at NMC will accept it.

I’d say attach photos of ATBs that make them look like ships. Same for conventional tugs made up in push gear. Talk about “the tug/barge unit xxx/yyy with a combined GRT and/or GT of zzzzz.”

It’s probably best to put the tug/barge units in a table with the official number and GRT/GT of the tug and barge and the combined GRT/GT of the tug/barge unit. Do anything you can to visually or psychological combine the tug/barge units.

Attach a copy of the CFR that requires them to give you combined tug/barge tonnage credit to your seatime.

Rounding up this combined tug/barge seatime is a lot of work, at least it was for me. I certainly didn’t get it all, not even 1/4 of it, but you only need 240 (12 hour) days of it.


That only counts for 50% of the required time over 1600-GRT.

I haven’t looked it up in a while but just off the top of my head I believe the CFR reference is 46 CFR Part 11.210(d) or something close to that, or at least it used to be. Not sure if it’s changed since then.

Most of my tug/ATB time is as an engineer…but I am back in the wheelhouse now so I’ll definitely take your advice if I decide to submit an app down the road.

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You can use 25% of your engine room time toward a deck license.

You can use wire tug , or inland pusher tug, combined tug and barge seatime. That fits the rules, it’s just harder to convince the NMC evaluators to follow the rules.

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