Need Help - Engineer License Process in the "Old" Days


I wanted to reach out to any of you guys out there with a Chief Engineer license who may be on a 6th or 7th or 8th issue. I am trying to gain an understanding of how the process worked then compared to now. Is the exam more difficult now? Was there an exam then? Was there any grandfathering of experience, etc? I am assuming that the process has changed quite a bit since the 70s, 80s, or 90s. If anyone has an idea of when the process changed, etc. that would be great as well. I am just trying to gain more of a historical reference of then vs. now. Thanks for any information that you all can provide. Have a good day.

The Remarkable Life of Victoria Drummond spends some time talking about the old way.

It has been multiple choice exams since he mid 70"s. (I want to say 1976) Before that it was essay. In other words it was questions and written answers.

I was friends with a retired CE who had started sailing during WWII. He mentioned that when he upgraded to CE it was two parts. The first part was a written exam. After passing that there was an oral exam where you answered questions in front of a panel. I can’t recall who made up the panel. He was still alive when I tested for CE and was shocked at how quickly the testing went. I drove down to the REC in the morning, took the five tests to upgrade to CE Motors and was home by lunch. It’s about 1-1/2 hour drive to the REC.

From '70 to '74 I tested for AB tugboat, electrician, oiler, tankerman grade B and ALG. Tankerman, I tested in San Diego and the others in Galveston. Just brought my discharges and cargo letter, filled out the applications and took the multiple choice exams. Dec 75, I sat for Chief M&O. Mailed my app and 12 hour sea service letter to NO and tested a week later. Around '78, I sat for Chief uninspected motor and Chief Motor towing. The uninspected test was multiple choice and the motor towing was essay. (Mine was the last Chief motor towing license issued. The motor towing and 1000 ton F&T Masters license were inspected). '80, I sat for 2nd Motor in Houston. At that time 3rd&2nd engineers and mates were tested on the 2nd week of the month. 1st&Chief and CM and Master were tested on the 3rd week if I remember correctly. I sat for 1st in '82 and Chief Motor in '85, same format.

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We still do it this way in Canada: all ranks, not just Chief.

I’ve was quite impressed with the thoroughness of the Canadian testing scheme, having worked with a few.

Does anyone know in the US in what year it changed so you did not have to test for 2nd A/E and C/E any more (ie: the 3rds exam got you 2nd after sea time, and the 1st exam got you C/E after sea time)?

the hell you say! :astonished: crawls under a pile of books to die

The first I heard of it was when my nephew graduated from TAMUG in 2015. I think it’s the best thing the CG has ever done in the licensing process.
@Emrobu the pile of books remains there to crawl through. The process is after you qualify to test for 3rd asst engineer, you take the 2nd asst exam. If you pass, you’re issued a 3rd license. After one year as 3rd, you apply to upgrade to 2nd with no test. Then with one year as 2nd, you Take the Chief’s exam to upgrade to 1st and so on…

Yeah your explanation is more accurate. Time wise though it was already that way in the early 2000’s.

February 1, 2002. The day after the close of the transition period to STCW95.
Policy Ltr 02-02.pdf (984.7 KB)


Keep reading. Do you want to be an engineer or a mechanic? Example; I was on a 6th generation drillship looking over a routine engine rebuild and the readings taken. When I got to the bolt stretch measurements for the big end bearings it was blank. I questioned the Chief Engineer who called the first engineer who said they were torqued to spec and they never measured bolt stretch. When I pointed out the manufacturer said the stretch was to be measured each time, the first and Chief said that was stupid as only torque mattered. An engineer would know why stretch is important,.

What an embarrassment. Of course when I started in O&G, also on a 6th Gen drillship, the Maintenance Supervisor didn’t hold so much as QMED endorsement, and the paper C/E was a lowly Mechanic who happened to have come from commercial shipping and didn’t realize his license was being counted for MSM.

I wouldn’t say I’m sad I never had to sit for an oral exam portion, but I’m pretty curious how that went. Like what were the questions? And who were the evaluators? Were they current/former C/E’s?

My dear old chief, when I was a cadet; he used to give me a question to ponder in the morning, and we’d all discuss my answer over dinner. One time he asked me ‘why do the foundation bolts have spacers? Why not use a shorter bolt?’ The answer is: because torque is only a proxy for stretch: longer bolt, more stretch, more clamping force. Deep sea gives you time to ponder the important things…

Chief’s questions, I’m not sure: I’m not there yet. But I can dig up some examples if you want. My examiner had been a chief, and then a maintenance supervisor: not on a rig, a shore position managing the engineering for part of a very large fleet. He proctored my simulator exam, too. I didn’t try, but I don’t think he can be bullshitted.

Thanks to all who replied! Appreciate the historical perspective. Have a great day.