Should I Get DDE 4000 or Wait & Get My 3/AE

Greetings Everyone,
I’m currently sailing as Electrician/QEE with Military Sealift Command, however, upon reviewing my life goals for 2024, I don’t want to stay at sea for 4-6 months anymore. I want to switch to the commercial/union or GOM where i can do 28/28 or any of the short hitches.

I have all the QMED Endorsements except Pumpman/Machinist but I am too short on sea time to get my 3/AE. I was picking a friend of mine’s brain and he advised me to take the DDE 4000 class because it holds much value than the QMED ratings. I just want opinions, suggestions and advice. Should I take the DDE Class or wait till around next year to get my 3/AE? @tugsailor @Chief_Seadog @SeaEagle @Ctony Please i need your inputs. Thank you all

QMEDs are in high demand on OSVs these days. All you really need is ‘oiler’ so it sounds like you are good to go. Do you have basic training, able seafarer engine and rfpnw?

If you have the confidence to work a tugs engine room solo, some companies may hire you with what you have as an ‘unlicensed engineer.’

Either way getting the DDE or 3rd, you’ll be limited on where you can work without the oicew. Oicew is a pain in the ass to get these days. Money and time. I say have some patience and go big. Plan on getting your 3rd assistant license.


Thank you very much for the quick response. Yes I have all the basic training & security awareness endorsement, unlimited RFPEW (Steam, Motor/Diesel Electric & Turbine). I also have Able Seafarer-Engine & High Voltage (Electro Technical Rating) endorsements. All my endorsements are unlimited on vessels with at least 33,000 tons & 8,000 horse power

Well, i haven’t worked on a tug boat before but I’m an enthusiastic learner who is willing to take up challenges once opportunity is available. Which companies in the tug world are hiring unlicensed engineers now? I would like to talk to them to see my options.

I have already completed my OICEW assessment form for Motor/Diesel Electric. It got signed off last month by Cheng. I will definitely take my time and get the 3/AE if I can get an unlicensed engineer or assistant engineer gig. My friend said I could get Assistant Engineer on a tug boat because i have all these endorsements and trainings. Is that possible?

Any paperwork you can get helps, 3 parts to a DDE Limited exam, you should be out of the REC by 11am all done. Encountered alot of guys recently who paid thru the school and still a fuckwit engineer, buy the flash drive, when your consistently 90%+ go sit. Unlicensed tug positions are around, less and less, and the pay is typically alot shittier or your deckineer on a smaller boat.

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That is great angle and perspective you have directed me to. I will look into the thumb drive and possibly challenge the test per your recommendations.

My goal is learning and becoming a better engineer so what will be your recommendation for someone who is willing to learn and where the opportunity is at most? The unions, tug boats or GOM? I have learned a lot at Military Sealift Command, I’m happy here and the pay is alright for me. But sadly I can’t do 4-6 months hitches and the relief problems. It’s the only reason why I’m leaving.

When it comes to licenses, get all you can as soon as you can.

Most tug companies are very keen to hire engineers. QMED ratings are a big advantage. DDE is even better. You won’t have a problem finding jobs. The problem will be figuring out which offer to take.

The OSV companies are an obvious choice because they actually require QMEDs and have the 28/28 schedule you seek.

The drillship companies would be a similar choice.

I suggest that you also try the temporary agencies like Prime Ocean, Puglivich, Oceanwide, WRS, etc. That would give you a chance to try out a variety of different short term roles to find out what you like.


That class is long and probably expensive. Since you don’t appear to be in a big rush, maybe study on your own and take the exam from the Coast Guard for a small fee (compared to the course). Use the time and money to take the courses you are going to need for STCW when you go for 3rd AE.
The studying will also help for 3rd AE where taking a course is not an option.

If you are not doing so already, start getting the assessments for STCW officer in charge of an engineering watch signed off.


Hopefully you can get some of the training you seek on MSC’s dime.

MSC will either make him repay the cost of the courses if he doesn’t work as an engineer for them or more likely make him pay for the courses himself then reimburse him if he gets promoted and sails as engineer. (The second option is how they pay for Chief Mate classes.)

Don’t spend money on dde classes . Do some studying and take the test. From my personal experience, Electricity was most difficult module. For you it should be piece of cake.


Well noted. Thanks for your encouragement.

Yes that’s my plan to get most of the classes before I leave.

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Most of the classes at MSC is given at no cost to civmars. Quotas are given on merit, meaning you earn it and it doesn’t come with any service obligation. As far as you get approved to attend the class you are good to go and MSC pays for everything. Flight, hotel, rental car & food allowance.

The only time it comes with service obligation is when you go through self paid reimbursable training. That is if you pay for class yourself and you want to get reimbursed for it then it will come with obligation.

Sounds good. Well noted. Thanks

Why choose between the two licenses? Get enough sea time for the 3rd Asst Engineer and apply for both the DDE 4000 and the 3rd Asst Engineer. If you are disciplined enough to study on your own, the Mariner Advancement drive will get you through both without paying for the DDE class, travel, hotel, meals and transportation. The STCW endorsement for OICEW will be needed and there are a few classes required for that as well, not just assessments. You can find them on the checklist at the NMC’s website. Someone above mentioned OSV’s are hiring for both QMED and Asst Engineers (Chouest, Harvey, Hornbeck, Jackson,Tidewater etc). While working as a QMED on an OSV, you will basically be getting on the job training for the assistant engineer positions (while you are studyng). Having both licenses will come in super handy. The 3rd is the better license to obtain, but the DDE is great for when a downturn hits the gulf and you can fall back to working on tugboats without losing much of your day rate. A PIC endorsement is also an added bonus to pad your resume.

Get the biggest license you can possibly get. You won’t regret it, As a hawsepiper, had a really good dde (started as an OS with PIC) down below. I backed him up from week 3. Obtained a much higher license/endorsement through self study and some company help, as did I… The last chief engineer I sailed with.Rarely broke down, and if we did, got us going in fairly short time.We are still are in contact with each other as he is thankfully retiring. A lot harder these days without some help from whoever you are working for. .Make it right with them, they will perhaps make it right with you. I am done with sailing, but you seem like someone I would have welcomed on my vessel, and help promote.You know what is best for you. My CE did.

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