What KP Should Be

Get away from all the complaints about KP for a minute and be positive and suggest what it should be instead. My idea: cease the four-year college thing. That’s done well enough in the state schools. Instead, focus on creating licensed mariners, not college degrees.

The NMC is already contemplating making an easy, direct path from 1600 ocean master to third mate. So, the new KP would specially train for 1600 licenses, and in doing so also generate third mates, from a whole other stream of citizens.

The key to the program: all students must have four years of experience as an AB. Proving they are interested in staying in the profession. Also, it means no kids. Every trainee would be a legal adult, with their brains and their future ideas more fully formed.

The government would pay for their training, the provision being that they sail under their license for X amount of years, which would be a more sure thing than at present because the trainees would have already proven their interest by prior employment.

No regiment, no military aspect. If that is desired, go to a state school. Fewer training cruises, because they already have some experience.

The main goal: increase the number of licensed personnel by utilizing another stream of potential. The same can be done with engineering licenses. First find the people who are actually going to stay the longest in the profession, then spend the money on training them.


Speaking from the engineering side, the 4-year degree is beneficial both because you have theory to fall back on in strange or unfamiliar situations, and you have a good shoreside earning potential in the (common) case of disability, change in family situation, etc.

If there are hands-on deficits (there are a few common ones) they can be addressed better in the lab and in continuing education than on the ship. Except for cadets the ship can often be a terrible learning environment because you’re given your one job that takes up your whole day and you do it every day all day until you get off.

More support for hawsepipers would be good but I don’t think it needs to be a one or the other thing.

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I don’t think KP should change its current mission, which is to produce mariners/navy reserve officers who sail on US flag ships and in a time of war have an obligation to crew certain vessels.

What should change is that there shouldn’t be waivers for junior officers to sail foreign/on oil rigs/ skip out on their obligation to sail. If the economy sucks and there’s no jobs then sure, I understand. But there should be a proper channel to go through showing you’re at least attempting to sail US Flag.

They should owe 10 years to MARAD sailing as an officer on a US flag ship and should they not do that then there should be real consequences. What’s the point of tax payers paying for your education for you to fuck off to some finance job or get an MBA and have nothing to contribute to the USMM? You went to the USMMA for christs sake.

queue that one guy comments on how his kid had a gig tracking the guys who skipped out and there weren’t many and it wasn’t fun

This is a nice idea on paper, and my experience is purely anecdotal, but most of the AB’s I come across that I personally think would make great mates have no interest in upgrading. Whether it be the school part, the taking time off of work part, or just that they don’t want the responsibility. I’m not sure the labor pool for that specific a person is big enough to justify having an entire college for it.

Plus, doesn’t SIU offer the classes to upgrade? I know they have a program in conjunction with AMO where your benefits/retirement carries over. Obviously that’s union funded not government, but the government/company/whoever can always just sponsor an AB to take their classes and upgrade.

Until the Commander in Chief is running for re-election and needs your votes, then he can waive this just like the other billions in student loans…The obligation should be the same at all of the academies, I believe that is 5 years direct service.

Well it’s the MERCHANT MARINE Academy, so sure, 5 years of direct service in the US Merchant Marine. Difference is that only means 6 months a year for them vs the other service academies where they actually “work” every day.


Im not going to pretend to know what an USAF/USSF officer does, but a quick google search says a 40 hour week is typical. The least ive ever worked is 56 hours one time, but with 80 hours being typical out here i think it averages out to full time work in my opinion.

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Does the equivalent of an ensign in the USAF make the same money as a 3M? I’m not sayin they need to be active duty for 5 years.

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16x7 is supposedly typical when deployed, so 112hr week for USAF.

But on average over 5 years, how often are you deployed?

  1. If the “merchant marine” are just those mariners that work on the less-than-100 unlimited tonnage commercial US vessels, then the MM will continue to be a shrinking workforce. Because that group of vessels is just going to shrink, as it has for the last 50 years. Until it’s down to three members from different unions arguing over how the other guys’s pension plans sucks.

  2. If the “merchant marine” is anyone with a 200-ton license or greater then it’s doing just fine and has a large number of mariners to draw upon in time of war.

  3. I was at NMERPAC conference recently (invited by a frequent contributor here :wink: ) and heard a fascinating thing. A mariner made a great pitch for making a 1600-ton master license equivalent to an unlimited 3rd mates license with no additional testing. There was some push back from other attendees, but at the end the session the idea was adopted as a proposal to NMC. If it makes it way into reality then expect a whole lot of new 3rd mates from an unexpected quarter.

  4. If the road exists then lean into it. Create more 1600-ton masters, and in doing so increase more 3rds. Everyone wins. Stop saying the MM are only members of an ever-shrinking unlimited tonnage club and start expanding the club by creating new members.

  5. If there are Marad rules in the way, change them. Marad is a just a government agency, and agencies change rules all the time. Marad was designed to handle a 1000-ship fleet. It is a dinosaur, dealing with 84 ships now and fewer next year, and the year after that. Whereas there are plenty of tugs and OSVs. So, change Marad’s perspective.


There is no meaningful average, it depends entirely on job, branch, and era. There were guys who basically spent the whole Iraq war deployed and guys who served through most of GWOT and deployed for 3 months.

The downside to active (other than the killing/dying part) is that your time at home is always going to be a work week and not vacation. The upside is for officers they do get some variety instead of grinding it out for 30 years in a series of similar purifier rooms like a career second will

Are any of the reserve fleet ships 200 tons or under? I know you or another frequent commenter is going to say that a 200 ton master could figure it out and that may be true, but it could also end in disaster.

[quote=“freighterman1, post:10, topic:69863”]
A mariner made a great pitch for making a 1600-ton master license equivalent to an unlimited 3rd mates license with no additional testing. There was some push back from other attendees, but at the end the session the idea was adopted as a proposal to NMC. If it makes it way into reality then expect a whole lot of new 3rd mates f
2M unlimited used to be equivalent. Are we basically going back to that? Or is it a one way street where an only 1600 master can get the other ticket?

Who’s saying this?

To do what exactly? What should it change to? What interest does it have in the tug and barge/OSV/Ferry/Fishing vessel world? Currently it manages the ROS fleet among other things. Can’t carry much cargo on OSV’s or barges compared to a 900 ft LMSR.

Are there not six state MMA, all with regiments turning out mariners suitable for reserve ships? Are all of them at max capacity? They are, from a certain aspect, factories for turning out product, and there seems to be overcapacity. If there is overcapacity, shut down a factory and increase capacity elsewhere. Then re-tool the factory for another product.

No one is saying 200-ton masters will run 10,000 ships. But give an easier road to 200-ton masters to get to unlimited tonnage and you will have more unlimited masters. If that’s what we really want.

I am. Are the number of mariners exclusively involved with the unlimited tonnage fleet shrinking or growing? Seems to me it must be shrinking, because the number of vessels is shrinking. But somebody convince me otherwise.

Don’t know about the past. And can’t guarantee the future. But right now there is no way to go from 1600 ton-master to 3rd mate, without sailing as AB again. The proposed change would make a 1600-ton master also a 3rd mate. (By the way, the present test for 1600 master is more comprehensive than that for a 3rd mate).

It has no interest now, because it serves an ever-shrinking constituency, instead of serving a much larger constituency and making use of its potential. Marad’s job should be to promote and foster commercial shipping as it is now, and not as it was 50 years ago. Marad oversees MMAs and take care of the reserve fleet. At one time Marad did big things, like design ships and manage subsidies, and actually promote the merchant marine in a big way. Instead, its brief gets smaller every year. Its footprint in the economy gets smaller every year, and because of that the MMs political power gets smaller every year. You want more political power? Increase the size of your constituency. KP could be a focal point for that.

I suggested the term “merchant marine” include anyone with a 200 license or greater. Why is that a radical thought? They have a merchant mariner credential–it says it right in the title.

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Based on the Mariner shortage we recently had it seems like no, they’re not. Or at least not ones who want to sail. There’s another thread about Cal Maritime going bankrupt. I can’t speak for other Academy’s but Mass has alternative majors that make up the majority of the student body. One year we didn’t have enough senior deckies to fill out a “watch team”.

My question was who is saying a 200 ton master is not a merchant mariner? Google the definition. They all are and I haven’t seen someone make the case that they’re not?

By turning into a factory for a license that you can get at a NorthEast Maritime or Bluewater or any of the other smaller schools? These programs already exist. KP serves (in theory) what it was designed too. It spits out mariners qualified to man a specific fleet when needed. When they’re not needed they’re supporting the current USMM.

It’s not. I think you are confusing the two terms. We Merchant Mariners work in the Merchant Marine. Merchant Marine is the industry, merchant Mariner is the person sailing in said industry. I’m not sure who’s not including them?

Well good. Once again two great minds are in agreement. :slightly_smiling_face: We agree that anyone with a MMC is a merchant mariner.

My particular view is that MARAD (the Maritime Administration) should promote and foster the entire industry and not just a sector of it.

I have a few great ABs who need a license prep school to get their 1600 ton mates. Crawfords is gone. (I weep). PMI doesn’t do the same thing. Says the do, but they don’t. Ditto the school in Oregon. They don’t need an apprenticeship. We supply that. They don’t need a for-profit school fleecing them.

We’re not the only company that has people in the same situation. Ideally, MARAD would be the organization that would see the problem and solve it.

Why not have a national school to turn ABs with the requisite seatime into 1600 ton mates in two months of prep and testing . Then, after they get enough seatime to be 1600 master they go back to KP (or wherever) , take their masters/3rd mates test.

Now you have a bunch of 3rd mates you didn’t have before. Then KP can do what it already does: get them a few months work on an unlimited ship. That’s part of the agreement for public-paid training.

After which the officer goes back to limited tonnage work. Or maybe stays on the unlimited side. Either way you have a group of officers ready for anything in case of war. A bigger group than you would have with the present system because you would have tapped into a different vein of talent. And they wouldn’t be one-trick ponies.

Everybody wins.

Right now commercial shipping in the US is divided into tribes. A national school that serves the entire industry would be a good way of changing that.


I really like this idea, that really is a logical step in advancement, if you get to a top of one ladder, a step onto the next ladder is what makes sense. Althought I too was once a 3rd mate who knew everything, but it’s not like the bar is exceptionally high in terms of expectations of a 3rd mate, or that someone at a maritime academy whispered the secretes to seafearing that a 1600 ton master would never know.

I’m not sure how I feel about the inverse being true, where a 3rd mate’s license would be automatically the equivalent of a 1600 master. 360 days as Mate of Towing vessels is good enough for me of a hoop to jump through, or the 2M crossover. Still wouldn’t be able to get the STCW equivalent without the C/M classes.

If the govt is going to pay for my time at the public school then sure. We had the MMR program in place that had similar service requirements as KP for those who wanted the govt to foot the bill during my time at a state school.

Personally I think KP grads should spend 6 years actively sailing with MSC. If there aren’t enough officer positions then they sail unlicensed. Switch MSC to a schedule and pay/benefits similar to commercial shipping.

I feel strongly that if the govt is footing the bill then there should be a real service requirement. Of all of the service academies KP is the only one that allows the service obligation to be completed with reserve duty.

Doesn’t MARAD still provide loans (or loan guarantees) for small shipyards that build and repair vessels under 1600 GRT?

Small shipyards also recently got substantial grants from the Biden Administration.

Doesn’t MARAD also finance the construction of small vessels under 1600 GRT?

Last I heard there were 50,000 credentialed mariners. Of which about 5000 are employed on deep sea vessels over 1600 tons.
The number of mariners “sailing” on unlimited tonnage vessels is at most 10% of the industry.

I say “sailing” in quotes because many of them are on vessels that rarely get underway. They don’t have much actual sailing experience.

It’s the same situation with the guys on drill rigs who crew change by helicopter. Their only “sailing” is experience is staying stationary on DP.

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Force all KP grads to work for MSC for 5 years. Manning crisis solved, and KP obligation skirting shut down. Easy!


It didn’t sound too me like that was part of the proposal.