What Merchant Mariners See In You


From my observation an ensign is about the same level as green third mate.

If the Navy operates the same way as the big cutters in the CG than what happens is all the officers are up during the day for operations, training and so forth. At night the senior officers all knock off and the ensigns stand watch at night. By contrast MM has the green third mate knock off at midnight and the more experienced second mate and C/M stand watch.

The Navy system is going to be stressed in the case of Japan coast wise if the ship crosses the coastwise traffic lanes after midnight.

As master I would not allow a green third mate to stand watch crossing the lanes, they lack the skills to do it safety.

My system can be “broken” in two ways, the first is if I am in an unfamiliar area and do not know when I should be on the bridge and the second is a back-up to failed planning, that the mate calls me when in heavy traffic or can not meet required CPAs.

The Navy system failed because of high tempo operations, planning should have anticipated crossing the lanes, increased tempo has also caused training to slip. Not sure why the “trigger” of the mandatory call to the CO in min CPA situation, might be a case of failed leadership.


Port/Starboard is the official and correct terminology and is used by American ships at sea. No need for you to join Humbugge’s “Yanks are retards” private club as suggested by your comment.
You can assure your English Scottish and Welsh compadres that the whistle terminology is only used in local inland waters or channels and your American pilot will not be confused by it.


I think that is a USN practice only, but point well made. That means even less exposure! Other navies I know, the XO is typically the one supervising the new junior OOW when transitting. And the XO is typically the one suggesting to the CO when the junior has proven him/herself worthy of unsupervised OOW duty.


No one who is familiar with US Inland rules, where those teams are used, will be confused by that.


Probably, but it was in the section where you were talking about the American Navy so I figured that was understood that I was talking about the US Navy.


But not for some reason for helm orders.


And how familiar with US Inland rules will the master & OOW of a foreign flag vessel coming up the Mississippi be? That leaves them totally in the hands of a pilot knowing what is intended which is very good practice.


I don’t believe that law is in effect now. Almost everywhere port & stbd are used. Occasionally a pilot will ask if we have a preference. I believe the origin of the law is the switch from tiller orders to wheel orders.

Typically the pilot will explain what passing arrangement have been made if there is any possibility of ambiguity.


If US pilots now using port & starboard for helm orders, instead of left/right it is only in last ten years since I last was in a position to hear them, from 1970s through 2006 I never heard one do so.

As for pilot having to explain what the words spoken in the standard language used at sea to someone who speaks that language does that not rather negate the purpose of the common language and the word “typically” indicates the problem, what happens when he “atypically” does not do so; then the captain/oow has to ask. Why make it all more complicated than it has to be.


It’s not complicated. Inland tugging is a huge industry which relies heavily on the ICW, which is a unique maritime environment. I’m sure Wikipedia has a good description of it.
Unlike on a blue water ship where you normally only encounter several contacts while transiting coastal areas or ship channels, on a tug it hardly ever lets up and you are more often than not in contact with one or more tugs transiting the same narrow confines of the “ditch”.
The ICW features twisty turns, shallow water, missing or displaced navigational buoys, daffy recreational boaters, swimmers and shore fishermen in summer, duck hunters in the fall, and in spring and fall an invasion of “snowbirds”, half of which are clueless WAFIs, tight locks, and sporty currents.
The passing arrangements were not designed to fiendishly confuse disoriented Europeans. They developed in a specialized industrial environment culminating in a shorthand out of necessity.


And it takes so much longer to say “port to port” or “red to red” rather than “one whistle”?


No longer than it takes to ask for a “fag” when you mean a “cigarette”. It is slang and colloquialism used amongst the local mariners of that area. As has been discussed extensively earlier in this thread.

If you are a foreign ship in US waters you will have a pilot engaged who will be deciphering it for you. Just like every other port in the world. My issue with the initial article was that it was describing an international traffic situation with the US Navy and suggesting that the Navy should use terms like “one whistle” or “I’ll see you on the one.” The terms exist in U.S. waters, the mariners in those waters understand the lingo, and they shouldn’t be used outside of the contiguous waters of the United States.


I agree, as long as the terms are used exclusively between parties that understand them there is no problem.
But it has been mentioned here earlier that some US mariners use such terms while operating “outside of the contiguous waters of the United States”.

This may apply specially to those working on OSVs in the GoM. This could represent a safety risk since there are foreigners transiting and working in that same area.

So, if we cannot expect that such habits will be easily changed, making foreign mariners aware of this phenomena and give them an understanding of the terms is the other option.


Well I would tend to agree but changing the habits of the entrenched ways of doing business in the Gulf of Mexico is not going to happen easily. Besides that, there are Vietnamese fishermen in those waters who are ostensibly US citizens but do not speak much English, if at all.

I think mariners who travel the world are well skilled in adapting to the area they are working in. If you have to learn the “Boudreaux” dialect when transiting the Gulf of Mexico, I’d consider it part of the challenge of this profession. Frustrating at times but part of the fabric that is this thing we call going to sea.


good time
I’m not being funny, or trolling here. It should be compulsory for ANY nationality, native English speaker or not, to know and use standard Maritime English term when communicating with other ships, VTS or Pilots.


Let’s hear from the good ol’ boys about having to take a $800 STCW compliant USCG approved Maritime English course, and then having to pass a Marlins test.

I wonder how many American seafarers might flunk the Marlins test?


Have you got any guesstimate you would like to share??


I suspect that the failure rate might be a bit higher south of I-10.

I have absolutely no training in Maritime English, and I sure as hell don’t want to spend $1000 on a course at some Mickey Mouse school in the US, but I’m confident that I would do well on the Marlins test.


It’s a 4-hour course. If it costs $800 you’re being gouged. Go elsewhere. Since this course has no special equipment requirements, it should cost less than a radar recertification course or a flashing light course, about $100 to $150.

Do you know of anyone actually charging $800, or is that a ridiculously exaggerated hypothetical to make a point?


Most USCG approved STCW courses don’t require any significant equipment beyond a rented room to hold the class in.

For example, the Leadership and Management course that I paid $1200 for requires no equipment. That does not stop various profiteering USCG approved schools from charging anywhere from a reasonable $600 to an outrageous $1500 for the course. Schools often give the excuse that the USCG approval process is what makes the courses so expensive.

An approved course like Advanced Firefighting requires a real facility, but some of them are primitive, poorly equipped, cheaply rented facilities. I recall an expensive USCG approved fighfighting course given at a Vo tech high school “fire facility.” The fire fighting gear was all cast offs from small volunteer fire departments. The turnout gear was too small, really dirty, and worn out, the water came out of an old fire truck that took forever to refill with a garden hose (no i’m Not kidding), and the instructor sucked. It was a complete farce and a ripoff, but we did receive the USCG approved certificates that we paid for. This course and facility should never have been approved.

I thought one school was clever when instead of renting a pool, they just took us to a boat ramp at a free public park and had us wade into the lake in our survival suits. It was actually a very well taught course that gave good tips and practice on the proper donning of several different brands of survival suits. That kind of proved that the instructor and a strong commitment to providing good training is more important than a fancy facility that just goes through the motions with a high profit motive.

I have not taken Fast Rescue Boat, but I’ve looked into it. I’ve seen courses from $300 to almost $2000. It requires some use of expensive equipment, yet many vessels have a rescue boat that could be used for low rent. How many students does it take to pay for a new rescue boat? Not that many at $1000 each.

Both the quality and cost of USCG approved courses needs to be addressed. In cases where the IMO model course is too flimsy, the USCG needs to require much more to make it worthwhile.