This blog is to help inform all those newly licensed or wanting to be licensed captains out there. For Americans the US Coast Guard is the issuing and policing agency for merchant mariners (you have heard the term Merchant Marines? Turns out that is any licensed mariner). In order to make money on the water as a captain you must be licensed.
A license is issued with three types of limits. First is location. You can be licensed for Inland Waters which means you can operate all the way to the mouth of an ocean inlet (this includes rivers, lakes, the ICW, some bays, ect) or Near Shore which is all the inland waters plus the coasts of America out to 100-200 miles. The second type of limit is the number of passengers. You can be the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV– or nicknamed a “6-pack”), which allows you to carry no more than six passengers, or you can be a Master, which allows you to carry any number of passengers (although you are still limited by the number the vessel is certified to carry). The final limit is size, which is based on gross tonnage. Each vessel is certified by the USCG as a certain gross tonnage based on volume (length x width) and not actual weight (for example my boat is certified as 17 gross ton even though it weighs around 8 ton). This is all great as long as you stay in US waters. What I found out once I got to the Virgin Islands is I needed more certifications to work in foreign waters. I heard all kinds of rumors from I needed a British captain license to work in the BVI to I needed nothing more than what I already had. Let me help you understand what will be required of you.
In 1978 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) formed the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), which sets qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships (from huge cruise ships all the way to boats smaller than mine). It has since had two major modifications in 1995 and 2010. With that in mind I took the Basic Safety Training certification (the first of around 30 different certifications). This course includes CPR with the cpr training hamilton course, first aid, very basic firefighting (this made me miss my fire department), social responsibilities, and water safety (this was fun because we used survival suits and a life raft). This class is required of anyone employed on a vessel going to a foreign port from the captain all the way to chefs and stewards. The Captain School is the place to take the course here in the USVI. Captain John Holmberg is the owner of the school and teaches the CPR and first aid section, while Captain Jeff Mahl teaches the rest of the course (he use to train all the personal of Carnival Cruise Ships with the very same). Both were good and made the class enjoyable, plus they made me excited for three more classes offer, which are Crowd Management, Crisis Management (both of which are required for everyone on a vessel with 12 or more passengers), and Safety Officer (a vessel of 12 or more is required to have one person with this certification).
If this has helped your understanding of the licensing process please let others know with the share buttons and comment section. Thank you!