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Merchant marine officer

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Title: Merchant marine officer  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Officer, United States Merchant Marine, Frank Worsley, Harold Lowe, MV Finnbirch
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Merchant marine officer

A licensed mariner is a person who holds a license issued by one or more countries to hold senior positions aboard ships, boats, and similar vessels. The United States Coast Guard grants licenses to members of the United States Merchant Marine in five categories: deck officers,[1] engineers,[2] staff officers,[3] radio officers,[4] and pilots.[1] The United States Coast Guard has replaced paper licenses with the Merchant Mariners Credential which is a combination of the former Merchant Marine Officers license and Merchant Mariners Document in a small book that looks similar to a passport.

In the UK the Maritime and Coastguard Agency issue licenses, known as Certificates of Competency, in a similar fashion under the amended STCW convention.

Mariners that do not have a license are referred to as unlicensed mariners or ratings.

Several States within the United States issue a state mariners license for use upon non-federal inland waters. Most of these states honor USCG Merchant Marine licenses as an alternative to state licensing. State licensing programs closely follow the federal guidelines for issuance of these licenses, including the requirements concerning professional maritime training and experience.

Deck officers

There are a wide variety of licenses for deck officers, with restrictions of geography and tonnage. Licenses without such restrictions are called unlimited as in Third Mate or Officer of the Watch, Unlimited. The grades of unlimited licenses are:

  • Master's License for masters and lower grades.
  • Chief Mate's License for chief mates and lower grades.
  • Second Mate's License qualifies the holder as second mate or third mate.
  • Third Mate's License qualifies the holder as third mate.

Mariner licenses range from large to small vessels. Smaller charter boat operators may have a charter boat license or a certificate under the Large Yacht Code.


Licenses are issued in the grades of:

Staff officers

Staff officers are issued a Certificate of Registry in the following grades:

Radio officers

  • Radio officer


Pilot licenses vary with tonnage and geography. Types of pilot's licenses are:

  • General routes (routes not restricted to rivers, canals and small lakes)
  • River routes
  • Canal and small lakes routes


See also

Nautical portal
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