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USCG National Chief Mate Unlimited

License Description

The Chief Mate Unlimited is a licensed member and head of the deck department of a merchant ship. The chief mate is customarily a watchstander and is in charge of the ship's cargo and deck crew. The actual title used will vary by ship's employment, type of ship, nationality, and by trade. The chief mate is responsible to the Captain for the safety and security of the ship. Responsibilities can include the crew's welfare and training in areas such as safety, firefighting, search and rescue.


The STCW defines the Chief Mate as the officer next in rank to the Master and upon whom the command of the ship will fall in the event of the incapacity of the Master.

Required Examinations

Chief Mate Oceans or Near Coastal of Unlimited Tonnage

  • Rules of the Road: Inland and International
  • Deck General Part I
  • Deck General Part II
  • Deck Safety
  • Deck Safety: Stability Problems
  • Navigation General: Near Coastal
  • Navigation General: Oceans
  • Navigation Problems: Chart Plot
  • Navigation Problems: Near Coastal
  • Navigation Problems: Oceans

* Navigation General module will be either Near Coastal or Oceans depending on route requested

* Near Coastal routes do not take Navigation Problems: Oceans

* Raise of Grade: IAW 46 CFR 11.903(c) (1) Applicants Raising Grade from Chief Mate to Master may do so without further examination

* Increase in Scope: From Near Coastal to Oceans the following modules are required

  • Navigation General: Oceans
  • Navigation Problems: Oceans
General Requirements

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The applicant for an officer endorsement, whether original, renewal, duplicate, or raise of grade, must establish to the satisfaction of the Coast Guard that he or she possesses all the qualifications necessary (including but not limited to age, experience, character, physical health, citizenship, approved training, professional competence, and a test for dangerous drugs) before the Coast Guard will issue to him or her a merchant mariner credential (MMC). An applicant for any STCW endorsement must hold the appropriate national endorsement unless otherwise specified.

English language requirements.

An applicant for an Officer Endorsement must demonstrate an ability to speak and understand English as found in the navigation rules, aids to navigation publications, emergency equipment instructions, machinery instructions, and radiotelephone communications instructions.

Experience and service.

An applicant for a national officer endorsement must have at least 3 months of required service on vessels of appropriate tonnage or horsepower within the 3 years immediately preceding the date of application.

No original officer endorsement may be issued to any naturalized citizen based on less experience in any grade or capacity than would have been required of a citizen of the United States by birth.

Experience and service acquired on foreign vessels is creditable for establishing eligibility for an officer endorsement, subject to evaluation by the Coast Guard to determine that it is a fair and reasonable equivalent to service acquired on merchant vessels of the United States, with respect to grade, tonnage, horsepower, waters, and operating conditions. An applicant who has obtained qualifying experience on foreign vessels must submit satisfactory documentary evidence of such service (including any necessary translation into English).

No applicant for an original officer endorsement who is a naturalized citizen and who has obtained experience on foreign vessels will be given an original officer endorsement in a grade higher than that upon which he or she has actually served while acting under the authority of a foreign credential.


No officer endorsement may be issued to any person who is not a citizen of the United States with the exception of operators of uninspected passenger vessels that are not documented under the laws of the United States.

Physical examination.

Persons serving or intending to serve in the merchant marine service are encouraged to take the earliest opportunity to ascertain, through examination, whether their visual acuity, color vision, hearing, and general physical condition, are such as to qualify them for service in that profession. Any physical impairment or medical condition that would render an applicant incompetent to perform the ordinary duties required of an officer is cause for denial of an officer endorsement.

Applications for an original officer endorsement, raises of grade, and extensions of route, must be current and up to date with respect to service and the physical examination, as appropriate. Physical examinations and applications are valid for 12 months from the date the application is approved.

Character check.

An individual may apply for an original officer endorsement, or officer or STCW endorsement of a different type, while on probation as a result of administrative action. The offense for which the applicant was placed on probation will be considered in determining his or her fitness to hold the endorsement applied for. An officer or STCW endorsement issued to an applicant on probation will be subject to the same probationary conditions as were imposed against the applicant's other credential. An applicant may not take an examination for an officer or STCW endorsement during any period of time when a suspension without probation or a revocation is effective against the applicant's currently held license, merchant mariner document (MMD), or MMC, or while an appeal from these actions is pending.

If information about the applicant's habits of life and character is brought to the attention of the Coast Guard after an original license, certificate of registry, or officer endorsement has been issued, and if such information reasonably supports the conclusion that the applicant cannot be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities of the license, certificate of registry, or officer endorsement issued, or indicates that the application for the license, certificate of registry, or officer endorsement was false or incomplete, the Coast Guard may notify the holder in writing that the license, certificate of registry, or officer endorsement is considered null and void, direct the holder to return the credential to the Coast Guard, and advise the holder that, upon return of the credential, the appeal procedures.

Firefighting certificate.

Applicants for an original officer endorsement in the following categories must present a certificate of completion from a firefighting course of instruction that has been approved by the Coast Guard. The firefighting course must have been completed within the past 5 years, or if it was completed more than 5 years before the date of application, the applicant must provide evidence of maintaining the standard of competence in accordance with the firefighting requirements for the credential sought.

The following categories must meet the requirements for Basic and Advanced firefighting in Regulations VI/1 and VI/3 of the STCW Convention and Tables A-VI/1-2 and A-VI/3 of the STCW Code.

  • All National officer endorsements as master or mate on seagoing vessels of 200 GRT or more.
  • All STCW officer endorsements, except GMDSS radio operator.

Applicants for a raise of grade of an officer endorsement must have.

First-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course certificates.

Evidence of continued competency in STCW basic training or a certificate indicating completion not more than 1 year from the date of application from.

  • The American National Red Cross Standard First Aid course, or
  • American National Red Cross Community First Aid & Safety course; or
  • A Coast Guard-approved first-aid course; and

A currently valid certificate of completion of a CPR course from either—

  • The American National Red Cross;
  • The American Heart Association; or
  • A Coast Guard-approved CPR course.
Sea Service Requirements

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Recency – 90 days in the past 3 years on vessels of appropriate tonnage

MASTER Unlimited NC or Oceans

360 days of service as OICNW on Ocean/NC Great lakes steam or motor vessels while holding an endorsement as 2nd Mate.

NOTE: Service towards an Oceans, or NC will be credited as follows:

  • Service on GL will be credited day for day.
  • Service on inland waters, other than GL, may substitute for up to 50% of the total required service.
  • Service on vessels to which STCW applies (inland or NC) will be credited day for day.

The following are the requirements to acquire Unlimited Tonnage

All required service is on vessels of 100 GRT or more


50% of the required service is on vessels 1600 GRT or more.

A Tonnage Limitation may be issued if 50% of the required service is not on vessels 1600 GRT or more;

However, ALL required service MUST still be on vessels 100 GRT or more.

Tonnage limitation computation.

Limited to max tonnage on which 25% of experience is obtained, rounded up to the next 1,000 GRT,


Limited to 150% max tonnage which at least 50% of service was obtained rounded up to the next 1,000 GRT, WHICHEVER IS GREATER.

When the calculated limitation equals or exceeds 10,000 GRT, the applicant is issued an endorsement without a tonnage limitation.

Training Requirements

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Unless previously completed.

First Aid/ CPR (Course #143) (completed within 1 year)

Advanced Fire Fighting (Course #145) within 5 years of application date.

Radar Observer Unlimited (course #148)

Medical First Aid (course #153) and upgrade to MPIC (course #154)

Leadership and Management Skills (HELM – M) (Course #616)

VSO/ ISPS Security (Course #171)