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Updating your US National Endorsement Master’s License for STCW Compliance

01 Sep 2021 by Captain Ted Morley, COO

Some of the most popular licenses obtained by mariners in the US are the 100 Ton Master’s Licenses. This license is used on yachts, water taxis, excursion vessels, dive boats, and a host of other vessels. Also, we see many recreational boaters obtaining the license for decreased insurance requirements, increased skill, and knowledge, and even the ability to work part time on yachts or commercial vessels. Remember, a commercial mariner is anyone being paid to work on the vessel- no matter the nature of the vessel. That means if you are paid to skipper a 50’ yacht from Ft Lauderdale to Isla Mujeres, legally you are a commercial mariner on an international voyage and the Mexican Port State Control inspectors could ask you to produce your STCW credentials; the same as if you were working on a 50’ cargo vessel. The U.S. National license is issued as a “domestic waters only” credential as all licenses for international voyages must be STCW compliant for commercial mariners. Thankfully, there is a process for endorsing your Domestic Master’s license to become STCW compliant. The specific requirements for sea time and training are outlined under the STCW II/3- Master less than 500 GT, and the USCG NVIC 13-14.


U.S. Mariners seeking to obtain STCW endorsement for their license basically need to comply with CFR 46 11.317, 11.201, 10.301/302m and 11.302. There are assessments that are required, and these are outlined in NVIC 13-14. The STCW stipulates minimum training requirements that sometimes differ from the National or Domestic Endorsement; this is true in this case as there are additional training requirements- Medical First Aid Provider, Advanced Fire Fighting, Proficiency in Survival Craft & Rescue Boats, and Basic Training within 5 years. There are optional training courses, but these are only required if you are serving on a vessel with this equipment; these courses include ARPA, GMDSS, and ECDIS. Radar training is not required but Assessments 1.8.A and 1.8.B are required, most applicants chose to take a radar observer class to satisfy that assessment requirement.


 The sea service requirements are fairly straight-forward, you must have a minimum of 360 sea service under authority of your national license as the Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch. If you have been sailing as a mate, then you must have the full 360 days, if you have been sailing as Master then you need only to provide an additional 180 days as Master. The specific sea service requirements are outlined in Table 1 to CFR 46 11.317(d) and provide guidance for sea service, training, and assessment of competence. For those U.S. mariners seeking to work on vessels that travel internationally, it is important that you understand the STCW Code and the laws that you are operating under, please check with your school’s career counselors for guidance on how to comply with those laws.