Participating or attempting to participate in almost any conversation about the licensing (credentialing) of mariners can be perplexing. STCW, ARPA, GMDSS, BST, MMD (now MMC), OICNW, OCMI, DDE, RFPNW, RFPEW, OUPV, COTP—it’s an alphabet soup. We will try to keep the acronyms to a minimum, but since this is not always possible, here is a list of some common abbreviations and definitions you are likely to encounter.
Able-Bodied Seaman (Able-Seafarer) is a rating that allows the holder to work in an unlicensed capacity on a vessel.The endorsement requires training and/or examination. The Able-Bodied Seaman is a National Credential issued to qualified deck personnel. The AB is not an officer. STCW recognizes two types of AB, Able-Seafarer Deck and Able-Seafarer Engine.
Apprentice Mate (Steersman) of towing vessels designates a mariner qualified to perform watch-keeping duties on the bridge, while in training onboard a towing vessel under the direct supervision and in the continuous presence of a master or mate (pilot) of towing vessels.
Approved, unless otherwise specified, indicates approved by the Coast Guard.
Articulated tug barge or ATB means any tug-barge combination which through the use of an articulated or “hinged” connection system between the tug and barge allows movement in one axis or plane in the critical area of fore-and-aft pitch. See this link for a description of the difference between an ATB and an ITB (Integrated Tug and Barge).
Assistant engineer, for domestic endorsements, is a qualified officer in the engine department other than the chief engineer.
Assistance towing means towing a disabled vessel for consideration.
Barge means a non-self-propelled vessel as defined in 46 USC 102.
Boatswain (Bosun), the leading seaman and immediate supervisor of the deck crew, supervises the maintenance of deck gear. “Boatswain” is not a credential, but an assignment on each vessel.
Boundary lines are specified in 46 CFR Part 7.
Chief Engineer means the senior engineer responsible for the mechanical propulsion and the operation and maintenance of the mechanical and electrical installations of the vessel.
Chief Mate means the deck officer next in rank to the master and upon whom the command of the vessel will fall in the event of the incapacity of the master.
Coastwise voyage is a domestic voyage and means a voyage in which a vessel proceeds:
- From one port or place in the United States to another port or place in the United States;
- From a port or place in a United States possession to another port or place in the same possession, and passes outside the line dividing inland waters from the high seas; or
- From a port or place in the United States or its possessions and passes outside the line dividing inland waters from the high seas and navigates on the high seas, and then returns to the same port or place.
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the official annual compilation of all regulations and rules promulgated during the previous year by the agencies of the United States government, combined with all the previously issued regulations and rules of those agencies that are still in effect.
Conviction means that the applicant for a merchant mariner credential has been found guilty, by judgment or plea by a court of record of the United States, the District of Columbia, any State, Territory or possession of the United States, a foreign country, or any military court, of a criminal felony or misdemeanor or of an offense described in section 205 of the National Driver Register Act of 1982, as amended (49 USC 30304). If an applicant pleads guilty or no contest, is granted deferred adjudication, or is required by the court to attend classes, make contributions of time or money, receive treatment, submit to any manner of probation or supervision, or forgo appeal of a trial court’s conviction, then the Coast Guard will consider the applicant to have received a conviction. A later expungement of the conviction will not negate a conviction unless the Coast Guard is satisfied that the expungement is based upon a showing that the court’s earlier conviction was in error.
Credential means any or all of the following: Merchant Mariner’s Document (MMD), License, STCW endorsement, Certificate of Registry or Merchant Mariner Credential.
Dangerous drug means a narcotic drug, a controlled substance, or a controlled-substance analogue (as defined in section 102 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970 (21 USC 802)).
Day means, for the purpose of complying with the service requirements of the USCG manning regulations, 8 hours of watchstanding or day-working not to include overtime. On vessels authorized by 46 USC 8104 and 46 CFR 15.705, to operate a two-watch system, a 12-hour working day may be creditable as 1½ days of service. On vessels of less than 100 GRT, a day is considered as 8 hours unless the Coast Guard determines that the vessel’s operating schedule makes this criteria inappropriate; in no case will this period be less than 4 hours.
Deck department means the department aboard a ship responsible for navigation, cargo, command, and control functions.
Designated Duty Engineer (DDE) means a qualified engineer, who may be the sole engineer on vessels less than 500 GTwith a periodically manned engine room.
Designated Person Ashore (DPA) is a person or persons not on the vessel but having direct access to the highest level of a company’s management. As described in the International Ship Management Code,the responsibility and authority of the Designated Person should include monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each ship and ensuring that adequate resources and shore-based support are applied as required.
Document of Continuity is a document issued by the Coast Guard to seafarers who are unwilling or otherwise unable to meet the requirements of 46 CFR 10.227(g). The DOC’s sole purpose is to maintain an individual’s eligibility for renewal of an endorsement. If a mariner’s credential has expired and is running out of time on its one-year grace period, we recommend the mariner apply for a Document of Continuity which will allow the mariner to renew the credential at a later time beyond the grace period. Once the grace period has expired on a credential, the license is gone. The DOC allows it to be resuscitated.
Domestic officer endorsement was the former name for what is now called a National Officer Endorsement. The National Officer Endorsement is an annotation on a merchant mariner credential that allows a mariner to serve in the capacities listed in 46 CFR 10.109(a). The officer endorsement serves as the license and/or certificate of registry pursuant to 46 USC Subtitle II Part E.
Domestic rating endorsement was the former name for what is now called a National Rating. As such it is an annotation on a merchant mariner credential that allows a mariner to act in those capacities set out in 46 CFR 10.109(b) and (c).The rating endorsement serves as the merchant mariners document pursuant to 46 USC Subtitle II Part E.
Domestic voyage means a voyage from one United States port to another United States port, without entering waters under the jurisdiction of another country. This includes a “voyage to nowhere” that returns to the originating port.
Drug test means a chemical test of an individual’s urine for evidence of dangerous drug use.
Dual-mode integrated tug and barge describes an Integrated Tug Barge (ITB) involving an articulated (flexible) coupling system where the towing unit rolls and heaves (articulates) about a horizontal pivot point. Dual mode units resemble a conventional tug and are capable of towing in other configurations (astern or alongside).
Endorsement is a statement of a mariner’s qualifications, which may include the categories of officer, staff officer, ratings, and/or STCW appearing on a merchant mariner credential.
Engine department means the department aboard a ship responsible for the main propulsion and auxiliary systems as well as other mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and refrigeration systems, including deck machinery and cargo-handling equipment.
Entry-level mariner means a mariner holding no rating other than ordinary seaman, wiper, steward or steward’s department food handler (FH).
First assistant engineer means the engineering officer next in rank to the chief engineer and upon whom the responsibility for the mechanical propulsion and the operation of maintenance of the mechanical and electrical installations of the vessel will fall in the event of the incapacity of the chief engineer. Note that the 1st Assistant Engineer US is the equivalent of the 2nd Assistant Engineer in the European system.
Great Lakes (GL) means the Great Lakes and their connecting and tributary waters, including the Calumet River as far as the Thomas J. O’Brien Lock and C
ontrolling Works (between mile 326 and 327), the Chicago River as far as the east side of the Ashland Avenue Bridge (between mile 321 and 322), and the St. Lawrence River as far east as the lower exit of St. Lambert lock. For purposes of requiring merchant mariner credentials with rating endorsements, the connecting and tributary waters are not part of the Great Lakes.
Gross register tons or GRT means the gross ton measurement of the vessel under 46 USC Chapter 145, Regulatory Measurement.
Gross Tonnage (GT) is actually a volume measurement rather than a weight. GT means the gross tonnage measurement of the vessel under 46 USC Chapter 143, Convention Measurement.
Harbor assist means the use of a towing vessel during maneuvers to dock, undock, moor, or unmoor a vessel, or to escort a vessel with limited maneuverability. This term refers to towing vessels assisting ships rather than to assistance towing vessels assisting yachts and recreational boats.
Horsepower or HP means the total horsepower of the entire vessel’s main propulsion machinery as determined by the manufacturer.This term is used when describing a vessel’s propulsion power and also when placing limitations on an engineer’s officer license or endorsement.One horsepower equals 0.75 kW.
IMO stands for the International Maritime Organization.
Increase-in-scope means additional authority added to an existing credential.
Inland (I) means the navigable waters of the United States shoreward of the Boundary Lines as described in 46 CFR Part 7, excluding the Great Lakes and, for towing vessels, excluding the Western Rivers. For establishing credit for sea service, the waters of the Inside Passage between Puget Sound and Cape Spencer, Alaska, are no longer designated as Inland waters. Sea-time on these waters is now credited as Near Coastal. For clarity, the northern boundary of Puget Sound is defined in the Coast Pilot as formed, at its main entrance, by a line between Point Wilson on the Quimper Peninsula and Point Partridge on Whidbey Island; at a second entrance between West Point on Whidbey Island, Deception Island, and Sares Head on Fidalgo Island; at a third entrance, at the South end of Swinomish Channel between Fidalgo Island and McGlinn Island. The waters within Puget Sound are still considered Inland for geographic purposes though vessels navigating on them must follow the International Rules of the Road.
Integrated Tug Barge or ITB means any tug-barge combination which, through the use of special design features or a specially designed connection system, has increased sea-keeping capabilities relative to a tug and barge in the conventional pushing mode. An ITB can be divided into either a dual-mode ITB or a push-mode ITB. See this link for a description of the difference between an ATB and an ITB.
Kilowatt (kW) translates to 1⅓ horsepower. This term is used when describing a vessel’s propulsion power and also when placing limitations on an engineering officer’s license or endorsement.
Lifeboatman means a mariner who is qualified to take charge of, lower, and operate survival craft and related survival equipment on a vessel.
Lifeboatman-Limited means a mariner who is qualified to take charge of, lower and operate liferafts, rescue boats, and other survival equipment on vessels where lifeboats are not installed.
Limited is an annotation on a merchant mariner credential which limits the operational authority of a particular endorsement to a specified tonnage, portions of a route, means of propulsion or particular equipment (such as liferafts).
“Limited local area” means a defined limited geographic area designed by the local OCMI. For example, a credential might be issued as “Master of Towing Vessels (Limited) Upon the Western Rivers on the Ohio River from Mile 743.0 to Mile 747.0.” The holder of this license could not legally operate anywhere other than this 4-mile stretch of the Ohio River.
Management level means the level of responsibility associated with serving as master, chief mate, chief engineering officer or second engineering officer onboard vessels to which STCW applies.
Master means the person having command of a vessel.
Mate means a qualified officer in the deck department other than the master.
Merchant Mariner Credential or MMC means a credential issued by the Coast Guard under 46 CFR Part 10. It combines the individual merchant mariner’s document, license, and certificate of registry enumerated in 46 USC Subtitle II Part E as well as the STCW endorsement into a single credential that serves as the mariner’s qualification document, certificate of identification and certificate of service.
Month means 30 days, for the purpose of complying with the service requirements of this subchapter.
National Driver Register or NDR means the nationwide repository of information on drivers maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under 49 USC Chapter 303. Link to NDR.
National Officer Endorsement (formerly Domestic Officer Endorsement) is an annotation on a merchant mariner credential that allows a mariner to serve in the capacities listed in 46 CFR 10.109(a). The officer endorsement serves as the license and/or certificate of registry pursuant to 46 USC Subtitle II Part E.
National Rating Endorsement (formerly Domestic Rating Endorsement) is an annotation on a merchant mariner credential that allows a mariner to serve in those capacities set out in 46 CFR 10.109(b) and (c).The rating endorsement serves as the merchant mariner’s document pursuant to 46 USC Subtitle II Part E.
NDR-listed conviction means a conviction of any of the following motor vehicle-related offenses or comparable offenses:
- Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of, or impaired by, alcohol or a controlled substance; or
- A traffic violation arising in connection with a fatal traffic accident, reckless driving, or racing on the highways.
National Maritime Center, under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, is the licensing authority for the United States Coast Guard. In that capacity NMC issues credentials to qualified mariners.
Near Coastal (NC) means waters not more than 200 miles offshore from the US and its possessions, except on MMCs endorsed as Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels for which a Near Coastal credential is limited to waters not more than 100 miles offshore from the US and its possessions.
Oceans (O) means the waters seaward of the Boundary Lines as described in 46 CFR Part 7. For the purpose of establishing sea service credit, the waters of the Inside Passage between Puget Sound and Cape Spencer, Alaska, are not considered Oceans.
Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMI ) means the commanding officer of the National Maritime Center or any person designated as such by the Commandant, in accordance with 46 CFR 1.01-15(b).
Officer in charge of an engineering watch in a manned engine room or designated duty engineer in a periodically unmanned engine room. The OICEW is an engineering officer qualified at the operational level on a vessel to which STCW applies.
Officer in charge of a navigational watch (OICNW) means a deck officer qualified at the operational level on a vessel to which STCW applies.
Operate, operating, or operation (as applied to the manning requirements of vessels carrying passengers) refers to a vessel any time passengers are embarked whether the vessel is underway, at anchor, made fast to shore, or aground.
Operational level means the level of responsibility associated with serving as officer in charge of a navigational or engineering watch or as designated duty engineer for periodically unmanned machinery spaces or as GMDSS radio operator on board ships to which STCW applies.
Operator means an individual qualified to operate certain uninspected vessels.
Ordinary Seaman is the entry level in the deck department. Wiper is the equivalent in the engine
Participation , when used with regard to the service on transfers required for tankermen by 46 CFR Part 13, means either actual participation in the transfers or close observation of how the transfers are conducted and supervised.
PIC means a person in charge.
Pilot of towing vessels means a qualified officer of a towing vessel operated only on inland routes.
Pilotage waters are the navigable waters of the United States, including all inland waters and offshore waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles from the baseline from which the Territorial Sea is measured.
Practical demonstration means the performance of an activity under the direct observation of a designated examiner or qualified assessor for the purpose of establishing that the performer is sufficiently proficient in a practical skill to meet a specified standard of competence or other objective criterion.
Propulsion power means the total maximum continuous-rated output power of the main propulsion machinery of a vessel determined by the manufacturer, in either kilowatts or horsepower, which appears on the ship’s Certificate of Registry or other official document and excludes thrusters and other auxiliary machinery.
Public vessel means a vessel that:
- Is owned, or demise chartered, and operated by the United States Government or a government of a foreign country; and
- Is not engaged in commercial service.
Push-mode ITBs means those ITBs (Integrated Tug and Barges) that involve a rigid coupling system and, when not coupled to the barge, are incapable of conducting towing in any other configuration (such as astern or alongside) because by themselves they have very limited seakeeping capability. The propelling unit moves as one with the barge unit.
Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED) is a rating that permits the holder to serve in a non-licensed capacity in the engine room. The endorsement requires training and/or an examination. QMED is the engine equivalent of the AB.
Qualified rating means various categories of able seaman, qualified member of the engine department (QMED), or tankerman endorsements issued on merchant mariner credentials.
Raise of grade (raise-in-grade, RIG) means an increase in the level of authority and responsibility associated with an officer or rating endorsement.
Rating endorsement is an annotation on a merchant mariner credential that allows a mariner to serve in those capacities set out in 46 CFR 10.109 .
Regional examination center (REC) means a field office of the National Maritime Center that receives and screens credential applications, conducts approved course oversight, and administers Coast Guard examinations.
Rest means a period of time during which the person concerned is off duty, is not performing work (which includes administrative tasks such as chart correction or preparation of port-entry documents) and is allowed to sleep without interruption.
Restricted means a restriction has been placed on an MMC which limits the authority of an endorsement to specific cargoes, equipment, vessel or vessels, employers, activities, particular geographic or local areas, formal camps, yacht clubs, educational institutions, or marinas.
Restricted tankerman endorsement means a valid tankerman endorsement on an MMC restricting its holder as the Coast Guard deems appropriate. For instance, the endorsement may restrict the holder to one or a combination of the following: a specific cargo or cargoes; a specific vessel or vessels; a specific facility or facilities; a specific employer or employers; a specific activity or activities (such as loading or unloading in a cargo transfer); or a particular area of water.
Rivers means a river, canal or other similar body of water designated as such by the Coast Guard.
Seagoing service means service onboard a ship/vessel relevant to the issue of a credential or other qualification.
Seagoing vessel means a self-propelled vessel that operates beyond the boundary line specified in 46 CFR Part 7.
Second engineer officer means an engineer officer next in rank to the chief engineer officer and upon whom the responsibility for the mechanical propulsion and the operation and maintenance of the mechanical and electrical installations of the ship will fall in the event of the incapacity of the chief engineer officer. The designation of “Second Engineer Officer” is found in the STCW. The equivalent Domestic endorsement is “First Assistant Engineer.”
Self-propelled has the same meaning as the terms “propelled by machinery” and “mechanically propelled.” This term includes vessels fitted with sails or mechanical propulsion.
Senior company official means the president, vice president, vice president for personnel, personnel director, or similarly titled or responsible individual, or a lower-level employee designated in writing by one of these individuals for the purpose of certifying employment.
Service (as used when computing the required service for endorsements) means the time period, in days, a person is assigned to work.
Ship means a self-propelled vessel using any mode of propulsion, including sail and auxiliary sail.
Steward’s department means the department that includes entertainment personnel and all service personnel, including wait staff, housekeeping staff, and galley workers, as defined in the vessel security plan approved by the Secretary under 46 USC 70103(c). These personnel may also be referred to as members of the hotel department on a large passenger vessel.
STCW means the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 as currently amended. The STCW is a treaty, most recently revised in 2010 with the inclusion of the “Manila Amendments.”
STCW endorsement means an annotation on an MMC that allows a mariner to serve in those capacities under 46 CFR 10.109(d). The STCW endorsement serves as evidence that a mariner has met the requirements of the STCW Convention.
Support level means the level of responsibility associated with serving as able seafarer deck or engine, rating forming part of the navigational or engineering watch, or as electro-technical rating.
Tank barge means a non-self-propelled tank vessel.
Tank vessel means a vessel, not necessarily self-propelled, that is constructed or adapted to carry, or that carries, oil or hazardous material in bulk as cargo or cargo residue and that:
- Is a vessel of the United States;
- Operates on the navigable waters of the United States, or
- Transfers oil or hazardous material in a port or place subject to the jurisdiction of the United
Tankship means any self-propelled tank vessel constructed or adapted primarily to carry oil or hazardous material in bulk as cargo or as cargo residue.
Transfer means any movement of fuel dangerous liquid, or liquefied gas as cargo in bulk or as cargo residue to or from a vessel by means of pumping, gravitation or displacement.
Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) means an identification credential issued by the Transportation Security Administration under 49 CFR Part 1572.
Underway means that a vessel is not at anchor, made fast to the shore, or aground.
Undocumented vessel means a vessel not required to have a certificate of documentation issued under the laws of the United States.
Unlimited tonnage means a vessel’s gross tonnage is greater than 1600.
Unlimited horsepower means a vessel’s horsepower is greater than or equal to 4000 hp (3000 kW).
Utility towing means:
- Towing a barge with equipment performing marine construction, repair and other types of marine utility services; or
- Assisting yachts and recreational boats with limited maneuverability to dock, undock, moor, or unmoor.
Vessel personnel with security duties means a person, excluding the designated security officer (e.g., Company Security Officer (CSO) and Vessel Security Officer (VSO)), holding a license or MMC officer endorsement, and/or an STCW endorsement; and persons in charge of the loading and unloading of cargo, passengers and vessel stores.
Vessel Security Officer (VSO) means a person onboard the vessel accountable to the Master, designated by the Company as responsible for the security of the vessel including implementation and maintenance of the Vessel’s Security Plan, and for liaison with the Facility Security Officer and the vessel’s Company Security Officer.
Western Rivers means:
- The Mississippi River;
- The Mississippi River’s tributaries, South Pass and Southwest Pass, to the navigational demarcation lines dividing the high seas from harbors, rivers and other inland waters of the United States;
- The Port Allen-Morgan City Alternate Route;
- That part of the Atchafalaya River above its junction with the Port Allen-Morgan City Alternate Route including the Old River and the Red River
Those waters specified in 33 CFR 89.25.
Note that there is a significant difference in meaning between the “Western Rivers” and rivers in the West. For example, the Columbia River is a river in the West, but it is not a “Western River.” In fact, none of the defined “Western Rivers” are in the Western half of the United States.
Year means 360 days for the purpose of complying with the service requirements for licensing.