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How To BE A Ship's Captain

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard Requirements for National OUPV or Master up to 100 Tons A Captain’s License is required to operate a commercial vessel or to take paying passengers out on your vessel. Understanding the Captain’s License Requirements is important prior to taking a captain’s license course. The prerequisites should be reviewed before applying for any U.S. Coast Guard credential. This is advised so you don’t spend your time and money pursuing a license that you don’t qualify for. For helpful credential information and application packets, and official forms For Maritime Institute’s fee-based credential services ... Prerequisites for Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV/”6-Pack The National OUPV license is limited to uninspected vessels, of less than 100 gross tons, operating on U.S. domestic waters ONLY. Also limited to carrying six or less paying passengers. You must meet all of the requirements established by the USCG National Maritime Center in order to apply for this license. The USCG checklist of requirements is located here on the National Maritime Center Under National Officer Endorsements for Deck, click on National OUPV Less Than 100 GRT. Important sea service requirements for OUPV: 1. Must be at least 18 years old.


Must be able to document 360 days of experience on a vessel, of which at least 90 days must be on Near Coastal/Ocean waters otherwise license will be limited to Inland Waters ONLY. (See: What Counts as Sea Service ...

  • 90 days of sea service must be within the last 3 years of when you apply.

  • 90 days of sea service must be on Ocean or Near Coastal waters or otherwise the license will be limited to Inland Waters only.

  • If you are not a U.S. Citizen, you can apply for this license but it will be limited tonnage and restricted to undocumented vessels.

Prerequisites for Master up to 100 Tons on Inland Waters/Great Lakes With a Master license you may operate inspected/commercial vessels and also take more than six paying passengers. You must meet all of the requirements established by the USCG National Maritime Center in order to apply for this license. The USCG checklist of requirements is located here on the National Maritime Center website: https://www.dco.uscg.mil/nmc/checklist/. Under National Officer Endorsements for Deck, click on National Master 100 GL and Inland. Important sea service requirements for Master Inland/GL:

  • Must be at least 19 years old.

  • Must be able to document 360 days of experience on a vessel. (See: What Counts as Sea Service)

  • 90 days of sea service must be within the last 3 years of when you apply.

  • The tonnage of the license (25 Ton, 50 Ton, or 100 Ton) that you get, is determined by your experience. See USCG checklist in the paragraph above for the specific tonnage qualifications.

If you plan on operating an inspected sailing vessel, you must have a sailing endorsement along with the Master Inland/GL license. The required amount of sea service for a sailing endorsement on a Master Inland/GL license is: 180 days on sail or auxiliary sail vessels. Prerequisites for Master up to 100 Tons on Near Coastal Waters With a Master license you may operate inspected/commercial vessels and also take more than six paying passengers. You must meet all of the requirements established by the USCG National Maritime Center in order to apply for this license. The USCG checklist of requirements is located here on the National Maritime Center website Under National Officer Endorsements for Deck, click on National Master 100NC.

  • Must be at least 19 years old.

  • Must be able to document 720 days of experience on a vessel, of which at least 360 days must be on Near Coastal/Ocean waters.(See: What Counts as Sea Service

  • 90 days of sea service must be within the last 3 years of when you apply.

  • The tonnage of the license (25 Ton, 50 Ton, or 100 Ton) that you get, is determined by your experience. See USCG checklist in the paragraph above for the specific tonnage qualifications.

If you plan on operating an inspected sailing vessel ... you must have a sailing endorsement along with the Master Near Coastal license. The required amount of sea service for a sailing endorsement on a Master NC license is: 360 days on sail or auxiliary sail vessels.


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