Captain's License
Every Question Answered

Obtain your

Captain's License

Below is all the information you need to know about how to obtain your United States Coast Guard Operator of Uninspected and/or Inspected Passenger Vessels License OUPV/Six-Pack Captain’s License or 25/50 or 100 Ton Master Captain’s License. We will take you through the steps like; Types of Licenses, Endorsements, Steps to Become a Captain, Application & Qualification Requirements, Sea Time, and much more.  Affiliate and helpful links are included in this webpage.

The yacht charter market is anticipated to grow about 4% during the forecast period (2020 – 2025).

Types of USCG Captain's Licenses

OUPV/Six-pack Captain’s License or Masters Captain’s License – What type of Captain’s License is right for you?

OUPV/Six-pack Captain's License or Masters Captain's License - What type of Captain's License is right for you?

OUPV/Six-Pack Captain's License

Most recreational boaters looking to get a license to have six or less people on their boat (Charter Boat Captain, SCUBA Dive Boat Captain, etc.) choose to get the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels credential, OUPV/Six-Pack Captain’s license. Uninspected means the Coast Guard doesn’t have to inspect the vessel before you can operate it, and the boat’s design and safety specifications aren’t as strict. This license is not required for recreational boaters, but if you want to make money having paying customers (up to six people) you need to have an OUPV/Six-Pack Captain’s license.

Masters Captain's License

You can also go for your Master Captain’s license and you can achieve this license without first holding an OUPV/Six-Pack license or if you have an OUPV/Six-Pack license, you can upgrade to the Master Captain’s license

The Master Captain’s license comes with different tonnage designations.  If you worked on a boat that was 25 to 50 tons, you can rate for the 25/50 Ton Master Captain’s license, or if you worked on a larger ship, you could rate for the the 100 Ton Master Captain’s license, like I did. 

The USCG Master license is the highest level license that you can acquire coming into the licensing process. There is a 200 Ton Master license, but you must first have the 100 Ton designation prior to obtaining the 200 Ton Master license.  The 100 ton Master license allows you to operate inspected vessels (7 passengers or more – and become a (Water Taxi Captain, Ferry Boat Captain, Tour Boat Captain, Larger SCUBA Boat Captain, etc.) or uninspected vessels.

The USCG does not require that you get a Six-Pack license before you get your Master’s, so if you qualify, you can skip the Six-Pack and go straight to your Masters! 

A Master license can also be issued for operation on the Great Lakes, Inland and Near Coastal waterways. This license is issued in 3 versions – 25; 50; or a 100 Ton license. Both the amount of sea service time and the size vessels you have been on will influence the license you qualify for.

Master Inland

A Master Inland license lets you operate inspected and uninspected vessels within the designated boundary line for Inland Waters — essentially lakes and harbors. You can also use this license to work as a mate on near-coastal vessels, as long as you can document 180 days of sea time in the ocean. You need 360 days of sea time on any waters, with 90 on the Great Lakes if you wish to operate boats there, too.

Master Near Coastal

The Master Near Coastal license allows you to operate inspected and uninspected vessels on inland waters and up to 200 miles off the U.S. coast. You need 720 days of sea time, 360 of which must be on ocean waters.

Towing, Sailing and STCW Endorsements

Towing Endorsement

The Assistance Towing Endorsement is for those who hold an OUPV/Six-Pack or Master license and would like to engage in assisting vessels for a fee. To “commercially assist” such activities of a Sea Tow or TowBoatU.S. operator, vessels that may be aground, disabled, or out of fuel, or experiencing some other malfunction requires an endorsement for Commercial Assistance Towing.

Any USCG license of 200 gross tons or less, including an OUPV/Six-pack License, may be endorsed for assistance towing.

I opted not to get this endorsement and I regret it.  I’m sure the test is easy and I will definitely get it when I renew my license.

Sailing Endorsement

The Auxiliary Sailing Endorsement authorizes the holder to operate an inspected sail or auxiliary sail vessel, as applicable, within the scope and limitations of their license.

This sailing Captain’s license endorsement allows the licensed Master to carry 7 or more passengers while under sail on an inspected vessel.  To add this Endorsement onto a Master Inland or Mate Near Coastal License you must document at least 180 days on a sail or auxiliary sailing vessel.

A Sailing Endorsement may be added onto a Master Near Coastal License by documenting at least 360 days on a sailing or auxiliary sailing vessel.

The Auxiliary Sailing Endorsement can be added onto any 25/50 or 100 Ton Master or Mate License.

If you’ve sailed boats before, you should get this endorsement.  The test was super-easy and well worth the endorsement.  

STCW Endorsement 

The STCW Endorsement may be needed if you plan on working on vessels over 72 feet long or on international voyages. You may need to first take an STCW course, in addition to your Captain’s license course. STCW stands for The Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping and is commonly known as basic safety training. The endorsement covers firefighting, survival and first aid.

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Steps to Become a Captain

All the requirements you need before you can become a Captain.

All the requirements you need before you can become a Captain.

OUPV/Six-Pack Captain's License Requirements

The USCG Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV/Six-Pack) allows the holder to carry up to six paying passengers on uninspected vessels up to 100 gross tons (about 75-90 feet long). These are usually smaller vessels that normally engage in charter fishing, SCUBA diving, or small tour cruises. As such, these vessels are limited to six paying passengers plus crew-hence the term “Six-Pack.” The OUPV License is issued in three forms:

OUPV Inland License

The OUPV Inland license is restricted to operation shoreward of the boundary line, excluding the Great Lakes. As a general rule, the U.S. Boundary Line follows coastal shorelines and across the entrances to small bays, inlets, and rivers. This license is valid on uninspected vessels up to 100 gross tons.

  • This license requires at least 360 days of documented experience in the operation of vessels, with 90 of the 360 days occurring in the last three years.
  • The Six-Pack Inland License can be upgraded to a Near Coastal License once 90 days experience seaward of the U.S. Boundary has been achieved.

OUPV Great Lakes & Inland

  • 360 days of documented experience total with at least 90 days service on the Great Lakes.

OUPV Near Coastal

This license is valid on vessels up to 100 gross tons and out to 100 nautical miles offshore.

  • The OUPV Near Coastal license also requires at least 360 days of documented experience in the operation of vessels, 90 of which must be gained seaward of the boundary line. 90 of the 360 days must be in the last three years.

Note: Sea Service

Sea Service experience can be counted on your own vessel. A Small Vessel Sea Service Form and proof of ownership are required. Experience on other people’s vessels can also be counted. In this instance, to verify experience claimed and vessel details, a completed Sea Service Form with the owner’s signature must accompany the application.  See Sea Service Requirements in the Applications & Qualifications Requirements section below.

Additional Requirements:

  • Minimum age: 18 years old.
    • Experience gained prior to 16 years of age will not be counted.
  • Obtain a (TWIC) Transportation Workers Identification Credential.
  • Pass a Physical Examination.
  • Pass a Drug Test unless enrolled in a USCG – approved random drug testing program for the last 180 days, and with no failure or refusal to participate in a chemical test for dangerous drugs.
  • Complete CPR/First Aid training.
  • Completion of a USCG-approved OUPV/Six-Pack course.
  • Complete a USCG Original License Application Package.

25/50 or 100 Ton Master Captain's License Requirements

The USCG Master license allows the holder to operate inspected vessels as well as uninspected vessels. Any vessel that is certified (authorized) by the USCG to carry more than 6 paying passengers plus crew must have a Boat Captain who holds a 25/50/100 Ton Master license. Ferry boats, harbor tours boats, whale watch boats are examples of inspected vessels.

There are 4 different Master licenses a mariner may qualify for, such as the Master Inland or Master Near Coastal. Both the amount of sea service time and the size vessels you have been on will influence the license you are eligible for. Master licenses are tonnage rated at 25 GT (gross tons), 50 GT, or 100 GT.

The tonnage you are awarded is determined by the size vessels you’ve gained experience on in the last 3 years – it’s called “recency experience.” You are not required to advance through the different licenses one at a time. If you meet the USCG requirements for the Master 100GT Near Coastal, you’ll get that license as your first license.

4 types of up to 100GT Master licenses

Master Inland

  • 360 days underway experience since age 16; 90 of those 360 days in the last 3 years. 

Master Inland/OUPV

  • 360 days underway experience since age 16; 90 of those 360 days in the last 3 years; 90 of those 360 days outside the boundary lines. 

Master Inland/Mate Near Coastal

  • 360 days underway experience since age 16; 90 days of those 360 days in the last 3 years; 180 of those 360 days outside the boundary lines. 

Master Near Coastal

  • 720 days underway experience since age 16; 90 of those 720 days in the last 3 years; 360 of those 720 days outside the boundary lines.

Additional Requirements:

  • Obtain a (TWIC) Transportation Workers Identification Credential.
  • Minimum age: 19 years old (U.S. Citizenship Required).
  • Pass a Physical Examination.
  • Pass a Drug Test unless enrolled in a USCG approved random drug program for the last 185 days, and with no failure or refusal to participate in a chemical test for dangerous drugs.
  • CPR/First Aid training certificates.
  • Completion an USCG approved Master 25/50/100 Ton approved course like Mariners Learning System.
  • Complete a USCG Original License Application Package.

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Application & Qualification Requirements

Specific requirements needed to obtain your credentials.

Specific requirements needed to obtain your credentials.

Learn From Experience

My suggestion is you enroll in an USCG Approved Course as you are getting the documents, exams, etc. together to make the best use of your time.  I chose to do the online Mariners Learning System which saved time and money.  Using the books, chart, tools and online resources, I could study when I wanted, at the pace I wanted.  

Now that you know about licenses and endorsements, we’ll go over the specific requirements you’ll need to receive your credential. Knowing that this is a government agency, they want all documentation in perfect order when submitted. 

Coast Guard Application Process

Sea Service

One day of sea service is equal to eight hours working aboard a vessel. You can count sea service from age 16 onward. In all cases, you need 90 days of your sea service to be within the last three years. After you’ve compiled all your sea time, confirm you have enough to qualify for your desired license. Fill out the Sea Service Form CG-719S online and then print it. After you print it, sign it and scan the finished copy.

Applicants can sign off on their own sea service on a boat that they own or have owned, but will need to attach proof of ownership, copy of registration, bill of sale, insurance papers,  and/or other documentation proving the vessel is/was yours. If the service is on someone else’s boat, then you cannot sign off on your own service on that boat. Fill out your sea service forms and have the owner or captain of the vessel confirm your time at sea. (no proof of ownership is required). 

NOTE: Military Sea Service – Sea service MAY be creditable for up to approximately 70 percent (60 percent, plus 25 percent of time assigned to vessel other than while underway) of time served onboard vessels, provided your service started prior to March 24, 2014. If service is after March 24, 2014, sea service will be credited at 60 percent.  Ensure you take these percentages into consideration when filing your sea service.  One year of military sea service (365 days) could shrink down to 219 days due to the above formula.

At Least 19 Years of Age

To receive your Captain’s license, you must be 19 years old. However, if you want to complete all the requirements when you’re 18, most of the certificates you need are valid for one year, so you can send in your application as soon as you turn 19!

Passport Photo

You will need to take a passport type photo to submit with your (TWIC) Transportation Worker Identification Credential.

Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

The TSA issues TWIC cards, and you need one for any merchant mariner credential. You’ll have to pay a fee and pass a government background check to receive your card. Here is the USCG website page to review the process.  Make sure to identify your occupation to TSA/UES as a Merchant Mariner.  Applicants must ensure they have applied for a TWIC. Fill out the Required Documents online to begin the process.  Next, you need to obtain your TWIC Card.  For more information and to begin the process, go to www.uscg.mil/nmc and look for the TWIC tab. In your MMC Application Form you will need to submit a photo of a valid TWIC or receipt that the TWIC application is in review. 

Medical Examination

Before you make an appointment with a doctor, use the USCG medical examination guide to avoid common errors that the Coast Guard will reject. Choose a medical examiner that is familiar with USCG physicals. The form to be filled out by  the doctor requires careful attention and inexperienced doctors may miss critical details.  The Application for Mariner Medical Certificate (CG-719K) is required for Officers and Mariners with a qualified rating. The examination and form must be completed within 12 months of application date. The medical provider completing the required examination must be a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner who is licensed in the US or US Territory.

Proof of Drug Screening Enrollment

Every merchant mariner credential requires that you to enroll in a random drug screening program. When you make an appointment to get your drug test, ensure the doctors office uses the USCG CG719P form and they fill it out at the doctors office. Some marine employers offer one, but you will need proof of enrollment to receive your license. The DOT Drug Consortium has a relatively cheap program that satisfies this requirement. The approved document needs to be within 185 days of date of application. View the NMC Website for locations, drug testing requirements, FAQS and other information.

First Aid and CPR Certificate

For your original license, you need to be First Aid and CPR-certified. Courses are frequently available no matter where you live, and most are affordable. You can typically complete the course in an afternoon. American Red Cross (or equivalent) Adult CPR course that is valid on the date applying for a license. Submit a photocopy of completion documentation with application. I did it online with a US Coast Guard approved company, Emergency University

Proof of Residency/U.S. Citizenship

If you’re getting your OUPV/Six-Pack Captain’s license, you must prove permanent residency with a green card or valid state ID or  if you are not a U.S. Citizen, you can receive this license but it will be restricted to undocumented vessels.

U.S. Citizenship is required to obtain a 25/50 or 100 Ton Master Captain’s license.

Submit a photocopy of your proof of citizenship. Please see Title 46 CFR, Part 10.221 for a complete list of acceptable citizenship documents.

Completed USCG Approved Exam

The easiest way to pass your license exam is by attending a USCG approved maritime training school or Mariners Learning System online course, like I did. Once you pass the course, you receive a certificate of completion, which is valid for one year.

U.S. Coast Guard Oath

For all original merchant mariner credentials, you’re required to take a supervised USCG oath. You can do this at an approved Coast Guard facility, such as a regional exam center or maritime training school. I took my oath when I submitted my paperwork to my Captain’s License Consultant. 

Proof of Application Fees

Be sure to pay the appropriate fees through pay.gov. Consult the USCG payment webpage (check the Fees Faq) to determine what you need to pay for your license evaluation. Pay via the Pay.gov website. It’s always a good idea to print the confirmation page after you pay. $145 Application fee. Choose the Officer Endorsements only, Original Officer Endorsement ($100), Course in lieu of exam ($0), MMC issuance fee ($45). Include a copy of the payment receipt with the MMC application.

MMC Application Form

Fill out the MMC Application Form for your Captain’s license carefully. Be sure to specify which range and tonnage (unless it’s OUPV) of license you’re applying for.  The MMC application package must be submitted to your local Regional Examination Center. Several USCG forms can be found here in one place. Do not submit your MMC application package directly to the National Maritime Center (NMC) as this will result in significant delays

Captain's License Consultant

If you have difficulty filling out the forms or need help, my suggestion is you Google, “Coast Guard Captains License Consultant near me“. You will have to pay for their services, however, sometimes it’s well worth the cost.  

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How to Renew Your Captain’s License

Easy steps to follow to Renew your Captain’s license.

Easy steps to follow to Renew your Captain's license.

Renew Your Boat Captain's License

I recommend never letting your Captain’s license expire, even if you don’t plan on using it in the near future, it’s still a good idea to keep renewing it since you only have to do it every five years. If you let your Captain’s license expire and then decide that you want to start operating boats again, you’ll have to fulfill all of the Coast Guard requirements for getting a Captain’s license from scratch.

Renewal Process

Renewing your license is easy. You will need:

  • Document 360 days of sea service within the last five years using the CG-719s Form

or

  • Take a refresher course through a USCG-approved training school. These refresher courses can take as little as one day and cover Rules of the Road, Deck General and Deck Safety.  I plan to take my OUPV/Master Deck license course through the online Mariners Learning System.
  • A completed application form using CG-719B Form for renewal. This is the same form you use to get your original license, so be sure to specify you are renewing your license.
  • Pass a DOT Drug Test unless enrolled in a USCG approved random drug program for the last 185 days, and with no failure or refusal to participate in a chemical test for dangerous drugs.
  • A USCG mariner physical examination, the same type as for your original license.
  • You do not need CPR/First Aid training to renew your license.

If Your License is Expired

If you do let your license expire, there is a one year grace period in which you can renew it without having to complete the full USCG exam again. Even if you decide to not go to sea or navigate inland waterways, many people use their Captain’s license after retirement. It’s a great way to make some extra money and keep yourself busy on the water.

If you let your Captain’s license expire and then decide that you want to start operating boats again, you’ll have to fulfill all of the Coast Guard requirements for getting a Captain’s license from scratch.

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Why Mariners Learning System?

My Reasons for Choosing the Best Online Mariners School

My Reasons for Choosing the Best Online Mariners School

The Easiest Learning Experience Ever

There are a lot of maritime training services out there, both in person and online.  People have distinct preferences on how they learn and are some are very proud of the maritime schools they have attended.  The information below is from my own experiences and why I think Mariners Learning System was the best option for me and may be a great service for you.  

Online Captain's License Learning - Captain's License Online Course

I chose the online Mariner’s Learning System for a few different reasons.  

  1. Learning online saves time.
    1. Never did I have to get in my car and drive to a destination, look for parking, lug my books and charts into a small stuffy room with a whole bunch of possible “know it all’s” and after class, drive back home… and then do it all over again the next day or week.  
  2. Mariners Learning System combines the online course with actual books, easy to understand videos, study material, a chart and tools, pencils and more.  
  3.  All Mariners Learning System materials are USCG approved.  After studying all the material, you are tested on that EXACT material.  There are no “trick questions”.  The test is based completely on what you studied.  
  4. Mariners Learning System has been a leader in online learning since 2005 and has been educating boaters for nearly two decades.
  5. In 2019, the average Proctored Exam Test Score average was 94%!  I can attest to that… my test scores were 80%, 93%, 92%, 100%, 97% & 93%.  I easily passed my proctored exam on my first try.  The Mariners Learning System has a success rate of 98.7%, which is more than impressive.  
  6. The online eLearning process is perfect can be done almost anywhere.  Not only can you learn on your laptop, but you can also learn on your tablet or mobile device.  Since I wanted to fully-immersive experience, I would listen to the audio and read along with the narrarator to really let the lessons sink in. 
  7. I loved the quizzes, since the quiz answers are exactly what was on the final exam.  The Mariners Learning System is almost a fail-safe way to learn. 
  8. Mariners Learning System offers a Free 24 Hour trial and they have instructors online and via phone to help you, when you need it.  

These experiences above are mine alone and everyone has different ways of learning.  I found this was the best system out there and it worked well for me, since I passed on my first try (with flying colors) and was gainfully employed even before I got my Masters License.  

Watch my process in the video below to see my journey.  

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FAQ

Captain’s License

Frequently Asked Questions

Captain's License - Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About Captain's License... Answered!

  • What kind of USCG Captain’s licenses are there?

    • OUPV Inland

      OUPV Great Lakes & Inland

      OUPV Near Coastal

      Master Inland

      Master Inland/OUPV

      Master Inland/Mate Near Coastal

      Master Near Coastal

    • See Steps To Become A Captain (above for more information)
  • How can I contact MMC to check on the status of my Merchant Mariner Credential?

  • Where do I keep my Medical Certificate when I get my Merchant Mariner Credential?

    • You are required to keep your MMC, Medical Certificate and Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) onboard with you when you are working.  Insert all documents inside the small pocket inside the back cover of your MMC.  It it recommended that you keep as photocopy of your MMC, Medical Certificate and TWIC at home.  
  • When should I renew my MMC?  

    • It is recommended that you initiate the renewal process before your MMC expires by submitting your application no less than 90 days prior to your expiration date.  If you have a medical condition, it is recommended that you begin the renewal process as early as six months prior to your expiration date.
  • What is the testing room set up like?

    • All testing rooms are different.  You can see what my room looked like in Richmond, California on my YouTube video above.  
  • How do you get a Captain’s license?

    • First, you have to have to correct amount of sea time.  Then, you will need to pass a  USCG Exam or a proctored exam, like the one I took with Mariners Learning System and then submit all the required paperwork, tests, documentation, etc. as listed above in the Application & Qualification Requirements
 
The Q&A Portion of this webpage will be updated soon!  If you have a certain question, ask below in the Comment Section.
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Please leave a comment that is helpful to others.

Other Sailing Videos of Interest

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Three yachts I got paid to deliver as a USCG Master Captain.  

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How I gained my Sea Time.

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My first sailboat delivery that paid for my entire Captain’s license process.  

If you use any of the information above
please credit us

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