The Professional Captain License
Professional captain licenses are issued by the US Coast Guard as Merchant Mariner Credential National Deck Officer Endorsements. Anyone who operates a vessel of any size that carries cargo or passengers for hire must have a USCG issued MMC. A passenger is anyone on the vessel that is not the operator or a member of the crew; A passenger for hire is any passenger that contributed anything of value as a condition for riding on the vessel. There are several MMC Captain Licenses issued by the USCG, each has a different authority.
- Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (AKA 6-pack or OUPV license) is the smallest captain license issued by the Coast Guard. This license authorizes the authority to serve as captain on small uninspected passenger vessels carrying six or fewer passengers, not counting the operator or crew. This is the most common license held by fishing guides, and small charter boat operators.
- Master license authorizes the authority serve as captain on inspected passenger vessels carrying more than six passengers, and to operate ferries, cargo and supply vessels, crew boats, research vessels, and other types of work boats. These licenses are issued with tonnage limitations that are dependent on the experience of the applicant.
- Master of Towing Vessels has the authority to serve as captain on tugboats and towing vessels.
- Master of Fishing Industry Vessels has the authority to serve as captain on fishing industry vessels. These licenses are issued with tonnage limitations that are dependent on the experience of the applicant.
Professional Deck Crew Endorsements
In addition to issuing professional captain licenses, the USCG also issues endorsements for the deck crew working on commercial seagoing vessels. These endorsements include Ordinary Seaman (OS), which is an entry level endorsement; and Able Seaman (AB) which is a journeyman’s endorsement.