Ordinary Seaman & Able Seaman

Able Body Seaman, Ordinary Seaman, Able Seafarer Deck

With only a few exceptions a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) National rating endorsement as OS or AB is required to work on all ocean going commercial vessels of greater than 100 gross tons.

Ordinary Seaman is an entry level rating that applies to both deck and engine departments. This rating that does not require any sea service experience or training courses.

To qualify for an OS the applicant must demonstrate that they are physically fit for duty, pass a USCG/DOT Drug Screening, and complete the application form requesting the National Rating of OS. After gaining the required experience the mariner may advance from OS to Able Seaman (deck department) or Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED).

Able Body Seaman or Able Seaman is an MMC National deck rating that is the equal to journeyman. This MMC deck rating requires demonstration of knowledge of the Rules of the Road, navigation, seamanship, and safety; and a practical demonstration of marlinespike seamanship skills. To qualify as AB the applicant must also complete an approved Proficiency in Survival Craft Training course for the rating of either Lifeboatman or Lifeboatman Limited.

The MMC National AB rating that the applicant is issued depends on their qualifying experience. Advancement from one AB rating to another is based on qualifying sea service experience alone, no additional exams or skill demonstrations are required. The professional requirements for the National AB ratings are published in Title 46 CFR Parts 12.401 through 12.409:

  • AB Unlimited requires 1080 days of qualifying sea service experience on the deck of vessels operating on ocean waters.
  • AB Limited requires 540 days of qualifying sea service experience on the deck of vessels greater than 100 gross tons operating on ocean waters.
  • AB Special requires 360 days of qualifying sea service experience on vessels operating on the federally navigable inland waters of the US or on ocean waters.
  • AB Fishing requires 180 days of qualifying sea service experience on the deck of vessels operating on ocean waters or the federally navigable inland waters of the US.
  • AB OSV (Offshore Supply Vessel) requires 180 days of qualifying sea service experience on the deck of vessels operating on ocean waters or on the federally navigable inland waters of the US.
  • AB Sail requires 180 days of qualifying sea service experience on the deck of sailing vessels operating on ocean waters or on the federally navigable inland waters of the US.

Able Seafarer Deck (STCW Endorsement)

The 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW convention established an STCW endorsement equivalent to the MMC Rating of Able Seaman. This endorsement is called Able Seafarer Deck. US mariners holding a the rating endorsement AB should check to see if they also qualify for this new STCW endorsement.

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