How do I become an Able Seaman?
Updated: Jan 27
To become an Able Seaman, you need to meet the sea days in the Deck Department, exam and practical demonstrations requirements for both the Able Seaman and Lifeboatman endorsements you are seeking.
The MM-SEAS team recommends taking an Able Seaman and Lifeboatman / Lifeboatman - Limited Course instead of taking the tests at the REC and shipboard demonstrations.
What is an Able Seaman?
An Able Seaman is a certified ship worker who serves in the Deck Department. Some of their responsibilities include cleaning and maintenance, standing watch, assisting with navigation, and customer service.
The specific day-to-day duties of an Able Seaman depend on the type of vessel, and the experience of the Seaman.
To become a certified Able Seaman, you'll need a minimum of 180 days of documented sea service. To attain the required sea days, most people start their maritime career as an Unqualified Deckhand, which doesn't require formal training or certifications.
Once you've met the service requirement in the deck department, you can submit your Sea Service Form and take the courses required to become an Able Seaman.
How many sea days in the deck department do I need for my Able Seaman?
All of your sea time for Able Seaman must be while serving in the Deck Department. According to 46 CFR 10.107: The Deck department means the department aboard a ship responsible for navigation, cargo, command, and control functions.
Sea Days Required
Able Seaman Unlimited
1080 Days in the Deck Department on Ocean, Great Lakes and Near Coastal waters
Able Seaman Limited
540 Days in the Deck Department on Ocean, Great Lakes and Near Coastal waters on vessels over 100 GRT
Able Seaman Special
360 Days in the Deck Department on any waters
Able Seaman Sail
180 Days in the Deck Department on any waters serving on sailing school vessels, oceanographic research vessels powered primarily by sail.
Able Seaman OSV
180 Days in the Deck Department on any waters
Able Seaman Fishing
180 Days in the Deck Department on any waters. Working as a "processor" does not count!
Able Seaman MODU
360 Days in the Deck Department on any waters on vessels over 65ft in length
You will also need to obtain a Lifeboatman or Lifeboatman - Limited endorsement to qualify for your Able Seaman.
The sea service requirements for Lifeboatman and Lifeboatman - Limited are dependant on if you've taken an USCG approved Course.
Here's a blog post that explains the difference between Lifeboatman and Lifeboatman - Limited.
USCG Approved Course?
Sea Days Required
With a USCG Approved Lifeboatman or Lifeboatman - Limited Course
180 Sea Days in any department on any vessel on any waters
No USCG Approved Course
360 Sea Days in any department on any vessel on any waters
What are the Exam and Training Requirements for Able Seaman?
You have the same exam and training requirements no matter what Able Seaman endorsement you are seeking.
You will need to meet both the written examination and practical demonstration requirements for Able Seaman and Lifeboatman
We hope this made your life a little easier and if you have other questions the MM-SEAS team is always here to help!
We do prefer to answer questions live with screen sharing to make both of our lives easier.
We hold free live virtual master classes Monday and Wednesday from 5:00 - 5:30 pm PT inside of mmseas.com under License Guidance and then Daily Master Classes.
Pro MM-SEAS members get access to our daily live office hours Monday thru Friday from 5:00 - 5:30 pm PT. You also get access to unlimited live 1 on 1 calls with one of our USCG Licensing Specialists. Pro MM-SEAS members can access these features inside of mmseas.com under License Guidance.