How do I become an Able Seaman?

Want to be an Able Seaman? Learn about sea days, exams, and why taking a course could be your best bet. MM-SEAS is here to guide you.

2 mins read・Jun 12, 2022
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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.

Qualified Rating

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!

MM-SEAS is free to use on your own and if you need some more personalized help you can upgrade to MM-SEAS Pro inside of the site.

No matter what, when you are ready to submit your application, you can choose to have the MM-SEAS staff create a perfect application, handle the USCG application fees and work with the USCG on your behalf to resolve any issues for a flat fee of $299 or you can choose to submit on your own.

Pro MM-SEAS members get access to unlimited live 1 on 1 calls with one of our USCG Licensing Specialists. We've found that answering questions live with screen sharing in a video call makes both of our lives easier. Pro MM-SEAS members can access these features inside of MM-SEAS under License Guidance.

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About the author

Nate Gilman

Nate has over 15 years of professional maritime experience and has hawsepiped his way to a 3rd Mate Unlimited Endorsement with full STCW compliance. He is proud veteran of the NOAA Commissioned Corps.

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