USCG Tankerman Certification

Tankermen supervise bulk liquid cargo transfers. Learn about Tankerman ratings and how to qualify for this USCG endorsement.

5 mins read・Jan 02, 2024
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The Tankerman certification is issued by the Coast Guard to qualified members working in the deck department. A Tankerman’s main responsibility is to plan and supervise the transport and transfer of bulk liquid cargo.

This article provides an overview of what tankermen do, the different Tankerman ratings, and how to add a Tankerman endorsement to your Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).

What does a tankerman do?

A tankerman is a qualified member of the deck department who assists or supervises the transfer of liquid cargo.  

The tankerman's primary job is to assist and supervise the loading and unloading of products from the tank ships and barges.

During transfers, the tankerman ensures that the hoses are properly connected to the correct fittings, and that all valves on shore and aboard the ship are properly aligned. The tankerman also ensures that all environmental and safety policies are followed.

In case of an emergency, they need to know the proper procedures and take action quickly. Quick action is essential when they’re dealing with hazardous or flammable contents. Barge spills can be disastrous to the environment. Tankermen are also taking preventative actions and performing regular ship maintenance to fix potential problems ahead of time to prevent accidents and spills.

Barge tankermen work on inland barges to transport liquid cargo on rivers, canals, and inland waterways. Tank barges usually transfer crude oil, gasoline fuel, and liquid natural gas.

What ships need tankermen?

In general, two types of vessels require a certified tankerman: tankships and tank barges.

Tankship means any self-propelled tank vessel designed to carry oil or hazardous material in bulk as cargo or as cargo residue. The main types of tankships are oilers, chemical tankers, and gas tankers. Tankships are also used for transporting food and drink like wine and cooking oils.

A tank barge is a non-self-propelled vessel that’s designed to carry liquid, solid, or gaseous commodities or cargo in bulk. Barges are commonly used in smaller waterways like rivers and inland waterways. They may move through oceans when traveling from one inland waterway to another.

Depending on the material being transported, the vessels have different requirements. For example, no tankerman endorsement is necessary to transfer the liquid cargoes listed in Table 2 of Part 153 of this chapter when those cargoes are carried on barges not certified for ocean service.

The Tankerman PIC (Person in Charge) endorsement authorizes the holder to supervise the movement of fuel, dangerous liquid, or liquefied gas as cargo in bulk.

Tankerman ratings

There are a few different tankerman ratings. The one you qualify for depends on the type of vessel you’ll be working on (tankship or barge) and the experience you have. You'll typically start off as a Tankerman Assistant and upgrade to get your PIC as you get more work experience.


A Tankerman Assistant is qualified to perform the same duties as the Tankerman PIC. They don’t require direct supervision. When performing their tankerman-related duties, the assistant must maintain continuous two-way voice communications with the PIC.

You can start working as a Takerman Assistant after taking an approved Tankerman course, or when you have completed 90 days of deck service on a tankship or self-propelled tank vessel certified to carry DL (dangerous liquids) or LG (liquified gasses).


The Tankerman PIC (Person in Charge) is an endorsement that qualifies you to plan and oversee the cargo on a tank ship.

To qualify for the Tankerman PIC endorsement, you’ll need:

  • 90 days of service as a deck or engineering officer on a tankship or self-propelled tank vessel certified to carry DL or LG, OR
  • 90 days rating or cadet service on deck or engine department on a tankship or self-propelled tank vessel certified to carry DL or LG, OR
  • Combination of service listed above.
  • 10 transfers of cargo (2 within five years of application), under the supervision of a Tankerman-PIC or Tankerman- PIC (Barge) including,
  • 5 loads and 5 discharges, with
  • 2 commencements and 2 completions of loadings, and
  • 2 commencements and 2 completions or discharge.

Tankerman-PIC (Barge)

The Tankerman PIC (Barge) endorsement qualifies you to be the person-in-charge on tank barges.

To qualify for the Tankerman PIC Barge endorsement, you’ll need:

  • 60 days of service (shore or vessel based) on tank vessels certified to carry DL and LG, OR
  • 180 days of closely related service directly involved with tank barges.
  • 10 transfers of cargo (2 within five years of application), under the supervision of a Tankerman-PIC or Tankerman-PIC (Barge) including,
  • 5 loads and 5 discharges, with
  • 2 commencements and 2 completions of loadings, and
  • 2 commencements and 2 completions or discharge.


A Tankerman Engineer is an endorsement added to an Engineer license.

No person licensed or credentialed may serve as a chief engineer, first assistant engineer, or cargo engineer aboard an inspected self-propelled tank vessel when liquid cargo in bulk or cargo residue is carried unless they have a tankerman-engineer endorsement or equivalent.

To qualify for the Tankerman Engineer endorsement, you’ll need:

  • 90 days of service as an engineering officer in the engine department on a tankship or self-propelled vessel certified to carry DL or LG
  • 90 days rating or cadet service in the engine department on a tankship or self-propelled vessel certified to carry DL or LG.
  • A combination of service listed above.

Restricted Tankerman-PIC / Barge

Restricted tankerman endorsement is a valid tankerman endorsement on an MMC restricting its holder as the Coast Guard deems appropriate. For example, the endorsement may restrict the mariner to: A specific cargo or cargoes; a specific vessel or vessels; a specific facility or facilities; a specific employer or employers; a specific activity or activities (such as loading or unloading in a cargo transfer); or a particular area of water.

You may apply for a Restricted Tankerman endorsement to specific cargoes, specific vessels, or groups of vessels (such as uninspected towing vessels and oil spill response vessels), specific facilities, and/or specific employers.

General Tankerman requirements

In addition to the specific requirements for each rating, there are general requirements you'll need to meet before applying for your Tankerman endorsement.

First, you will need a valid MMC and TWIC card. These have the following general requirements:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Submit a medical certificate
  • Speak English
  • Pass a drug testing
  • Have a valid CPR/First Aid card
  • Pay your mariner’s fees
  • Submit your sea service letter

In addition to these requirements, you will need a Firefighting Course Certificate and Approved Cargo Course Certificate.

Working as a Tankerman is a physically demanding job. You should be prepared to work long hours, be on your feet, and work outside regardless of the weather conditions.

A Tankerman endorsement is valid for the duration of the merchant mariner's document or MMC on which the endorsement appears.

Schools that offer Tankerman Courses

One of the final steps to becoming a certified Tankerman is completing a USCG-approved course. These courses are 1-2 weeks of in-person training. You will learn about proper cargo handling, tanker safety procedures, pollution prevention, and more.

Here are a few of the approved courses we recommend:

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About the author

Nate Gilman
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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