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What do I need to renew my USCG captains license with less than 360 days?

Taking the wrong courses to renew your USCG License is a waste of money! By following these simple steps you will always take the right courses.





You will need all of your sea service documents from the last five years. Make sure you have them all from every vessel you’ve worked on. You will also need your USCG License which has every National and International (STCW) endorsement you hold on it. If you hold Master of Towing, Mate (Pilot) of Towing or Tankerman endorsements we will cover the additional requirements in a separate blog post called Renewing my Master of Towing, Mate (Pilot) of Towing or Tankerman endorsements!


To determine which courses you need to take to renew your license you need to first Count up how many creditable sea days you have in the last 5 years. (MM-SEAS does this automatically for you).

  1. Count up how many creditable sea days you have in the last 5 years.

  2. If you have over 360 days in the last 5 years you do not need any courses to renew your USCG National endorsements. You will have to take some courses if you hold International (STCW) endorsements.

  3. If you have less than 360 days in the last 5 years, renewing your USCG National endorsements is as simple as an open book take home test for each endorsement! You will have to take courses if you also hold Radar Observer, Tankerman endorsements, Proficiency in Survival Craft (PSC endorsements) and/ or International (STCW) endorsements. If you hold a Master of Towing or Mate (Pilot) of Towing you will need to complete Part D of the published TOAR for your route or a course that meets Part D in addition to the open book take home tests.

As you continue reading, think of determining which courses you need for renewals as two paths. Path one is for folks who have more than 360 creditable sea days in the last 5 years. Path two is for everyone else.


Let’s Figure out Exactly What Courses You Need to Take to Renew Your USCG License


To determine which courses you need to take to renew your license you need to first Count up how many creditable sea days you have in the last 5 years. (MM-SEAS does this automatically for you).



Let’s Dive into Explaining Creditable Sea Days Before We Move On.


We’ve done two blog post’s on sea time Sea Service for your USCG License Defined and How to Log Hours for Captains License but the main idea is you get a sea day for every day you are away from the pier for over 4 hours.


You do want to make sure that you are also getting credit for radar and STCW if your vessel regularly holds regular fire, emergency, and abandon ship drills and/ or you are serving in a position on that vessel which you carried out Bridge Watch duties in a position that routinely uses radar for navigation and collision avoidance purposes.


The easiest way to do this is to make sure the following statement is on your Sea Service Letter on Company letterhead:


YOUR NAME carried out Bridge Watch duties in a position that routinely uses radar for navigation and collision avoidance purposes. VESSEL NAME is required to conduct regular fire, emergency, and abandon ship drills. YOUR NAME’s service includes ongoing participation in training and drills relevant to Basic Training.”


If you are using a CG719S small vessel sea service form you will need a separate memo on official letterhead signed by the captain, owner or vessel manager which states the start date and the end date of your service as well as the following statement:

YOUR NAME carried out Bridge Watch duties in a position that routinely uses radar for navigation and collision avoidance purposes. VESSEL NAME is required to conduct regular fire, emergency, and abandon ship drills. YOUR NAME’s service includes ongoing participation in training and drills relevant to Basic Training.”


That being said, you do get sea time for vessels that rarely get underway.


For the Deck department this can be in two ways. 1) You have no underway sea service, in that case you can get credit for up to 3 years of service (1080 days only for renewal) under closely related service based on 46 CFR § 10.227 section (e)(1)(iv). 2) You have some underway sea service, in this case your service is creditable on a 3-for-1 basis (12 months of experience equals 4 months of creditable service) for up to 6 months of service credit based on 46 CFR § 10.232 section (e)(2)(ii).


For the Engine Department you obtain day for day service for up to 180 days for renewal of your MMC based on 46 CFR § 10.232 section (e)(1).


I do not have more the 360 creditable sea days in the last 5 years


No worries! There may be a few steps depending on which licenses you hold but it is all completely doable!



National Endorsement Renewal less than 360 days in 5 years

If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date there are FOUR different options to renew your Captain's License. 46 CFR § 10.227 lays them out and we will go through each way for you. <https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/46/10.227>


Option 1) Open Book Take Home Test


You can take an open book take home test for all National Endorsements you hold. This will be emailed to you after your application is approved at the National Maritime Center for all domestic licenses that you hold.


As an example, if you currently possess a Master 200 GRT Near Coastal, an Able Seaman Special and Lifeboatman, you will take an open book test for each of them. Remember, you have been sailing and got your original domestic license so the open book test should be a breeze!


The NMC will charge you one Examination fee of $45 no matter how many National Endorsements you are renewing.


Option 2) Take a Renewal Course


You can also take a USCG approved renewal course for each of your National endorsements. We believe this is a waste of your time and money but you are welcome to do them!


Option 3) Closely Related Service


Provide evidence of employment as a qualified instructor or in a position closely related to the operation, construction, or repair of vessels (either deck or engineer as appropriate) for at least 3 years during the past 5 years. This is explained in detail in 46 CFR § 10.227 section (e)(1)(iv). This is typically demonstrated to the USCG in the form of a memo from your employer.


Option 4) Qualified Maritime Instructor


You can renew each National Endorsement if you have taught a CG approved course relevant to the endorsement being renewed at least twice within the past 5 years. This is typically demonstrated to the USCG in the form of a memo from your employer. This is for all domestic licenses that you hold.


As an example, if you currently possess a Chief Mate Unlimited Oceans, Master 200 GRT Near Coastal, an Able Seaman Special and Lifeboatman, you would need to have taught six courses. Two related to Unlimited Oceans, Two related to Master 200 GRT Near Coastal and Two related to Able Seaman Special and Lifeboatman.


Additional Exam Requirement If you are using Option 3 or Option 4


If you are renewing a deck license or officer endorsement with this type of employment you are also going to have to take an open book Rules of the Road and/ or Lifeboatman tests that are emailed to you.


The NMC will charge you an Examination fee of $45 for this test. You could take a ROTR renewal/original course and/ or Lifeboatman Refresher/original instead of the test if you would like.

Radar Observer Endorsement Renewal less than 360 days in 5 years


If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date, you will need to take an original, refresher, or recertification Radar Observer course or have taught an original, refresher, or recertification Radar Observer course twice in the last 5 years.


Policy Letter 03-19 Radar Renewal lays out the rules very clearly.


STCW Basic Training Endorsement Renewal less than 360 days in 5 years


If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date, you will need to take Basic Training Refresher or you can take the original Basic Training course again.


NVIC 08-14 GUIDELINES FOR QUALIFICATION FOR STCW ENDORSEMENTS IN BASIC TRAINING (FORMERLY BASIC SAFETY TRAINING) lays out the rules very clearly.


STCW PSC Endorsement Renewal less than 360 days in 5 years


If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date, you will need to take Proficiency in Survival Craft (PSC) Refresher or you can take the original Proficiency in Survival Craft (PSC) course again.


NVIC 04-14 GUIDELINES FOR QUALIFICATION FOR STCW ENDORSEMENTS FOR PROFICIENCY IN SURVIVAL CRAFT AND RESCUE BOATS OTHER THAN FAST RESCUE BOATS lays out the rules very clearly.


STCW (PSC-Limited) Endorsement Renewal less than 360 days in 5 years


If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date, you will need to take a Proficiency in Survival Craft - Limited (PSC-Limited) Refresher course or you can take the original Proficiency in Survival Craft - Limited (PSC-Limited) course again.


NVIC 04-14 GUIDELINES FOR QUALIFICATION FOR STCW ENDORSEMENTS FOR PROFICIENCY IN SURVIVAL CRAFT AND RESCUE BOATS OTHER THAN FAST RESCUE BOATS lays out the rules very clearly.


STCW Fast Rescue Boat Endorsement Renewal less than 360 days in 5 years


If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date, you will need to take a Fast Rescue Boat Refresher course or you can take the original Fast Rescue Boat course again. As a warning there are very few FRB refresher courses available.


NVIC 04-14 GUIDELINES FOR QUALIFICATION FOR STCW ENDORSEMENTS FOR PROFICIENCY IN FAST RESCUE BOATS lays out the rules very clearly.



STCW Advanced Firefighting Endorsement Renewal


If you are going to have less than 360 days in the previous five years of your renewal application date, you will need to take an Advanced Firefighting Refresher course or you can take the original Advanced Firefighting course again.


NVIC 09-14 GUIDELINES FOR QUALIFICATION FOR STCW ENDORSEMENTS FOR ADVANCED FIREFIGHTING lays out the rules very clearly.



MM-SEAS Will Help Renew Your Captains License With Less Than 360 Sea Days of Creditable Sea Service


We understand that getting, upgrading and renewing your merchant mariner credential can be a frustrating experience. This is why my team and I built MM-SEAS (www.mmseas.com). MM-SEAS makes the complicated licensing process for Captains, Deckhands, Mates and Engineers simple with an easy to use software that handles the entire USCG licensing process for your first license, renewals and upgrades for you, stores your paperwork, and tracks your sea days. Visit the MM-SEAS team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube for more tips on license renewals and upgrades. If you have questions about MM-SEAS, or the licensing process, shoot me a note at nate@mariner-credentials.com We built MM-SEAS to be with you every step of the way! The software makes the merchant mariner credentialing process simple. We’re on your side--and trust us--you got this!!!!




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