What is QMED? Qualified Member of the Engine Department

QMED is a key role in a vessel's engine department. Learn about the 5 QMED ratings and the steps to qualify for each.

3 mins read・Mar 29, 2023
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A QMED is a Qualified Member of the Engine Department working on a vessel. QMED crew members are responsible for the maintenance, operation, and repairs of the major mechanical systems on a vessel.

Mariners serving in a QMED position must hold a QMED rating, but it’s an Unlicensed position. QMED is a USCG rating attached to the mariner’s Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMC).

QMED is the entry-level rating in the engine department. It’s one of the first steps toward achieving any Engineering Officer License. Essentially, QMED is the equivalent of an Able Seaman  (Able Seamen work in the Deck Department rather than the Engine Department.)

What does a QMED do?

The engine department on a vessel is responsible for the main propulsion and auxiliary systems, and other mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and refrigeration systems, including deck machinery and cargo-handling equipment.

Unlicensed mariners in the engine department work under the supervision of a licensed engineer. The unlicensed positions within the engine department include: wipers, oilers, electricians, pumpman, fireman, machinist, refrigeration engineers, and junior engineers. There are 5 QMED ratings, and different training requirements for each rating.

The day to day duties of QMED mariners vary depending on the vessel type and the QMED endorsement the mariner qualifies for. They primarily work in the engine room, fire-room, machine shop, and steering-engine room.

QMED categories

There are 5 different QMED ratings, and each rating is endorsed separately.

1. Fireman/Watertender

Firemen and Watertenders monitor the vessel evaporators to ensure proper operation including making sure that temperature, pressure and water levels are maintained, that there is correct distribution of evaporator output, and that fires are tended by controlling fuel airflow.

2. Oiler

Oilers are responsible for wiping oil, maintaining tools, and cleaning, preparing, and painting machinery, equipment, and related spaces. They also lubricate moving parts of propulsion engines and auxiliary equipment.

3. Junior engineer

Junior engineers are responsible for engineering systems maintenance and repair work including keeping required records, logs, and reports. Other duties include standing engine room watch at sea or port, standing security, performing engine watches and assisting in fueling operations.

4. Electrician/Refrigerating engineer

Electricians and refrigeration engineers work on engine room operations and maintain electrical and refrigeration systems such as generator and distribution systems, electric motors, high voltage installations, and shipping container refrigeration.

5. Pumpman/Machinist

Pumpman and machinists maintain, repair, and operate deck machinery, lathes, drill presses, welding, brazing systems, transfer pumps, stripping pumps, strainers, filters, and associated piping, valves, and fittings.

Previously, some of the combined endorsements—like Pumpman and Machinist—were issued individually. Mariners holding a single rating that’s now combined can either renew their endorsement, or request the combined rating and pass the appropriate exam.

The examination subjects for each rating are covered in Table 1 of 46 CFR § 12.505(c).

There is also a QMED - Any Rating which means the mariner is qualified for every position.

How do you become a QMED?

Before a mariner may be issued any endorsement as QMED, they must successfully complete an examination on subjects relevant to the endorsement (46 CFR 12.505(a)).

To qualify for any endorsement as QMED, an applicant must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Pass the prescribed physical and medical examination requirements.
  • Present evidence of having passed a USCG-approved drug test.
  • Speak and understand the English language as would be required in performing the general duties of QMED and during an emergency aboard ship.
  • Meet the sea service or training requirements.
  • Pass an examination as QMED.

The sea service requirements are 6 months or 180 days serving as a wiper or coal passer. These are entry-level positions working under the ship’s engineer. They’re mainly responsible for cleaning and maintaining the engine area.

Graduating from a maritime training program which includes at-sea training can be substituted for the required sea service.

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About the author

Sam Mckay
Sam Mckay
NOAA Corps Veteran

Sam Mckay is a NOAA Corps Veteran working on his PhD in Nuclear Fusion

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