What is Sea Time and How to Get it

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Work Your Way Up with Sea Time and AB Classes

Chalking up “sea time” is key to working your way up through the chain of command as a merchant mariner. Passing tests for the next rung of the ladder is the other piece needed, and that’s what we can help with here at the Northwest Maritime Academy.

The NWMA offers Able Bodied Seaman (or known simply as AB) classes every month at its La Conner location, so keep checking our courses link on this website for dates and times.

In the meantime, here is what Capt. Benjamin Garman, administrator of the Northwest Maritime Academy, covered in this week’s NWMA Weekly podcast, Episode 3: Gaining Sea Time. Watch it here on the Northwest Maritime Academy Facebook page.

By Capt. Benjamin Garman

One of the biggest differences between the merchant marine and working in the rest of the world is that as a mariner you are always building toward your next promotion. As long as you keep on working, you will work your way up the command chain in the merchant marine.

sea time

Going from deck hand cleaning the head to the lofty position of ship’s master is possible for anyone with the right motivation and time. Here is how it works:

After you have gotten your Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) from the United States Coast Guard
(USCG) you can start looking to get a job on a ship. Every person who qualifies for a MMC will start with three positions available to them: Ordinary Seaman (OS) is the lowest rank in the deck department; Wiper in the engineering department, and Food Handler (FH) in the stewards department.

Every day you work under one of the above positions on a ship you receive “sea time” and these accumulated days allow you to work your way toward the next promotion in your department. For example, an OS must complete 360 days (one Coast Guard year) of sea time in order to qualify for the ability to upgrade to Able Seaman — and about two and a half times more pay.

Along with getting the sea time you must also pass the tests required by the position. Since these tests are very difficult and the questions come out of a massive bank, most people opt to take a class in lieu of testing. This is where the Northwest Maritime Academy comes in.

Our monthly classes at our La Conner facility ensure a better outcome and eliminate the stress of testing at the local Coast Guard Regional Exam Center (REC). It is a better use of your time to just go to the class and be guaranteed to pass than to test at the USCG testing site using its random question generator, which can be quite brutal.

Northwest Maritime Academy Offers Monthly AB Courses in La Conner

Our classes offer a better way to learn than trying to study 20 or 30 books and then hoping you get it right at the REC testing site. At the Northwest Maritime Academy the test is done in class and you have the ability to retake it on site without the long wait with the Coast Guard.

sea time

Once you take the class and pass you get your completion certificate, which is the equivalent of testing. So, come take your AB course with us when you have the year of sea time or are getting close.

Good luck out there and feel free to give me a call with any more questions on USCG licensing and the merchant marine in general.

For more information call Capt. Ben Garman at (253) 358-2447

Providing Professional & Entry Level Maritime Training



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