USCG Licensed Mariner


Members of the United States Merchant Marine are referred to as Merchant Mariners, Mariners, or Merchant Seaman, NOT Merchant Marines. Only members of the United States Marine Corps carry the title of Marine.

A Licensed Mariner is a person who holds a license issued by one or more countries to hold senior positions aboard ships, boats, and similar vessels. The United States Coast Guard grants licenses to members of the United States Merchant Marine in five categories: deck officers, engineers, staff officers, radio officers, and pilots.

Deck Officers

There are a wide variety of licenses for deck officers, with restrictions of geography and tonnage. Licenses without such restrictions are called unlimited as in Third Mate or Officer of the Watch, Unlimited. The grades of unlimited licenses are:

  • Master's License for masters and lower grades.
  • Chief Mate's License for chief mates and lower grades.
  • Second Mate's License qualifies the holder as second mate or third mate.
  • Third Mate's License qualifies the holder as third mate.

Mariner licenses range from large to small vessels. Smaller charter boat operators may have a charter boat license or a certificate under the Large Yacht Code.


Licenses are issued in the grades of:

  • Chief Engineer
  • First Assistant Engineer
  • Second Assistant Engineer
  • Third Assistant Engineer
  • Chief Engineer (limited)
  • Assistant Engineer (limited)
  • Designated duty engineer
  • Chief Engineer (uninspected fishing industry vessels)
  • Assistant Engineer (uninspected fishing industry vessels)

Staff Officers

Staff officers are issued a Certificate of Registry in the following grades:

  • Chief purser
  • Purser
  • Senior assistant purser
  • Junior assistant purser
  • Medical doctor
  • Professional nurse

Radio Officers

  • Radio officer


Pilot licenses vary with tonnage and geography. Types of pilot's licenses are:

  • General routes (routes not restricted to rivers, canals and small lakes)
  • River routes
  • Canal and small lakes routes