Requirements for Able Seaman
Check the tabs below to see the Able Seaman Requirements for each Able Seaman rating
The Code of Federal Regulations establishes in (46 CFR 12.05) five categories of able seaman for the United States Merchant Marine.
Requires three years service on deck on vessels operating on the oceans or the Great Lakes.
Requires 18 months service on deck in vessels of 100 gross tons or more which operate in a service not exclusively confined to the rivers and smaller inland lakes of the United States.
Requires 12 months service on deck on vessels operating on the oceans, or the navigable waters of the United States including the Great Lakes.
Requires six months service on deck on vessels operating on the oceans, or the navigable waters of the United States including the Great Lakes.
Requires six months service on deck on sail or auxiliary sail vessels operating on the oceans or the navigable waters of the United States including the Great Lakes.
Able Seaman Requirements
An able seaman (AB) is a naval rating of the deck department of a merchant ship with more than two years’ experience at sea and considered “well acquainted with his duty”. An AB may work as a watchstander, a day worker, or a combination of these roles. Once a sufficient amount of sea time is acquired, then the AB can apply to take a series of courses/examinations to become certified as an officer.
Time served in certain training programs and school ships may be substituted for the time of service listed above. Special certificates of service are available for able seaman, Great Lakes—18 months service; able seaman, any waters—12 months; able seaman, tugs and towboats—any waters; able seaman, bays and sounds—12 months, vessels 500 gross tons or less not carrying passengers; and able seaman, seagoing barges—12 months.
Able Seaman Watchstander
At sea an AB watchstander’s duties include standing watch as helmsman and lookout. A helmsman is required to maintain a steady course, properly execute all rudder orders and communicate utilizing navigational terms relating to heading and steering. A watchstander may be called upon to stand security-related watches, such as a gangway watch or anchor watch while the ship is not underway.
Able Seaman Dayworker
An AB day worker performs general maintenance, repair, sanitation and upkeep of material, equipment, and areas in the deck department. This can include maintenance of the ship’s metal structures such as chipping, scraping, cleaning, priming, and painting. Areas frequently in need of such maintenance include the hull, decks, superstructure, cargo gear, and smoke stack. Day workers also frequently perform maintenance on lifeboats, rescue boats and liferafts, and emergency and damage control gear. For many vessels, being a dayworker is a position granted to senior AB’s, since it generally allows more time for rest and relaxation.
Able Seaman General duties
An AB may be called on to use emergency, lifesaving, damage control, and safety equipment. AB’s perform all operations connected with the launching of lifesaving equipment. An AB is expected to be able to operate deck machinery, such as the windlass or winches while mooring or unmooring, and to operate cargo gear.
Able seamen require advanced training, including lifeboatman certification.
The ship’s boatswain, if carried, is typically a senior AB. The boatswain is in charge of the able seamen and ordinary seaman that comprise the unlicensed deck crew, and reports directly to the chief mate.
For other able seaman requirements check our the National Maritime Centers Able Seaman Checklist.