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Requirements for obtaining a USCG Captains License

If you plan on operating a vessel that carries passengers for hire, such as for fishing charters, sightseeing tours, diving excursions, transportation services, or teaching purposes, then you will need to obtain a captain's license. In the United States, captain's licenses are issued by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).


There are several different types of captain's licenses available, each with its own specific requirements and limitations. One of the most common licenses is the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) license, also known as the "6-pack" or "Charterboat Captain's License." This license allows you to operate an uninspected vessel, which means that the equipment and design of the boat are subject to less regulation. The "6-pack" name refers to the fact that this license is only valid for vessels carrying a maximum of six passengers. OUPV licenses are also issued for specific routes, such as the Great Lakes, inland waterways, or near coastal waters out to 100 miles offshore. All OUPV licenses apply to vessels of 100 Gross Tons or less, which is approximately 100 feet in length. It is possible to upgrade an OUPV license to a Master license, which allows you to operate inspected vessels that are permitted to carry more than six passengers.


To obtain an OUPV license, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Submit an application

  • Have a physical examination within the past 12 months

  • Pass an approved drug test within the past 6 months

  • Complete an approved CPR and First Aid course within the past 12 months

  • Have 90 days of service on appropriate tonnage vessels in the last 3 years

  • Have 360 days of deck service in the operation of vessels, including 90 days of service on either ocean or near coastal waters (for Near Coastal routes) or on the Great Lakes (for Great Lakes/Inland routes) or on any waters (for Inland routes)

If you wish to obtain a towing endorsement, you will need to request and pass an additional examination.


To qualify for a Master license, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have 90 days of service on appropriate tonnage vessels in the last 3 years

  • Have 720 days of service on steam, motor, or auxiliary sail vessels on ocean or near coastal waters (for Near Coastal routes) or 360 days of service on steam, motor, sail/auxiliary sail vessels, including 90 days on Great Lakes waters (for Great Lakes and Inland routes) or 360 days of service on steam, motor, auxiliary sail vessels on any waters (for Inland routes or Rivers)

  • Submit evidence of 360 days of service on sail or auxiliary sail vessels (for a sailing endorsement)

It is also possible to obtain a towing endorsement for a Master license by either passing an examination or completing a course.


All USCG licenses must be renewed every five years. To renew your license, you will need to submit a renewal application, have a physical examination, and pass an approved drug test. No written exams are required for license renewal.


If you are interested in obtaining a captain's license, you can find more information and application materials at a Regional Examination Center (REC). Some commercial companies are also approved by the USCG to administer exams and may offer exam preparation classes for a fee. Check out more information from the source! Here is the website.


Requirements for being a USCG captain
This is Bill Huling who was the original owner of our 1972 Cheoy Lee Clipper. If he wasn't a licensed captain he could have fooled me be cause he sure looks the part!

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