What is Sea Time and How To Get It

Obtaining sea time is necessary for anyone looking to acquire or upgrade their maritime license. As mariners are always working towards their next promotion, increasing their sea time is extremely important.

For those looking to enter the maritime industry with zero sea time, there are different routes that can be taken to gain sea time.

  • Entering the workforce with no prior experience at an entry level position (also known as a “Hawespiper”).
    • This will take many years to acquire sea time for endorsement and license upgrades.
  • Attending a maritime college:
    • Not only will you graduate with a captain’s license and degree, but you will also gain sea time through Co-Operative experiences.
  • Joining either the Coast Guard or Navy can allow you to earn sea time quickly, although most require much more initial training and a length of service commitment.

First, we must answer this question: “What is sea time?”

“Sea time” equates to the total time spent by a seafarer working on a vessel at sea. A seafarer’s sea time is recorded by the company they are employed by, although seafarers should also keep track of their sea time to ensure accurate record keeping.

Upon completion of a certain period of time working on a ship (also known as a “hitch”), the department head (Chief Engineer, Ship Captain) will provide seafarers with an official sea time document. The sea time document includes information about the ship, as well as information about seafarers’ behavior and professionalism whilst onboard. The ship’s official stamp and the master’s signature are necessary to prove the authentication of the document. Sea time certificates will be essential to prove your work experience in a certain position.

Sea time requirements differ from country to country, although most follow standard STCW requirements. Overall, sea time calculation begins on the day the seafarer boards the ship and has their Certificate of Competency (COC) (for officers) and seafarer identification document stamped by the master of the ship.

Generally, license qualifications identify sea time as a minimum number of days worked to qualify for specific licenses.

Some countries calculate sea time in “Number of Days,” while others calculate it in “Number of Months.” How your Sea Time is calculated will depend either on your nationality or on the COC you are opting for.

Sea time documents define a day of work as eight hours of work doing assigned or watchkeeping duties (not including overtime). The United States Coast Guard, AMSA and some other government states specify that if a person is working a 12 hour job onboard a ship within a day, that seafarer’s sea time will be calculated as 1 day + ½ day of service credit.

One year of sea time is considered as 360 days of work. One month of sea time is considered as 30 days.

To upgrade one’s license, or to be endorsed as an officer of higher rank, one must pass an exam for a Certificate of Competency (COC). Once seafarers take an exam, they then have one year to submit their license application with the required sea time.

At Northeast Maritime Institute College of Maritime Science, you will graduate with an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Nautical Science, your Captain’s License, as well as up to 180 days of sea time that can be used in the future to further upgrade your license. This sea time will be achieved through Co-Operative experiences during your summer breaks.

As a college student at Northeast Maritime Institute College of Maritime Science, you will receive even more sea time through class time which will apply to the licensing offered by Northeast Maritime Institute.

To learn more about Northeast Maritime Institute College of Maritime Science, visit collegeofmaritimescience.northeastmaritime.com

Below are some additional links that you might find helpful when making your decision to attend the College of Maritime Science.