To become a civilian mariner with Military Sealift Command, you must earn your Merchant Mariner Credential. This requires you to be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and eligible for security clearance. You must also weigh less than 295 pounds, pass drug and physical examinations, and, for nearly all merchant seaman jobs, have seagoing experience. While meeting these requirements makes you eligible to be a merchant seaman, certain skills can make you a successful one.
First Aid Know-How
Basic Safety Training can benefit you as a merchant seaman and make your application stand out. A requirement of the U.S. Coast Guard, the BST program is comprised of four parts: first aid and CPR; personal safety & social responsibilities; personal survival techniques; and basic firefighting. The BST program can be completed in 40 hours and will teach you skills that include clearing the airway for breathing, recognizing emergency signals, using personal life-saving equipment and extinguishing fires.
A Mechanical Thumb
Mechanical rooms abound in merchant ships. These include an engine room, steering-engine room, ice-machine room and machine shop, all of which require ongoing maintenance and repairs. To handle this part of the job, you must pass examinations to earn Qualified Member of the Engineering Department endorsements. The initial endorsement is the QMED - General, which the completion of a Basic Safety Training program can prepare you for. Additional endorsements include oiler, fireman/watertender, pumpman and electrician.
An Easy-Going But Alert Personality
Life on a merchant ship is hard. Seamen and women often spend months away from home, living in cramped environments with people of all backgrounds, personalities and habits. To succeed, you need to be able to shrug off everyday annoyances, while at the same time staying sharp and alert. The work is hard, dirty and often dangerous, with hazards that include being crushed by falling objects, falling from the deck and being poisoned by toxic fluids. Those who are cautious and alert will best avoid injuries.
A Knack for Cleanliness
Cleanliness is extremely important on a ship, where the quarters feel especially cramped. Personal hygiene and good housekeeping skills are vital for more reasons than aesthetics: infectious diseases can spread quickly on a ship. The highly-contagious Norovirus -- which causes severe diarrhea and vomiting -- is one of several bugs seafarers want to avoid. To land a job as a merchant seaman, you must demonstrate that you are aware of the importance of sanitation as well as knowledge of proper cleaning techniques.
- Military Sealift Command: Entry-Level/Skilled Laborer
- Military Sealift Command: Entry-Level/Skilled Laborer: Frequently Asked Questions
- Department of the Navy: Military Sealift Command: Human Resources Advisory Letter
- Heave Ho -- How to Become a Sailor in the US Merchant Marine Fleet
- Safety Management Systems: Basic Safety Training (BST) Entire STCW-95 Program
- Marine Education Textbooks, Inc: Study Recommendations: Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED)
- Chesapeake Marine Training Institute: QH-030 Qualified Member of the Engine Department (QMED) With All Endorsements: Course Overview
- Dawn: Cruise Ship Restrooms Dangerously Unclean: Study
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