Commercial Shipping Guide

Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Commercial Shipping Program

The Commercial Shipping Program you are about to embark on should be considered the capstone of your marine education process. Your campus will be the world as you sail to all parts of the globe.

Your Commercial Shipping Experience is designed to satisfy regulatory requirements while reinforcing qualities that are important to becoming a marine professional. You must emphasize the importance of satisfying STCW requirements while performing your assigned duties. The amount of time you invest in the Commercial Shipping assignment will yield improved qualities such as confidence, motivation, time management, communication, and team interaction while enhancing your professional skills. What you get out of the Commercial shipping experience is entirely up to you. The more you put into the experience the more you will take with you.

The assignment is for Sixty (60) days. You are a cadet representative of Massachusetts Maritime Academy and an employee of the company while assigned to the vessel. While you may be considered in a “training status”, you should strive to gain the respect from all members of the ship’s force by time of debarkation. You should strive to have all the necessary skills to the Officer in Charge of the Navigational or Engineering Watch at the time you are discharged from the vessel. As a member of the crew, you will have assignments where others will count upon you in time of need. Take special effort in knowing what your Watch and Station Bill duties are. Other people’s lives may be dependent on your knowledge and actions.

The following pages should assist with questions that may arise during your assignment. Make sure you manage time in what will be a busy schedule to complete your Commercial Shipping Project. Always think Safety First and make the most of this wonderful experience.

Smooth sailing and best of luck as you head off to sea.

Captain John D. Dooley
Assistant Director Professional Seagoing Services

Commercial Shipping Guide

To board a ship you will need the following items:

  • A valid passport that does not expire within Six Months after your return.
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential
  • An International or Academy Certificate of Vaccination
  • A U.S.C.G. Merchant Mariner Credential with valid medical clearance
  • A VPDSD Security Certificate
  • An individual drug testing letter.
  • A Commercial shipping packet
  • A Sea Project from your department.
  • A current USCG 719k physical

You are committing to a Massachusetts Maritime Academy Shipping Term of sixty (60) days and must complete it no less than sixty (60) days of this commercial shipping sea term. Early departure for ship repositioning should be planned in that window between 55 and 60 days. Call the numbers below for any other questions relative to a situation or scenario that may occur.

****Discharge papers - will be given to CDR Huhnke the day you return to Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The discharge papers and the date that you submit them, determine a portion of your grade. ****

Deck Cadets – will also submit their sea project to CDR Huhnke on the day you return to Massachusetts Maritime Academy. A grade percentage is determined by the date you submit the sea project.

Evaluations – will be given to CDR Huhnke even if they are addressed to Captain Dooley or CDR Letourneau. Copies will be forwarded as required once the evaluations are received.

Cadet MMC - must be returned to CDR Huhnke with your discharge papers to be returned to the USCG in preparation for the new one you will receive with your license. If you will need your MMC for employment before graduation, let CDR Huhnke know so she can have it temporarily returned to you.

Changes to sea time – If there are any questions as to when you should leave your ship or if an emergency arises, you should call any of the numbers below to receive permission or advice.

Professional Seagoing Services Department

  • Commodore Lima 508-830-5013
  • CDR Huhnke 508-830-5071
  • Capt Dooley 508-830-6457
  • Mrs. Mulgrew 508-830-6410
The Commercial Shipping Program

The minimum number of sea service required to qualify for your original license as a Third Mate of Oceans, Steam or Motor Vessels of any Gross Tons or Third Assistant Engineer of Steam and Motor Vessels gas turbine of any Horsepower is on hundred and eighty (180) days. A maximum of one third, or sixty (60) days may be obtained through the Maritime Academy’s Commercial Shipping Program.

Any 2/c cadet maintaining a 2.0 GPA who has successfully passed Radar, Physics II (Engine), the Cadet Oilers Exam and the USCG Lifeboat Exam, and has accumulated less that 100 demerits in the previous year’s fulltime enrollment is eligible to apply to the Commercial Shipping Program. Applications are accepted and initial processing completed in September for the Winter Term and in March for the summer Term. The Professional Seagoing Services Department will coordinate development of the Commercial Shipping List based on CQPA, conduct, professionalism, and processing of required documents. Successful applicants must obtain a Cadet Merchant Mariner Credential, VPDSD Certificate, TWIC card, Passport, and Drug free Certificate.

The Professional Seagoing Services Department will meet with all cadets eligible for the Commercial Shipping Program to:

  1. Check the progress of all documents required to ship out.
  2. Discuss shipboard life, liberty, discipline, who to report to when first going aboard, familiarization with the ship from stem to stern, safety, room standards (cleanliness), meals, duties, watch standing, fire, lifeboat and security drills, uniforms and ship assignments if available.

The week of final exams will be the time to report to The STCW Licensing Manager to pick up your orders. The orders envelope will contain the following:

  1. A letter to the Captain (Engine and Marine Transportation cadets) Chief Engineer (Engineer cadets only)
  2. Sea training instructions (do’s and don’ts)
  3. Your Sea Project
  4. Information for joining the Vessel (all inclusive instructions, telephone numbers, names, etc)
  5. Sea Term check list
  6. Travel instructions
  7. Cadet contract to sail for a period of 60 days

The Purpose of Shipboard Training
The Academy assigns the cadet to a merchant vessel for on the job training for several reasons. This type of training exposes the cadet to the skills, knowledge and professional attitudes required to be a licensed ship’s officer. It allows the cadet to understand the importance between classroom study and practical operations. The cadet is exposed to the demands and benefits of a maritime career first hand and thus can judge if, in fact it is a suitable career choice. It also helps to mold the cadet’s professional character in a real life environment not generally available to the average state university student.

Travel Policy
All travel arrangements are coordinated through the Professional Seagoing Services Department

The cadet must be ever mindful of his/her duties as an American citizen and the responsibilities to their country and the image he/she presents when associating with other people in foreign lands. Respect the host country’s culture, laws, and religious beliefs.

Travel Uniform
If traveling internationally, do not wear a uniform. Dress in clean civilian attire consisting of a sport shirt (blouse) slacks and dress shoes. Be clean shaven and have a proper haircut.

Drug Abuse Policy
Use or possession of controlled substance is against the law and is not allowed.

If a cadet is convicted of illegal possession or use of drugs including the controlled substance of heroin, barbiturates, cocaine, speed, LSD, or marijuana, the United States Coast Guard will revoke his/her seaman papers immediately.

Alcohol Abuse Policy
The cadet will diligently avoid the use of alcoholic beverages in any amount that would diminish his/her physical and mental abilities to perform work or other duties. Aboard ship, the cadet will not possess or use alcohol beverages. Stay drug and alcohol free and steer a clear course!

Regulations & Plans

Increasing regulations require vessel compliance with numerous International Standards:

  • International Maritime Organization Guidelines (IMO)
  • Classification Society Rules (ABS)
  • Flag State Registry (USCG)
  • Safety Management System (ISM/SMS)
  • Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS)
  • Standards of Training Certification and Watch keeping (STCW)
  • Shipboard Security Plan (MTSA/ISPS)
  • Oil Spill Response plans( MARPOL)
  • Ballast Water Management

Compliance with these standards results in best practices for crew safety, security and environmental protection. Implementation may vary from company to company but all are subject to internal, external, Company / Regulatory Body Audits and Port State inspections.

Reporting to the ship
The cadet will always report to the vessel respectful and in accordance with the Port Security Plan rules for attending the vessel via the controlled access gangway in proper civilian attire and identify him or herself with your TWIC card upon initial boarding of the vessel.

Sign On
Upon reporting aboard, the cadet will be escorted to specified area to sign on shipping articles. The cadet will produce his or her Merchant Marine Credential, Drug Free Certificate, current USCG physical and academy record of immunization at this time. Copies of all applicable company vessel policies will be provided. All paperwork must be read, accurately completed, understood and signed. You may elect to have a monthly allotment (set amount of earnings sent directly home or bank account) at this time. A bank account routing number and address for direct deposit is the usual preferred method. As a final step of the sign on process an officer or member of the crew will be tasked with giving the new crewmember a familiarization tour of the vessel complete with instructions of his or her duties and responsibilities as they relate to the safety and security of the ship.

Courtesy Call on Captain/Chief Engineer
When signing aboard, if the process precludes an introduction, the cadet should make a brief call on the Captain/or Chief Engineer as a courtesy to let them know they are signed aboard and familiar with the vessel.

Academy Work Policy
The requirement for a cadet to attend docking, undocking, maneuvering, machinery changeovers and other activities that require repeated exposure in order to develop proficiency is not abuse of the cadet by the ship’s officers. It is the policy of the Academy that the cadet “turn to” (report to work) whenever there is something to learn or if there is a particular need on the part of the ship. The cadet is not entitled to overtime for work performed but they may accept compensation or extra time off if offered. Aboard ship, officers report at least 15 minutes early for duty. Being late for watch will not be tolerated. Never, ever sit down on watch

Orientation to the Vessel

The cadet should immediately reinforce familiarization with the vessel. This may be done as follows: Locate Station Bill: Learn your fire, lifeboat, security stations and duties. Read your respective department’s standing orders; indicate having done so with signature and date.

  1. Deck Cadet: Locate, identify and familiarize with the following:
    • Bridge equipment
    • Chartroom and navigational equipment
    • Bosun’s locker, deck supply lockers
    • Anchor windlass
    • Winches and mooring line configuration
    • Cargo operating gear
    • Light switches for outside deck/Navigation light switches
    • Embark/Debark pilot procedures
    • Steering engine operations
    • Firefighting equipment
    • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
    • Oil spill response kits
    • Safety manual
    • Lifeboat operations
    • Taking the vessels draft properly
  2. Engine Cadet: Locate and familiarize with the following
    • All safety equipment in engine room
    • All emergency exits in the engine spaces
    • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
    • Machine shop, tools and equipment
    • Make up feed system (trace)
    • Fuel oil service system (trace)
    • Main propulsion steam/water cycle (trace)
    • Start up on cross over main feed pump
    • Oily Water Separator (OWS)
    • Lube oil service system
    • Keller Seals (locations)
    • Oil response kits
    • Emergency fire pump 
    • Emergency generator
    • Emergency Steering gear
    • All gauges, thermometers, etc., requiring routine checks and recording.
Shipboard Working Policy

You must display a sincere interest in the profession and the willingness to make sacrifices necessary to gain the knowledge and develop the physical skill required of a competent professional. The cadet must recognize that experience is obtained by doing not by standing by and only watching. Commitment to learning, assisting, and remaining motivated is the key and cornerstone to a constructive sea term.

International Safety Management Code (ISM)
The ISM code regulates the International standard for the safe management and operation of ships and pollution prevention. The Safety Management Certificate aboard will document the vessel is in compliance with this requirement. A working Safety Management System (SMS) will be in place. The cadet will as soon as practical become knowledgeable and fully conversant with that particular vessel’s system. Internal and external audits are conducted to ensure all aboard are participating, conforming to and continually striving toward improvement of the system. Safety Management System- encompasses maintenance of the ship and equipment, emergency preparedness, documentation control while ensuring that non-conformities, accidents and hazardous situation are investigated and analyzed with the objective of improving safety and pollution prevention. DP- The designated person is the liaison ashore between the ship and the company. Know his name. Master- The captain is the responsible and if required the overriding authority for the SMS. He is tasked with implementing it, motivating the crew, verifying the requirements are met and reporting any deficiencies to the DP. The cadet will make every effort to assist the Master as directed. SMS manual- Outlines all policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities done aboard the vessel. It includes checklists as appropriate for key shipboard operations concerning the safety of the ship. Planned Maintenance System- Included in the SMS, this is a procedural tool for documenting all regulatory testing requirements and manufacture recommended maintenance procedures are met.

ISPS- Ship Security Plan (SSP)

The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code-This regulation made it a requirement that every Ship has a Security Plan. US ships are guided by the MTSA (Maritime Transportation Security Act) Again companies will vary with implementation but all will be in compliance with the following: CSO- The vessel owner will have a designated Company Security Officer SSO- The vessel will have a designated Ship Security Office (usually the Chief Mate) Posted Levels of Maritime Security- As the threat level increases the Maritime Security Level will be elevated and corresponding vessel increased security measures will be taken:

  • Marsec 1: Normal Maritime Security Level
  • Marsec 2: Heightened Threat
  • Marsec 3: Probable or Imminent Threat

Control of Access to the ship- Procedures will be in place to prevent the unauthorized access whether by gangways, ladders, ramps, hatches, scuttles, portholes, cranes, mooring lines and anchor chains. Identity, Pass systems, searching and screening checks -Procedures will be in place to identify all aboard whether crewmembers, vendors, contractors, visitors or passengers. Prevention of same bringing aboard unauthorized articles, in particular weapons, dangerous substances or devices intended for use against the vessel or personnel. Restricted Areas- Designated areas about the ship will be restricted with access protocols. For example: authorized personnel only are allowed on the bridge, in the engine room, machinery and ventilations spaces etc... These areas will be clearly marked and persons not belonging reported to the SSO. Communications-Security drills will be conducted much in the same manner as fire and emergency. The cadet will report to his or her station and be instructed in their duties. Particular attention will be paid to Stow away searches, Bomb threats, anti-piracy and lock down drills. At sea there is also the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) this alarm initiates and transmits a ship-to-shore security alert identifying the ship, its location and indicates the ship is under threat or has been compromised. Declaration of Security (DOS) - this documents the interfacing of security activities between the ship and the port facility. It is important to note at the Master’s discretion the security level of the ship may be higher than the port but it will never be lower. The cadet always complies with the level and measures set aboard ship.

Shipboard Life & General Ship Routine

Daily ship routine is generally standardized; however, ships and companies do vary. Be flexible and learn the specific ships routine.

Safety Rules
Cadets must remember that they are living in and working on a moving platform where safety is the utmost in everybody’s mind. Think and act safely at all times. Remember: “one hand for you and one hand for the ship”. Accidents can be costly and can result in injures to you and your fellow workers. The cadet is to have their safety equipment and gear at all times. Safety First!

A Cadet's Work Schedule

  • Day work (0800-1700) Monday through Friday
  • Plus 16 hours per weekend standing various watches
  • Watch – two 4 hour watches per day – Monday through Sunday
  • Combined watch/day –work 4 hours per day of maintenances and four per day on rotating watches
  • Monday through Friday Plus 16 hours of watch each weekend. (The cadet will report to work at least 15 minutes early)

The cadet will also attend arrival/departure docking, maneuvering, machinery changeover, drills emergencies, or other activities, which require repeated exposure to attain proficiency.

In addition to his/her ship’s duties, the cadet is expected to spend three hours daily on his/her sea project. The cadet will be required to maintain an SMS rest log recording his hours of work.

Ships Officers
Most of the officers aboard like to have cadets aboard that show a sincere interest in the maritime industry. Ask intelligent questions – be considerate and cooperative with others in the crew – show enthusiasm and be good natured even when doing boring jobs – be dependable, lend a hand – be humble enough to recognize that years of on-the-job experience is often of far greater value than anything learned in the classroom.

Taking Orders
The cadet should be sure that he/she understands the Officers Instructions. If in doubt, ASK! Make sure you understand clearly any order given by an officer. Know the change of command for each department.

The cadet while assigned to a ship may be berthed in rooms with another cadet, in that part of the vessel designated as licensed officer quarters. The cadet will be furnished with subsistence.

Shower regularly and keep your hair neatly trimmed and combed. Men will shave daily.

Uniform and Clothing Standards
Aboard Ship - The cadet will make every effort to wear clean and pressed cadet working uniforms when off watch and at meals. Commercial shipping cadets should consider purchasing Khaki work clothes.

  • Clean and pressed long or short sleeve collared shirt
  • Clean and pressed trousers with black belt and polished buckle.
  • Shined black low quarter shoes or steel toed boots.

Cadet Quarters Lifejacket & Survival Suit

The cadet is required to maintain his/her room

Know the location of your lifejacket and survival suit, keep them dry, clean, unobstructed and in good condition.

  • Make bunk daily
  • Soogie out head and shower at least weekly
  • Soogie/vacuum deck weekly
  • Thoroughly clean cabin at the end of each voyage and within five days of scheduled departure.
  • Repair all damaged or inoperative equipment or report damage, if unable to personally make. Repairs, to the Chief Mate and or the First Assistant Engineer.

Coffee Time
Coffee break is usually held at 1000 and 1500. This is for 15 minutes – offer to make the coffee – listen and learn. Note: Coffee spillage is a slip hazard, whether yours or not clean it up.

Slop Chest
The slop chest is a store-like facility that is located aboard ship. It contains items such as toiletries, work clothes, and accessories, sodas, candy and other items.

Meal Procedures
Cadets may be assigned a seat in the Officers Saloon Mess in which he/she is to sit for all meals Wear neat and clean clothes with a collared shirt while attending meals.

  • Breakfast 0730 – 0830
  • Lunch 1130 – 1230
  • Dinner 1700 – 1800

The cadet will use only the Officer’s laundry room. Many ships dedicate specific machines for work clothes only. The facility is in use at all times. Do not leave clothes unattended for extended periods.

The cadet will use the Officer’s lounge only when off duty. Be respectful of the licensed officers’ work schedules, do not monopolize entertainment equipment. Be advised many ships keep the SMS required safety manual at these locations. It is there for reference only and not to be removed from its assigned location.

Many ships have underway internet access. Those that do will have a company policy regarding use.

Absence From the Ship
Cadet will not leave the ship during working hours without the express permission of the supervisor.

Leave/Liberty Policy
When assigned to a vessel, the cadet will have the same leave and liberty privileges afforded the licensed officers. The Master, however, may limit the cadet’s leave or liberty at any time. Courtesy: notify supervisor when he/she is going ashore and when they plan on returning to the vessel.

Sailing Board
All vessels have a sailing board indicating time of vessel’s departure. Be aboard at least one hour before the indicated time. When going ashore, always take the vessel’s telephone number and call three hours before sailing time to check for any changes. Note: Missing the ship sailing or returning late will result in termination of employment and disciplinary action upon return to the academy.

Conduct Going Ashore/Returning Aboard
Always have respect for resting ship mates, watch is being stood around the clock and Silence is a must. The cadet must be ever mindful that the port facility has a security plan as well. Adherences to all ISPS facility policies and procedures is required. Cadets are responsible for their own actions and must be cognizant not to be influenced by others to deviate from acceptable behavior.

Docking/Undocking Stations
The deck and engine cadets always turn to for docking and undocking activities whether ordered to do so or not. Report on your own regardless of the time of day or night. .

While on the Bridge
Do not converse with the helmsman or another seaman on duty. If asked a question, respond with a short and polite answer. Do not stand at the windows blocking the view. The cadet’s station during maneuvering will be at the log desk, keeping the bell book. If you wish to ask the pilot, Master, or Mate a question concerning your sea project, pick the right time so you do not distract at a critical moment. Shipboard familiarization forms should be completed and a copy included in your sea term project. – STCW sign-offs

Log Books
Entries into log books are legally binding, even unofficial logs and records are treated as official documents and as such are subject to Port State Inspections and Regulatory Body Audits. Presenting log books, Oil record Book or records with false or incorrect entries carry criminal penalties. A mistake in any Log, record or document is never erased but corrected with a single line drawn through and initialed.

Bridge Equipment
The cadet must remain cognizant at all times that the Licensed Deck Officer on watch is legally responsible. His permission must be received before operating any of the equipment. Do not change RADAR, AIS, ECDIS, VHF or depth sounder equipment settings without his knowledge.

The same applies as the aforementioned bridge equipment. The designated primary and secondary FCC Licensed Operators responsible for the equipment will be posted on the bridge per regulations. Secure their permission. All GMDSS operations must be logged.

Chart Room
When the cadet is working in the ship’s chart room, be cautioned not to monopolize the charts or navigational equipment when the ship’s officers are navigating. This is particularly true when the Master is on the bridge.

Before using a pair of binoculars, the cadet will make sure to receive permission to do so. Under no circumstances will he/she use the Master’s binoculars.

Money Matters
The cadet will receive pay from the company as published in CFR Title 46 CH 11, Part 310.6C. The rate of monthly cadet or midshipman pay authorized by 37 U.S. C. 203 ( c ) is 1,062.30 As of January 1, 2017. Draws are a form of advanced pay. You may draw up to 50% of your available earnings. The Master will notify the crew prior to arrival in port as to the time and place of the draw. Payoff is when all earnings are paid in full. As noted at sign on, it is highly recommended the cadet have a checking account and credit or debit card for travel and emergency purposes.

Personal Relations
When sailing on a vessel, the cadet is a member of a very small society that is made up of people from many walks of life, diverse personalities and specialized skills. Privacy onboard is at a minimum and personal matters soon become public knowledge. An important segment for you to learn is to co-exist with people under unique and confined conditions for long periods of time. Respect and understanding are best established through professionalism and maturity. Fraternization and displays of affection severely diminish professionalism and are to be discouraged.

Relations with Officers
Be business-like at all times. Call Officers Mr. or Ms. Followed by surname, not by first name. The Master is always called “Captain”.

Relations with Unlicensed Crew
Cadets should learn from their expertise recognizing that years of on-the-job experience is often of far greater value than anything learned in the classroom.

Declare Everything

Certificate of Discharge to Merchant Seaman, USCG Form CG-718a
Upon discharge from the ship, you will receive a certificate of sea time. This is required for licensing. MSC will not issue a discharge but will give you a CONTINUOUS BOOK. Your discharge will read “Deck Cadet or Engine Cadet” Some may only provide a sea service letter but documentation of Sea Time must be secured in an acceptable form.

The ship’s officers will fill out the Cadet Evaluation Sheets and mail them back to the Professional Seagoing Services Department Office.

Sea Project
Each cadet will submit the sea project as prescribed by the Department Head. Shipboard familiarization forms should be completed and a copy included in your sea term project with STCW sign-offs. Deck projects are due the day you return to the academy for classes. Engine projects are due within 14 days.

Professional Seagoing Services Department
Commodore Lima 508-830-5013
CDR Huhnke 508-830-5071
Capt Dooley 508-830-6457
Mrs. Mulgrew 508-830-6410

Required telephone reports:

  • When a cadet is sick/injured.
  • When cadet misconduct is considered requiring attention.
  • When a cadet is in need of counseling.
  • When the cadet was/is harassed or unjustly treated by ship’s personnel.


Discipline, Knowledge, Leadership

Dear Captain:

This letter will serve to introduce the cadet who has been assigned to your vessel, with the approval of your company, for a period of time up to 60 days or whenever the voyage ends in order for him/her to complete the sea time requirements so that he/she will qualify to sit for the license with his/her classmates.

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy welcomes the opportunity you have afforded this cadet. To assist in ensuring that your requirements as well as the Academies are fulfilled during the period the cadet is assigned, the following information is provided.

While on board your ship, the Cadet remains a member of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy regiment and is expected to observe and maintain the same standards of conduct and discipline required while at the Academy. This includes maintaining their personal attire and quarters in a neat and clean manner.

When discharging the Cadet, in addition to the regular seaman’s discharge, please review the accuracy of information and endorse our Certificate of Sea Service, which the Cadet will present, so that we may document the sea service in our records.

Thank you for your assistance in our Cadet Shipping Program.


Captain John D. Dooley
Assistant Director
Professional Seagoing Services


Dear Chief Engineer:

This letter will serve as an introduction to the cadet assigned to your vessel who is in the Marine Engineering Program at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

The cadet is assigned to your vessel for training and has been given a sea project to complete while aboard. The project is rather extensive and should require three to four hours a day on his/her part.

It has been our experience that maximum training occurs if the cadet is allowed to stand a rotating four- hour watch each day and then to work on maintenance for four hours. Of course, his/her actual duties are entirely up to you but it would be beneficial if he/she could experience as many aspects of marine engineering as possible.

The cadet will give you two evaluation forms and a self-addressed envelope. We would appreciate it if you and the First Engineer or any other licensed officer you choose would complete these forms and mail them directly to Captain Dooley at the Academy. Your comments are especially valuable and do have a direct effect on the cadet’s grade for his/her sea term: in fact, he/she does not receive a grade unless we have an evaluation report from you.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.


Captain John D. Dooley
Assistant Director
Professional Seagoing Services