Coast Guard Considering Elimination of AB-MOU Rating

On September 29, 2011, the Coast Guard issued a Federal Register notice that it is considering discontinuing the issuance of merchant mariner credentials endorsed as "Able Seaman – Mobile Offshore Units." Although the AB-MOU endorsement is not explicitly authorized by the governing statute 46 U.S.C. § 7306(b) or the regulations at 46 CFR § 12.05-1, the Coast Guard had created the rating in response to industry needs to expand the pool of persons eligible to serve as ABs on MOUs. For all other AB endorsements, persons need to complete varying periods of service time "on deck," which means doing customary seaman work, such as standing watch, linehandling, fishing, or similar work. However, persons could satisfy the AB-MOU experience requirements through 12 months of service on vessels at least 65 feet in length, without regard to whether such service was "on deck"; or through eight months of such service and completion of a Coast Guard approved training program. Further explanation of the requirements for the various AB ratings can be found in Chapter 16 of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Manual, Volume III. The Coast Guard is soliciting comments on the proposal, with comments due by October 31, 2011.