Commercial Shipping Program

This program is for students in the U.S. Coast Guard limited- and unlimited-license majors.  


Commercial shipping is a hands-on educational experience offered as an integral part of all of the USCG license tracks.

For many, the commercial shipping program is the first chance to experience working within a company setting in the maritime industry. All of the requirements of this program are designed to prepare students for real-life experiences, to challenge them professionally, and to provide opportunities to learn about their chosen profession.

Maine Maritime Academy was the first state maritime academy to incorporate this popular field experience program into its curriculum. The program now includes extensive preparation to maximize the learning experience in the real world of shipping. Because of the program’s popularity and success, some of the other state academies have adopted it, resulting in increased competition for available opportunities. Accordingly, the availability and timing of assignments cannot be guaranteed. Patience and flexibility are encouraged for students and families with regards to summer schedules.

The commercial shipping program has stringent requirements and processes; it is vital that students be aware of the requirements of their particular program shortly after arriving on campus.

Academy and Company Safety Standards

Students are expected to maintain the highest safety and professional standards at all times. Although students are not licensed officers during their commercial experience, they are expected to uphold high standards, and comply with all academy, company, and industry policies.

Commercial Shipping (Limited License Programs)

Students who are seeking a 200-, 500- or 1,600-ton USCG mate’s license are required to complete three separate academic courses and gain 240 sea days on appropriately sized vessels meeting both academic and licensing requirements. Students are encouraged to exceed the 60-day minimum requirement each summer on vessels and waters consistent with their specific license goals. Students in this program will gain the ability to work in the maritime industry and hold deckhand, able seaman and mate positions during their experiences. These students major in:

Students have the unique opportunity to prepare themselves professionally, create professional documents and participate in the hiring process to gain their summer field experience.  This process is fully supported by the Office of Career Services and our partner companies by providing the following:

  • Resumé and cover letter assistance
  • Career coaching
  • Interview preparation assistance
  • LinkedIn profiles
  • Career fairs
  • On-campus recruiting

Planning for summer experiences starts early in the fall semester. The experience prepares Small Vessel Operations and Vessel Operations and Technology students to manage responses to employment opportunities and the hiring process, and prepares them professionally for their careers ahead.

Cadet Shipping Program (Unlimited License Programs)

During the summer after the sophomore year, unlimited USCG license students are assigned to merchant vessels as cadets for further familiarization in shipboard procedures. These students major in:

Candidates for the U.S. Coast Guard 3rd Assistant Engineer license must complete a total of 180 days of sea time. USCG 3rd Mate license candidates will be required to complete a total of 365 days of sea time. Sea time will be met through specialized laboratories, simulation, two training cruises, and cadet shipping.

  • Cadet shipping will involve training, watches, and maintenance in the students’ area of major.
  • In addition to the practical experience gained, students have the opportunity to visit ports of call in the United States and foreign countries. In several cases, students have circumnavigated the globe.
  • Many students find this experience to be a major advantage in finding employment following graduation.
  • Although it is not guaranteed, some students on cadet shipping assignments receive cadet wages and reimbursement for travel expenses.
  • Sea time: a minimum of 60 days is required for 3rd Assistant Engineer license candidates and 90 days for 3rd Mate license candidates, which is credited toward the sea service required for a USCG license.
  • Each student must submit a satisfactory Sea Project, Cadet Shipping Evaluation/Report, Ship’s Officer’s Evaluation Report, and evidence of appropriate sea time to be awarded course credits.

passport, a drug-free certificate, and a merchant marine document are a few of the required documents for all students who are cadet shipping.