A to Z: License

Today’s post for the A to Z Challenge is: license.

I don’t know how many of you around the world are forced to beg permission from your governments in order to get a job, but here in the USA (supposedly a free country), there are a LOT of us! More and more every year.

People here have to get a license to be a tour guide (to tell stories), to be an interior designer (to pick out color schemes for your living room), to be a hair braider, to work on a boat (like I do), and for hundreds of other occupations.

The Institute for Justice put out a report (License to Work) documenting the licensing requirements for over 100 low and moderate income occupations. We’re talking florists, manicurists, painters, makeup artists, bartenders, landscape workers,…

In fact, about 1 in 3 occupations now require a license! Back in the 50’s only about 5% of jobs required a license (mine was still one of those-deck officers started getting licensed in 1873).

I know things were simpler back then, but did all the jobs people used to be able to do without any governmental approval become SO much more complicated that they just can’t be done safely without the government’s approval?

I wouldn’t get quite so upset if it wasn’t the government involved in all this. After all, this is supposed to be a free country. Personally, I think any job ought to be between the person doing the job and the person doing the hiring. But even with that aside, why does it have to be the government issuing these licenses? Why can’t it be a private organization? Something like the consumers union? Or even the one I have to deal with all the time- the Nautical Institute?

That way, at least we would have some options, even if not many.

I’m pretty sure there were barbers, hairdressers and manicurists back in the 50s, or even before. According to Wikipedia, the 1st barbers school in the USA opened in 1893. It was the first in the world. I’m sure it must have taken at least a few years for the barbers to convince the governments to restrict their competition and require a license to become a barber. Do you wonder how we all managed to survive for thousands of years without them?

I know my own profession started agitating to be licensed right around the same time. I’ve been told it was actually the AB’s who started the whole thing. 😦

I can verify in my own profession that the licensing has become much more stringent and much, much harder to comply with since the 70s. When I decided to become a professional mariner in 1977, the rules were so much better for us (as mariners).

I could work my way up the hawsepipe (without spending a dime for school). If I could prove my sea time and pass the tests I was issued a license for “freight and towing’. I could work on ANY vessel, anywhere in the world. Yes, I still had to get my license renewed every 5 years (requiring a physical and a couple of simple things like RADAR recert).

I could get hired on, work on deck for a couple years and when I passed my AB test and got my AB ticket, that document was good for LIFE!

Now, things are completely different. We can’t just work our way up anymore, we have no way to avoid paying thousands of dollars for ‘training’ courses ashore. Personally, I have spent at least $50,000 (to upgrade from 2nd to chief mate). There is no way to just take a couple of simple courses to renew now either. They keep increasing the number of required classes to be re-taken and it’s adding up to some serious money. Even as an AB, I have to spend weeks ashore and thousands of dollars to renew my documents!

Even that’s not enough for them, they have also restricted our ability to work! Instead of the ‘freight and towing’ license, which allowed us to work on ANY vessel, now we have a license for ‘steam and motor’ which does NOT allow us to work on any ‘towing’ vessel (without additional time and money).

I have been a mariner since 1970, professionally since 1977. In all these years, I can say it has been harder and harder to find work, to keep working, to find a job anything like the way it was back then. When I actually loved my job so much!

In fact, I got laid off back in September and haven’t been able to find even a single job since October! There are some (towing) companies hiring (I don’t have that license so out of luck). There are some foreign companies hiring (they usually don’t hire Americans so out of luck there too). 😦

As many others have noted, the insiders restrict entry to their profession through licensing to increase their pay, benefits and influence. In the name of ‘public safety’ they convince the government to go along with the idea. In the end, it doesn’t really work.

It’s time to re-think the issue.


10 thoughts on “A to Z: License

  1. I’m an Occupational Therapist. We are required to sit for a board exam upon graduation, then submit credentials, and money of course, to become licensed in our state. Then, every year we have to complete so many hours of continuing ed, then pay a fee of course, to keep our licenses in good standing. We also are required to become certified, and that has the same criteria as the license, but only rolls around every three years. It’s a bit much, but we obviously aren’t alone.


    • I think way too many people are required to get licensed and it’s really stupidly set up in most (if not all) cases.
      So sad we have to put up with it all in a so-called free country.
      It should be between a person and who they want to deal with. People always ask me if I would go to an unlicensed doctor. I ask who licensed them, how, what requirements? And depending on answers, YES, I most probably would choose an unlicensed doctor.
      The history of licensing shows its always been MUCH more about the money than about anything to do with safety

      Liked by 1 person

      • that sounds just like most others I know about. Amazing how many people have come to believe we just HAVE to have someone ELSE looking out for us (and never mind that it’s the wolf looking out for the sheep)

        Liked by 1 person

    • You could show a long list of incidents for regular shipping too.
      I really don’t see THAT much difference between being a master of a tanker and a towboat. They both need to know the rules of the road, ship handling, paperwork, etc.
      USCG requires 30 days onboard training and pass the TOAR (which I don’t know if all aspects can be done on only 1 vessel, or in only 90 days). I think an experienced licensed officer can learn to operate a towboat in less than 2-3 years for sure.
      Especially the ATBs, I hardly see any difference between those and a ship (except the lower manning levels).


      • You can do a TOAR on a single vessel, and 30 days is far to short to even consider letting someone stand their own watch on a towing vessel. I’m a year into serious tugboat operating in the Northeast and only really starting to be totally comfortable running my own watch again. 2-3 years to be a fully qualified Mate on a wire boat, needing to wake the master at an absolute minimum is about right depending on aptitude. I know I’m not fully there yet, even with a background in smaller tugs and workboats.

        The easiest way to state it is how many tugboat companies do you see recruiting ship masters to be docking pilots?

        Also part of what I was getting at is it is still very very easy to cross over into the towing side. G&H Towing in your neck of the woods even will take people with out any towing experience and teach them to steer, and complete their TOAR with them. All while paying them a decent wage. The work is there and with a license that says “Master, any gross tons”, and a varied background, you’ve got a hell of a lot more options than most people. There a lot of people out there affected by the downturn with a limited tonnage near coastal ticket, and no experience other than running a mud boat.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I get what you’re saying. I’ll have to try G&H again. I have a friend from AB school who’s been working captain for them for years. He likes it. I never liked their schedule.
        I’ve talked to a few towing companies and they all told me they want at least 2 years on deck before any wheelhouse time. Period. I really don’t understand that attitude. Sorry, I still don’t think it takes a master mariner with 30+ years of varied experience (including some tow boats way back), to learn how to operate a towing vessel. Especially not something like an ATB.


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