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How to Get Your Captain's License in Florida

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If you want to be a charter captain in Florida, you have to have a license issued by the United States Coast Guard as an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels. The process is straightforward; you have to prove experience in operating a boat, apply for and receive an identification document from the Department of Homeland Security, and pass a physical. You can take a test on maritime knowledge or a course in lieu of a test.

Meet the requirements for sea time and training. Minimum requirements for a charter captain's license are spelled out on the Coast Guard website on the checklist for a charter captain's license, also called an "Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels." All the forms you need to complete, including the application, physical and drug screen are on the National Maritime Center website.

Get a Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC). This involves an application and an investigation into your past and is required by the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration. While you can operate your own boat without one, if you operate a boat professionally, you're required to have one before your license can be issued. The application is on the Department of Homeland Security website.

Pass a physical and DOT drug screen. The physical is exclusionary, to prevent people with untreated conditions like diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea from obtaining a license. People who have been treated can get a license, but the conditions for medical waivers are strict and the waivers must be completed by a licensed physician.

Put your application package together, containing all of the required information. Mail it to the Coast Guard Regional Examination Center in Miami. The address is:

U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office Regional Examination Center Claude Pepper Federal Building 51 SW 1st Ave., 6th Floor Miami, FL 33130-1608


Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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