Granted, there are some bad apples in every basket, but for the most part, USCG licensed captains are pretty damned good at what they do. Happy New Year, everyone, Gary
Gary, just to be quite clear, my criticism of the USCG licensing is not with the captains, but with the system. Someone who has no more experience on vessels larger than a rowboat can fake his sea time with very little chance of being caught. The Licensing Center has neither the budget, nor the personnel to verify sea time for each applicant. The exams are multiple choice, certainly not the best proof of mastery of a subject, if one can see the answer before them, and the exam prep courses are designed to pass anyone who pays the tab. I passed every aspect of the 100 ton Ocean Operator exam plus radar, Loran and sailing endorsements, in around 5 hours.
On the other side of the coin, my British Commonwealth exam took 25 hours of exams and not one question was multiple choice. Most questions had multiple parts and each question was scored at 100 points. The last 5 hours was before a panel of licensed masters from England who could ask any question from the syllabus for that grade of ticket.
Before I was even allowed to sit for the exam, I had to drive the harbor tug, aiding vessels docking and undocking, at the direction of the pilot, for a couple of weeks and then I had to actually be the harbor pilot for another couple. That certificate of competency allowed me to operate any vessel up to 50 meters, on any waters.
I was absolutely flabbergasted when the USCG would not reciprocate that ticket, especially after taking their silly excuse for a test of a candidate's competency to operated a vessel which could carry hundreds of passengers, and yet was limited to only 100 grt.