The title of able seaman was first introduced in the 18th century so as to differentiate between the pay rates of different sea workers. Technically a seaman who has good amount of experience at sea is known as an able seaman. It is said that during earlier times the able seaman was paid at least 25% more than what the other inexperienced merchant seaman used to be paid after working for similar number of hours on the ship.
The level of experience that was used to separate the able seaman from other seamen was an experience level of two years in the earlier days. But in today’s times the requirement of experience has changed and modified to suit different types of ships and boats. The same can be explained as follows:
- An individual who wishes to be an able seaman in any water-body requires a minimum of three years of experience of working in a ship.
- An individual who wishes to be an able seaman in only some selected water-bodies has to have a minimum of one-and-a-half years of work experience as a seaman.
- A person who wants to be an able seaman in certain specific areas (like the Great Lakes in United States) has to have compulsorily a minimum of a year’s worth of experience as a seaman.
It has to be noted that the experience that is taken into account also includes the weight carrying capacity of the ship (measured in gross tonnage) and the speciality of the ship (cargo or passenger). The experience level also takes into account, a seaman’s adeptness and ability to perform well as a seaman before finally acknowledging him as an able seaman.
It also has to be noted that along with the increased pay, an able seaman is also expected to work even more than other merchant seamen. Seaman jobs of an able seaman include standing guard and taking up a duty-post near the helm (the steering wheel of the ship) along with being an expert in life-threatening situations and rough weather situations.
Sometimes an able seaman is also referred to as an able-bodied seaman in the merchant marine employment. This is the reason why the name able seaman is shortened to the initials AB.
However, just having experience does not qualify a person to become an able seaman. As per the merchant marine employment rules, an individual has to undergo several tests and qualification exams to be regarded as an able seaman. The tests are basically conducted to check whether the person is fit to take care of the extra responsibilities and duties that need to be taken care of. Life-saving acumen is a very important concept that is tested primarily because as a person who is required to be on guard duty, it becomes the responsibility of a merchant seaman to make sure that lives are promptly saved in case of any emergency.
The profession of an able seaman is definitely for those who are ready to put in extra experience at sea for ensuring a promising maritime career in future.
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