Apprentice Program Overview

Already know you’re ready to jump in? Visit for details or go straight to the application HERE

Everything you need to get started is on that site.

NOTE: You must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend classes at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, as well as to enter any SIU hiring hall (where such mandates are lawful.) For more information, contact your local hiring hall.

The application process is free of charge.

The Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, part of the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, is a vocational school dedicated to preparing students for successful careers as U.S. Merchant Mariners. The school’s apprentice program is registered with U.S. Department of Labor. There is no cost for tuition or room and board, though there are other costs associated with the program. Scroll down to the FAQ for more information.

If you previously have attended the apprentice program you are not eligible to apply and retake it.

Important Information for Applicants to the Apprentice Program and Applicants for SIU Membership


Employment in the U.S. maritime industry requires drug testing – not just initially but periodically throughout a mariner’s career. The testing, which is required by U.S. Coast Guard regulations, includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Marijuana – While legal in some states, it is still prohibited under federal law. CBD oil is also illegal under federal law, and may cause a positive drug test result for marijuana metabolites.
  • Some prescription medications – Even though they’re lawful some may prohibit employment in the maritime industry. (Before stopping any prescription medication, check with your physician.)
  • Any Department of Transportation-banned substance. More information is available at the following website:

Drug Testing Requirements for Apprentices

If you are accepted into the apprentice program at the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, you must take and pass a Coast Guard approved pre-employment drug test immediately before beginning the training program. Before you return to the school for Phase III, you must take and pass a Coast Guard approved periodic drug test, unless you were subject to random drug testing on a ship for at least 60 days during the 185-day period prior to beginning Phase III. Once you complete the Apprentice Program, you will be subject to the drug testing requirements for mariners seeking employment at SIU-affiliated hiring halls.

Drug Testing Requirements for Mariners Seeking Employment at an SIU-affiliated Hiring Hall

If you are a mariner who is seeking employment for the first time at an SIU-affiliated hall, you must take and pass a USCG pre-employment drug test at a clinic approved by the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan (SHBP) as a requirement to obtain a job. Once this drug test is on file with the SHBP, it is valid for six months. After that, you must take another pre-employment drug test to continue shipping, unless you were subject to random drug testing on a vessel for at least 60 days during the 185 days immediately before shipping out.


If you have a medical issue that requires regular evaluation/monitoring, you should talk to your doctor to help you decide if you can work for several months at a time in a remote environment, without quick access to medical care.

New applicants are encouraged to consider the sometimes physically demanding nature of maritime work. No matter which division or department you sail in, these are not sedentary jobs.

For more information, check with the local Port Agent or call the SHBP Medical Department at (301) 994-0010, extension 5264. If you are applying to the apprentice program, you may also email Nurse Sharon at the SHBP Medical Department at [email protected] with medical questions.

The Process

Step #1


Please read all information about the Unlicensed Apprentice Program in its entirety prior to filling out the application. Fill out the electronic application online.

The online application includes the following:

  • One ‘head shot’ photo of yourself.
  • A copy of your DD-214 long form if applicable.

Once your application is received, you will be contacted via email within three to five working days (make sure you give a correct, active email address) and instructed to schedule a reading and math test at one of the SIU Halls. (If you have not heard from the school within seven days after you submit your application, it is your responsibility to follow up by calling 301-994-0010, Ext. 2)

Upon completion of Step #1, including testing and port interview, your application will be submitted to the selection committee. You will be contacted by email after completing Step #1 if you have been selected to move onto Step #2. Due to the economy and other conditions, the need for apprentices fluctuates throughout the year; therefore, the class sizes will vary depending on the number of mariners needed. At any time, the school reserves the right to not hold a selection committee.  Any money spent (after being selected) as part of the application process is non-refundable and the sole responsibility of the applicant.


Step #2

You will be notified by email whether you are selected to continue on to Step #2 of the application process. At this time, you must provide copies of the following documents within 90 days or your application will be void. If you are unable to obtain the following documentation within the allotted time frame it is the applicant’s responsibility to advise Student Services of any issues. 

  1. Obtain UA physical, drug test, and MSC shots through your SIU hall.
  2. Valid passport, and a copy of your Social Security Card.
  3. Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). A list TWIC centers and appointment scheduling can be found online at or by calling
  4. As directed by Student Services, a receipt of payment from the U.S. Coast Guard for fees paid via (approximately $140). Contact Student Services for more information.
  5. All applicants must have a complete dental examination administered by his/her private dentist. A dental letter must be sent to the Admissions Office, on your dentist’s letterhead and must specifically state that the applicant does not have any cavities, pyorrhea, or periodontal disease and currently needs no work. The letter must contain a current date.

All official government documents (TWIC and passport) should be scanned and sent as a PDF ONLY. Please do not send originals. You may also fax to 301-994-2189 or email to [email protected].

Once an applicant has a completed file, they will be advised approximately three months prior to their report date that they have been selected for class. The applicant will need to contact their local SIU Hall to be sure they don’t need any additional medicals prior to arriving to school. This is a conditional acceptance letter and all medical exams must be completed and passed at least two weeks prior to the date the applicant is scheduled to report to the School. Students will be scheduled for classes on as needed basis depending on industry needs.

Once the student has paid for their uniforms and they have been issued, the uniform fee is non-refundable.

If you have any questions about the application process please contact the Student Services at 301-994-0010, prompt 2 or email [email protected].

Disclaimer: The Harry Lundeberg School may change any information outlined on this website with respect to our Unlicensed Apprentice Program based on industry needs and federal regulations.



Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Seafaring Career for Me?

The U.S. merchant maritime industry employs men and women who work on a variety of vessels in the deck, engine and steward departments. If you become a mariner, you will have job opportunities in different sectors of the maritime industry. Jobs are available on U.S. flag commercial vessels sailing on the deep seas, inland waterways and Great Lakes; including cargo vessels, tugs and cruise ships. There are also civilian mariner positions available on military vessels operated by private maritime companies, as well as on vessels owned and operated by the U.S. Navy and other government agencies.

Although the merchant marine is sometimes referred to as the nation’s “fourth arm of defense,” America’s mariners who choose to work on government vessels are part of a civilian crew supporting military missions. Mariners sailing in these positions are not members of the armed forces.

Shipboard life is very demanding. Mariners live and work together in a confined and isolated environment, and may be away from home for months at time. There is often no immediate access to medical care. However, seafaring is a rewarding career, with good pay and benefits. If you continue your training, you will have the chance to continue to move up the career ladder into more skilled and higher-paying positions. You will also have an opportunity to travel all over the world, and to be part of the “brotherhood of the sea.” Once you complete the Unlicensed Apprentice Program, you will have the skills necessary to begin a career as a seafarer.

What is the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship?

The Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship (“SHLSS” or “School”), affiliated with the Seafarers International Union of North America, Atlantic, Gulf, Lakes and Inland Waters District/NMU, AFL-CIO (SIU) is a vocational school dedicated to preparing students for successful careers as U.S. merchant mariners. The School has been training individuals for careers at sea since 1967. The SHLSS provides entry-level training for individuals who wish to begin a seafaring career. We do not accept students that already hold a rating(s).  The program is called the “Unlicensed Apprentice Program.” SHLSS also offers classes for experienced seafarers to permit them to upgrade their skills. There are eligibility requirements for both the Unlicensed Apprentice Program and the upgrading classes. The requirements for the apprentice program are set forth in these materials. Seafarers must meet additional eligibility requirements in order to participate in the upgrading classes.

The School is located on the campus of the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education. The campus consists of over 60 acres on the waterfront in Piney Point, Maryland, which is approximately 60 miles from Washington D.C. The campus includes the SHLSS, as well as the Joseph Sacco Firefighting and Safety Training School; various classroom facilities, including a cooking lab for hands-on training and culinary demonstrations; the Paul Hall Library and Maritime Museum, marine simulation equipment; and the Seafarers Training and Recreation Center, which contains dining facilities, living quarters, and recreational and laundry facilities. Hands-on-training is also conducted on board the Freedom Star, a vessel which is docked at the campus’s waterfront.

What is the Unlicensed Apprentice Program?

The Unlicensed Apprentice Program at SHLSS is the largest training program for entry level seafarers in the United States. It is designed to prepare students with little or no maritime experience for a seafaring career.

What is the cost for tuition or room and board for Program participants?

There is no charge for tuition or room and board for Program participants. However, students are responsible for paying the costs of their uniforms (once the student receives their uniform the fees are non-refundable), a physical exam, drug test, benzene test, and fees for the following required documents: a U.S. Merchant Mariner’s Credential, a Transportation Workers Identification Credential, and a current passport. These fees and costs are approximately $1,500. Students must also pay for the cost of their transportation to the Center.

What is the curriculum?

The Unlicensed Apprentice (UA) Program is approximately one year long, and includes a combination of classroom training at the SHLSS, as well as an apprenticeship on board a vessel. The Program is broken down as follows:

Phase I – sixteen (16) weeks of entry level training at the SHLSS. Stewards who complete Phase I may sail as Steward Assistants (SA) until they reach 200 sea days, at which point they will return to the school for Phase IV.

Phase II (Deck and Engine) – sixty (60) days or more shipboard training as an unlicensed apprentice. Apprentices receive an entry wage while they are training on board the vessel during Phase II.

Phase III (Deck & Engine) – one hundred twenty (120) days at sea entry level employment earning contract wage aboard a designated SIU contracted vessel.

Phase IV – Completion of department specific upgrading classes at SHLSS.

  • Completion of AB (3 weeks)
  • Completion of FOWT (4 weeks)
  • Completion of Chief Cook (5 weeks)

You must successfully complete all four phases in order to receive credit for the UA program and it must be done within one year of your completion of Phase III or you will be discontinued and your seniority will be dropped to C-seniority.

Training covers the duties and responsibilities of seamanship in the three shipboard departments: deck, engine and steward, through a curriculum that includes both classroom learning and hands-on training. Skills that are taught include:

Deck – marlinespike seamanship, cargo handling, watch standing duties, routine maintenance regimes and shipboard safety.

Engine – diesel and steam plant familiarization, use and care of tools and equipment and shipboard safety.

Steward – food preparation fundamentals, handling stores, nutrition, shipboard sanitation, laundry operations and shipboard safety.

Students are required to take classes concerning shipboard emergencies and operations including: fire fighting, water survival, first aid, CPR, industrial relations and social responsibilities on board a vessel. Each course is designed to provide the students with skills and knowledge to perform safely and effectively aboard a ship. Apprentices also learn about citizenship and individual responsibility through a series of classroom discussions and visits to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the SIU Headquarters in Camp Springs, Maryland. The prospective seafarer will also learn about the nature of the shipping industry, the economics of marine transportation, and government policies and regulation that affect the vitality of the U.S. fleet.

What is the school's policy on requests for accommodations?

The Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship has the right to set and maintain standards for admitting students and evaluating their progress and is not obligated to waive any requirements that are fundamental or essential to the integrity of the programs. Students with disabilities must meet the academic, technical and physical standards for participation in the programs. Generally speaking applicable law does not require the School to provide accommodations that fundamentally alter the nature of a program (such as by diluting academic integrity) or that pose an undue hardship (defined as significantly difficult or expensive).

Pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) and any relevant state law, the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship will consider the request for reasonable accommodations from qualified students with disabilities. Accommodations are subject to the United State Coast Guard regulations governing training and education of merchant mariners and are considered on a case by case basis.

To receive accommodations for a disability a student must provide documentation of the need for accommodation at least 30 days prior to arrival at the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship. The evaluation should be less than two years old to demonstrate the current impact of the disability and to identify appropriate accommodations for merchant mariner training. Documentation should be in the form of a psycho-educational or neuropsychological evaluation conducted by a licensed or certified psychologist, educational diagnostician or other relevant professional with training and experience in identifying and diagnosing learning disabilities on professional letterhead and signed.

The School reserves the right to request additional information or evaluation. Your written permission will be required to release information to the School. The School will maintain the confidentiality of your request for accommodation and supporting documentation, unless you give the School permission to release this information.

What Should I Expect if I Attend the Unlicensed Apprentice Program?

The work of a seafarer is physically demanding, and requires a certain level of physical fitness. You should be aware that upon arrival you will be evaluated to determine whether you are physically able to perform the essential tasks of a merchant mariner. This evaluation will include an assessment of your ability to climb ladders and stairs; your agility; your sense of balance; your ability to lift loads of at least 40 pounds; your ability to crouch, kneel, crawl, and stand on your feet for extended periods; your manual dexterity; and your ability to use survival equipment. If you are physically unable to perform these essential tasks, you cannot work as a mariner on a ship. For this reason, you may be sent home to improve your fitness level if you cannot successfully perform these tasks upon arrival. In addition, as part of your training at SHLSS, you will be required to participate in regular fitness training.

The UA Program curriculum has been developed to meet all US Coast Guard requirements. The daily routine of a UA is very much like the routine a merchant mariner will experience on board a ship. Below is a typical day in the life of a UA during the first phase of the program:

  • 0400 – wake-up
  • 0415 – prepare dorm for morning inspection
  • 0430 – breakfast
  • 0445 – report to work in the Galley
  • 0730 – mustering for morning colors
  • 0800 – march to class
  • 0800 – 1100 class
  • 1100 – march to lunch
  • 1130 – report to galley for lunch detail
  • 1300 – march to class
  • 1300 – 1600 afternoon class
  • 1600 – return from class and march to evening meal
  • 1630 – report to galley for evening meal duty
  • 1630- 1930 – galley duty
  • 2000 – lights out

In addition to the daily routine, a UA is required to work scheduled watches that are similar to the watches stood while working on a ship. An ideal candidate must be able to handle the mental and physical aspects of shipboard life. Working long hours requires fitness and the mental capacity to remain safe onboard a ship.  Students live in an open dormitory and do not have private rooms.

The Unlicensed Apprentice Program is a structured and disciplined program. The UA is required to wear a uniform (once the students uniform has been issued the fees are non-refundable) and march to and from classes. Apprentices must adhere to strict grooming standards. Males must arrive with and maintain a short, military cut during the training.  Females must wear hair up and it must fit entirely into a ball cap.  (Note: Due to United States Coast Guard regulations, students are not allowed to wear wigs or dreadlocks in the Unlicensed Apprentice program.)

Students are not allowed to wear jewelry or makeup. Students are not permitted to have cars on campus, and are not allowed to leave the campus. Drug and alcohol use are prohibited at all times and students may be required to submit to drug and/or alcohol testing.

An applicant must be self-motivated to succeed in the classroom and other assigned areas of detail. The UA is observed and monitored during all phases of training. Excelling in the classroom is not the only requirement. A UA must also possess a strong work ethic to succeed.

All apprentices must comply with the Program’s Rules and Regulations. Apprentices are required to sign a copy of the Rules and Regulations upon arrival. Disciplinary issues are handled by a Review Board which consists of staff and members of the UA Program. Demerits are issued for violations of the rules and regulations. Three demerits will result in dismissal from the Program.

What are anticipated expenses?

Various Costs (step 2):

  • USCG physical/drug test/yellow fever/MSC shots = $320
  • Merchant Mariners Credential = $140
  • USCG issued medical certificate = no charge
  • TWIC = $125.25
  • U.S. Passport = $145
  • Dental = varies depending on work that needs to be completed

Once scheduled and prior to arriving to school:

  • Uniforms = $475
  • Transportation expense to get to school = varies depends on location and mode of transportation

What are the school's academic policies?

Students are required to pass any assessments and exam(s) in each course in order to pass the course. If a student fails the assessment or exam, he or she is allowed one additional opportunity to take the assessment/exam. If a student fails a course, they will be sent home at their own expense to get academic help and must submit proof with written request to return to the school.

Applicants should be aware that if they do not complete the entire Program, they will not be eligible to receive certificates for the courses they have taken up to the point that they were dismissed, decided to leave or discontinued by the school for not completing the entire program.

What are the application process and admission requirements?

The application process to the Unlicensed Apprentice Program is selective. The Program only accepts applicants whom the Admission Committee determines will be able to successfully pursue a seafaring career. A candidate must demonstrate that he or she possesses the discipline, ability, and fitness level necessary to work as a merchant mariner in order to be accepted into the Program. Candidates are accepted throughout the year. The detailed description of the Application Process below contains more information about how frequently applicants are accepted.

Admission Requirements

Applicants seeking admission to the Unlicensed Apprentice Program must meet the following requirements:

General Requirements

All applicants must meet the following general requirements:

  • Must be 18 or older.
  • Must be eligible to work in the United States.
  • Must be able to meet all U.S. Coast Guard qualifications/requirements for the issuance and upgrades of a Merchant Mariner’s Credential.  Do not currently hold a MMC above OS, WI, SD(FH).  Must also obtain a USCG issued 2 year STCW medical certificate.
  • Must be able to obtain a Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) issued by TSA.
  • Cannot be on any form of probation or parole.
  • If convicted of any crime other than a minor traffic violation you will required to submit a final court disposition(s).

General Physical Requirements

Applicants must meet the following physical requirements:

Be in good physical, mental and dental health. Applicants must be able to pass a complete physical and drug test performed by a Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan contracted clinic for employment purposes.

  • Have blood pressure normal for their age.
  • Have teeth in good medical condition. (see dental requirements)
  • Have normal color vision as determined by USCG approved color vision testing or mariner could be restricted to sailing steward department.
  • All deck department applicants must have a minimum of 20/200 vision in each eye, and corrected to 20/40 in both eyes.
  • All engine department applicants must have a minimum of 20/200 vision in each eye, and corrected to 20/50 in both eyes. NOTE: If the applicant does not meet the vision requirements for upgrading in either the Deck or Engine departments, he/she may be restricted to sailing in the Steward department.
  • Applicants who wear corrective lenses or glasses need to bring either two (2) pair of glasses or one (1) pair of glasses and enough contact lenses for a minimum for nine (9) months.

The Work Force One Stop Centers located in your hometown have financial aid available for applicants who need assistance in costs incurred to attend the Unlicensed Apprentice Program. Our program is nationally registered with the Department of Labor.  If you need assistance locating a One Stop Center, please contact our school at 301-994-0010 (ext. 5392 or ext. 5229).  The Department of Labor Program number is ZA008030001.

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