Becoming A Seafarer

We Are Hiring!

*Please note that the Unlicensed Apprenticeship Program is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 Pandemic*

  • No experience necessary
  • Guaranteed 1st job
  • Good benefits and Pension Plan
  • Free tuition and room and board at the Seafarers Training Institute in Maryland

Seafaring is a rewarding career and one to take pride in, with good pay and benefits. Tuition along with room and board for seafarer training is free through the Seafarers’ Training Institute.

The merchant maritime industry employs men and women who work on a variety of vessels on the deck, in the engine and galley departments. If you become a seafarer, you will have job opportunities in different sectors of the maritime industry. Jobs are available on vessels sailing on inland waterways, Great Lakes, the Arctic, and the East and West Coasts – including cargo vessels, tugs and cruise ships.

If you continue your training, you will have the chance to move up the career ladder into more skilled and higher-paying positions. You will also have an opportunity to travel and to be part of the “brotherhood of the sea.” Once you complete the Unlicensed Apprentice (UA) Program, you will have the skills necessary to begin a career as a seafarer.

Life on a ship is not for everyone, as it is very demanding. Mariners often live and work together in a confined and isolated environment, and may be away from home for months at a time. There is often no immediate access to medical care. However, ships are becoming more and more modern, with wifi, satellite television and other modern amenities.

The Unlicensed Apprentice Program

Canadians interested in becoming a seafarer can contact the SIU of Canada to apply for training.  The school is dedicated to preparing students for successful careers as merchant mariners. Marine Schools also offer classes for experienced seafarers, which allows them to upgrade their skills.

The UA Program provides training for entry-level seafarers. It is designed to prepare students with little or no maritime experience for a seafaring career. An applicant must be self-motivated to succeed in the classroom and other assigned areas of detail. Excelling in the classroom is not the only requirement. You must also possess a strong work ethic to succeed.

Free Tuition And Room And Board For Program Participants

Students in the UA Program will not pay for tuition, rent or meals while attending training, as these costs are covered by The Seafarers’ Training Institute. Students are, however, responsible for paying the costs of their required documents including their passport, marine medical and Transport Canada discharge book, as well as their uniform. These costs vary but cost approximately $500–$1000 in total. Students must also pay for their transportation to the school.

General requirements

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Must be eligible to work in Canada
  • Must be able to meet all Transport Canada qualifications/requirements
  • Must obtain a Transport Canada issued 2-year marine medical certificate
  • Cannot be on any form of probation or parole – must provide a recent Police Background Check

Physical requirements

  • Must be in good physical, mental and dental health – applicants must be able to pass a complete physical
  • Have blood pressure normal for their age
  • Have a dental check-up
  • Have normal color vision as determined by T.C. approved doctor color vision testing or mariner could be restricted to sailing steward department (included in the T.C. medical)
  • All deck department applicants must have a minimum of 20/20 vision in each eye, and corrected to 20/40 in both eyes
  • All engine department applicants must have a minimum of 20/20 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 Galley department
  • Applicants who wear corrective lenses or glasses need to bring either two (2) pair of glasses or one (1) pair of glasses and one (1) pair of contact lenses

How To Apply

Please read detailed step-by-step instructions for applying to the UA program through the Seafarers International Union of Canada by downloading the application guide.

Apply Now

Any money spent as part of the application process is non-refundable and the sole responsibility of the applicant.

Step 1

Submit application form online

  • Application form includes space for minimum 400 word essay on “why I want to be a merchant mariner”

Mail the following to SIU of Canada:

  • Three non-family character references
  • High school and/or college transcripts
  • Four photos 2 for passport – 1 for discharge book – 1 for STI files)

Once your application is received you will be contacted via email and instructed to schedule a reading and math test at an SIU Hall.

You will be contacted by email after completing Step 1 if you have been selected to move onto Step 2.

Step 2

After being informed that you have moved on to Step 2 of the application process, you must provide copies of the following documents to the program coordinator

  • Transport Canada Marine Medical Certificate
  • Transport Canada Discharge Book
  • Police Clearance Certificate
  • Valid passport
  • Complete dental examination results from your dentist

If selected, you will be advised prior to the start of class. A letter will be supplied to you by the Program Coordinator to take with you. You must also pass all the required medical tests and purchase your list of clothing items.  Bring money for uniforms with you to school. (cash/money order – NO personal cheques).

UA Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About The Unlicensed Apprentice (UA) Program

What is the Unlicensed Apprentice (UA) Program?

The UA program is a rigorous training program for prospective merchant mariners. Students will learn how to safely work aboard towing, shipping and other merchant vessels. Upon completion of the program, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to work on these vessels as part of a strong team of experienced seafarers.

How long is the UA Program?

The program for entry-level courses is approximately 3 – 4 weeks long and includes a combination of in-classroom and hands-on training.

What is the Program cirriculum?

Phase 1 – 3–4 weeks of entry-level training

Phase 2 – Ninety (90) day or more of onboard a Canadian vessel, as an entry-level crew member.  The UA receives a wage equivalent to the regular probationary rate as per the CBA.

Is tuition and housing really free?

Yes. If you are accepted, The Seafarers’ Training Institute will cover the cost of your tuition, and your room and board to attend the school. There are some other costs that you are responsible for.

What is an Unlicensed Sailor?

An unlicensed sailor is anyone aboard a vessel who is a non-officer, such as deckhands, ordinary seamen, bridge watchmen, mechanical assistants, cargo maintenance, chief cook and second cook.

Where is the training school?

Recent classes have been held in Southern Ontario.

Will I be training for one type of job? Like an electrician or mechanic?

No. Students receive in-depth skills training to be proficient in each of the duties on a ship.

Students are also required to take classes concerning shipboard emergencies and operations including firefighting, 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.

Do I need to be physically fit to do this program?

Yes. The work of a seafarer is physically demanding and requires a certain level of physical fitness. 

You are expected to be able to climb ladders and stairs, you should be able to lift loads of at least 40 pounds, be able 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. 

What costs do I have to cover myself to take the UA Program?

**Costs vary, but here are some examples:

  • Transport Canada Marine Medical – $100 – $130
  • Canadian Passport – $110 – $160  (plus the cost of passport photo)
  • Dental checkup – depends on work to be completed
  • Transport Canada Discharge Book – $20 (plus the cost of passport photo)
  • Miscellaneous supplies/clothing costs – $200-$500 (i.e. work boots, rain/winter gear etc.)
  • Initial transportation to the school

Do I need to write any exams?

Students are required to pass an exam at the end of each course in order to pass.

How does the admissions process work for the UA Program?

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.

When do the UA Program sessions begin throughout the year and how many students are admitted?

New sessions begin on an as needed basis depending on industry needs.  Classes have limited capacity determined by Transport Canada regulations.

How long do I have to complete my application?

No deadlines.

How long before I find out if I’m accepted?

After completing Step 1, you will be notified if you have been selected to move on to Step 2. Once you have been selected for Step 2, and after completing all Steps of the application, you will be notified of your class selection prior to your report date.

If I’ve already done the UA Program, can I do it again?

If you have attended the UA Program, you are not eligible to retake it.

When I graduate will I have a job?

The SIU of Canada

guarantees graduates their first job as part of the UA Program. Being re-hired or continuing is up to the individual.

What are my obligations after graduation?

SIU asks all UA graduates to commit to working for one of our companies for five years.