One of the most common questions we are asked is “What is the difference between an OUPV and Master license, and which one should I earn?” Our first answer is always “It depends.” It depends on what you will use the license for, and it depends on your sea service.
At a high-level the differences between an OUPV and Master license are a) the number of passengers you can carry and b) the required sea service to be eligible for the license.
A primary difference between an OUPV license, which is often called a six-pack license, and a Master license is the number of a passengers you can carry. An OUPV license allows the operator to carry up to six-passengers-for-hire (hence the name six-pack) while a Master license allows you to carry more than six. So, if you want to carry more than six paying passengers you need a Master license.
The other notable difference between the licenses is the sea service requirements. Without getting into the details of Master tonnage, an OUPV license requires 360 days of sea service while a Master license typically requires 720 days of sea service. If you do not have 720 days of sea services, and do not plan to earn that time soon, an OUPV license is the right choice.
It should also be mentioned that an OUPV license only allows you to operate uninspected vessels while a Master license allows you to operate inspected vessels. Uninspected vs. inspected vessels refers to Coast Guard regulations, and we will cover that in a future blog.
It never hurts to have more tools in your toolbox. A Master license allows you to carry more passengers and operate a larger scope of vessel (inspected vs. uninspected). If you have the required sea time, upgrading to a Master license is almost always recommended. If you only plan to carry six passengers or less or only have 360 days of sea service, an OUPV license is the best choice for you.