When I came ashore, you had 1 year to pass a French translation exam, roughly high school O Level, if you did not, your pay went DOWN, now that is an encouragement, along with that you had to pass a test to use anything other than the standard hand key and do a weeks training on the RT circuits.
Was this a licensing requirement or just corporate policy? I could have taken a job any time with a shore station if I wanted... with no more than a 1st class RT license from FCC. In fact, I could have started a shore station (several of my friends had already done that).
I don't recall any specific corporate requirements for using a bug but in reality I never bothered to pack one with me. By the time I was working tankers for Sun, Exxon, and Chevron there was little RT work to be done on their ships: all Marisat. But if the Marisat quit it was your a$$ if you couldn't get it running. I remember daily antenna aiming trips to the mast on one run from Valdez to SFO.
My interests were more in the engineering side of the trade and so sitting watch on 500kHz was what I was paid for but my bread-and-butter came from the 8 hours of OT every day from the Chief.
I think the French exam was a hang over from the Civil service days. It always struck me as strange that about .000001% of our tfc was in French but probably 20% of it was in the Greek language.
The morse standard I think was a historical thing. The Passie boats were generally 1st class PMG and that meant 25wpm, so there had to be a degree of headroom over some smart R/O on a passie boat trying to teach someone a lesson, hence the 28wpm send and receive before you came out of the onshore training school.
The minimum was a 2nd class PMG or as it had morphed into the General WT ticket with its 20wpm test, also at one time you had to have 2 years sea time under your belt, that was changed to let people in straight from radio college, but they spent a lot longer in the school.
I know what you mean about the OT, I doubled as R/O and in off hours being the leckie on a small chemical tanker.