Re: Honest opinion on route to up grade.
The requirements you are referring to are the STCW requirements, most (not all) of them relate to OICNW. They do not currently apply to 200GRT/500ITC, they apply to 500GRT and above. If you held a license prior to their implementation in 2001, then you should be grandfathered in and most won't apply anyway. However, if you didn't hold a license prior to that time, I don't think obtaining the 1600GRT inland is going to help you circumvent those requirements. I don't think it can hurt, but I don't think it will help you reach your goal any easier or quicker. Good luck.
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