Tomorrow, RADM Cook will testify on merchant mariner credentialing before the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (whew, that’s a mouthful). In the past year, the Mariner Licensing and Documentation (MLD) Program has undergone some major changes to improve the application and approval process.
The changes include:
- Centralizing credentialing at the National Maritime Center (NMC) in Martinsburg, WV. The NMC now evaluates all applications and produces the credentials with the support of 17 regional examination centers (REC). The RECs accept and provide assistance with applications, administer professional exams, and oversee/audit approved training courses offered in their area. Mariners can also now go to any of the 140 Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) enrollment centers to prepare and submit applications.
- Creating a medical evaluation branch staffed with medical professionals to improve the medical screening process.
- Designing and implementing a new Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), which replaces four separate Coast Guard-issued credentials. However, all U.S. credentialed mariners must also have a TWIC as mandated in 46 U.S.C. 70105.
- Creating a national NMC toll-free call center (1-888-IASKNMC or 1-888-427-5662) to field mariner questions and concerns.
- Establishing a way for mariners to check the status of their credential application online at Coast Guard Homeport (under “Merchant Mariners” on the navigation bar). Mariners can also contact the NMC call center to check the status (1-888-IASKNMC or 1-888-427-5662).
Despite initial adjustment problems with the new software and personnel relocation, substantial improvements have been made in the medical screening, handling of applications and overall customer service. The entire licensing process has historically been lengthy for many mariners, but is has gotten better according to a recent blog post by a maritime professional. The NMC is currently surging application processing to clear out any backlog with an end goal of reducing the processing time to 30 days. Program leaders are continuing to implement ways to improve and accelerate the process with hopes of moving the entire application process online in the future.
The Coast Guard’s MLD Program fulfills the U.S. responsibilities under the International Maritime Organization’s Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention. The goal of the STCW Convention was to establish internationally accepted basic requirements and minimum standards for commercial mariner training, certification and watchkeeping, which countries are required to meet or exceed. Mariners are evaluated on their age, citizenship, character, physical competence, training, experience and professional qualifications.
Follow the Compass as it covers the hearing live on Twitter tomorrow.