Where Do I Start?

Who do I ask for help?

MarineDocuments.com has established itself as to go-to source for answers for all Merchant Mariners.

Marine Documents.com asked Captain Vic, what the best way to get started in the Maritime Industry? Captain Vic said, “Most new mariners need to get a TWIC and MMC to be able to work on the water”.

TWIC

Captain Vic said, “The TWIC is the Transportation Workers Identification Credential, it’s issued by the TSA”. Captain Vic continued, “The MMC is the Merchant Marine Credential that issued to you by the U.S. Coast Guard”.

“The easiest way to get your credentials is to use the Internet and visit the websites of the TSA and the USCG”, Captian Vic says.

For the TWIC go to www.tsa.gov/TWIChttp://www.tsa.gov/TWIC, at this site look for the “pre-enrollment button”, this will allow you register and set up an enrollment appointment at he most convenient TWIC office near you.

Captain Vic recommends that “you make sure to write down the password you are required to create, it needs to be ten digits and can be difficult to remember”. He continues, “As soon as you enter your password, you are logged-out, so you can Log-in securely and then enter your personal data safely”.

The TSA Enrollment Offices are located near your community to help you get to their offices at a time that is best for you. Captain Vic says, “You should make the on-line appointment, walk-ins are served, but only after those with an appointment are served”.

MMC

The easiest way to get you Merchant Marine Credential (MMC) is to use the Coast Guard website
www.USCG.mil/NMC. “this website is the best source for all things Merchant Marine”, says Captain Vic.

MarineDocuments.com confirmed that the USCG National Maritime Center’s website is continually updated, ” to remain current and up-to date with CG Policies, Regulations and needs of the Mariners”.

While visiting the USCG NMC last week, Captain Vic and MarineDocuments.com was told by Captain Lloyd, the USCG NMC Commanding Officer, “The Mariner is Our Customer!

MarineDocuments.com confirms that the “USCG NMC has created an impressive record of efficiency and strong commitment to customer service to the mariners of the United States”.

Captain Vic says, “Using the USCG NMC web-site allows you to complete “application forms on-line and physical form down-loading. t your convenience”. The website also provides you all the information you’ll need”. The drawback is that the USCG provides so much information that it may get difficult for you to sort out what information pertains to you”.

“MarineDocuments.com is every mariners expert source for advice, guidance and assistance through your credentialing process”, says Captain Vic.

Are MaritimeTraining Schools All the Same?

Capt. Vic – MESC President at NMC discussing Maritime Training Schools Standards

Setting the Standards for Maritime Training Schools

MarineDocuments.com has partnered with select Maritime Education Standards Council(MESC) (www.MESC.us) member schools to promote education and maritime training schools that meet the highest standards both national and internationally.

So who is MESC? “We are the mariner schools setting the highest standards while providing and conducting USCG license preparation courses and mariner training. We have developed the highest standards through professional and responsible practices that meet and exceed all Quality Standard Systems (QSS) established by the USCG and MESC”, says Captain Vic, the current MESC National President.

Why consider looking at a MESC school? “Maritime Training Schools come in all sizes. They each provides unique services to their communities and to their students professional training needs. MESC member schools all meet the highest standards and are “Approved by the U.S. Coast Guard”; Captain Vic added, “some schools do better than others”.

Why did they start MESC? MESC has developed a strong organization of maritime training professionals that “Speak with one voice to the NMC in regards to policies, regulations, and educational issues”, says Captain Vic.

USCG Regional Maritime Center History

THEN AND NOW: TWO DECADES OF CHANGE IN MARINE DOCUMENTS

I recall my first time dealing with a USCG Regional Exam Center (REC) regarding my maritime documents. Returning from my first vessel after completing the entry-level trainee program at the Paul Hall Center (Piney Point, MD), I had been sailing with a temporary Merchant Mariner Document (MMD). This crude document was simply a half of sheet of paper with my photo pasted and thumbprint stamped upon it. With a validity period of only one year, I was to submit this with my lifeboat certification letter and proof of 90 days of sea service to receive my “hard-card”, which was the full size laminated MMD (over-sized to fit in a standard wallet).

This transaction was still free of charge at the time, and I remember many seasoned mariners squabbling about the looming change which would force mariners to pay user fees for this service.

My first step had been to call the USCG Regional Examination Center and request the proper forms to be mailed to me. Once in hand, I filled out the application and sent it via certified mail to the Toledo REC with the supporting documents. Weeks had passed by with no knowledge of my application status, when eventually I received a letter stating that I improperly filled out the forms by marking an “X’ in some boxes instead of initialing. After the correction and resubmission of my application, several more days passed by before I finally had my document in hand. During this process, I had no luck reaching a live person by phone to ask questions.

When I examined my new document, I noticed a five year expiration date. I recall hearing the old-timers at the union hall grumbling about how all MMD’s previously issued without an expiration date would someday require renewing.

As the years unfolded, I began to see that these and other changes in the documentation and licensing regulations were not merely speed bumps, but the actual reconstruction of a system in dire need of an overhaul.

Today, the USCG National Maritime Center (NMC) and the Regional Exam Centers provide a level of service that was unimaginable twenty years ago. It is now actually possible to renew your documents without leaving the comfort of your own home. However, most mariners unfortunately do not realize the variety of options available to them in regards to renewing or upgrading documents. To point out a few:

* Download all forms from the NMC website. Application and medical forms now have a “fill-in” form which allows you to produce a neat, typed application, thus eliminating the risk of problems caused by sloppy handwriting.

* Original documents (certificates, discharges, etc.) are no longer needed. Copies are now accepted.

* No longer must you submit photos or appear in-person to be fingerprinted. The USCG is able to pull this information from the TWIC database.

* Payments can be made on line at www.pay.gov, or by credit card or personal check at the REC. (Cash and money orders are no longer accepted.) When paying on-line, you may pay for all phases (application, testing, issuance) or just one or two phases at a time.

* You may check on the status of your application on-line. Go to the website homeport.USCG mil and follow the link for Merchant Mariners to “Merchant Marine Application Status”. By entering either your Mariner Number and Application Number or the last 4 digits of you SS# combined with your birth date information, you can retrieve your status.

* For timely customer service and assistance, the phone number for contacting the National Maritime Center is (888) 427-5662. You can usually reach an representative with little waiting. To contact the NMC via email, use IASKNMC@uscg.mil.

* Regional Exam Centers now accept applications by email. The application must be in .PDF format and not exceed 10 MB in size. See the NMC website for complete details regarding email submissions.

* For those wishing to submit an application in person, you may schedule an appointment online. After scheduling an appointment in this manner, you will be provided an appointment receipt to print out, and will receive by email an appointment reminder as your date get closer. In addition, the web page for making REC appointments also provides postings of events or closings which may affect your pending trip to the REC, and includes parking information and a link to local weather.

* Mariners can choose to stay informed of ongoing developments and changes by accessing the website: http://cgls.uscg.mil/groups.php?ID=10 (linked to from the NMC homepage). Here you may sign up to receive alerts via email for any or all of these topics: NMC updates, NMC performance reports, mariner licensing and documentation policy updates, REC news & announcements, mariner information & news, USCG approved courses, and merchant marine medical topics.

* The NMC website has an online survey in which you can rate your service from a REC or the NMC. You can complete a survey to rate any step of the process (application, testing, issuance, etc).

* The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) has a website designed for those who voluntarily submit information which may be used to contact mariners in the event of a surge in sealift needs. Once you sign-up and create a user name and password, you will be able to log on and view your endorsements and sea service history. The website is Mariner’s Outreach Program.

For the first time in years, mariners may finally enjoy a stable set of credentialing regulations without fearing what lurks around the next bend. However, the current variety of services did not come overnight. Following is a timeline of notable changes which led to the modern system in use:

1993 (April 15) USCG begins charging user fees for MMD and license transactions
1994 (July) USCG revises MMD into smaller wallet size card
1994 (July 7) Seamen applying for entry level or original MMD no longer need proof of an employment commitment from a shipping company, ending a 57-year-old regulation
1995 IMO makes amendments to the 1978 STCW regulations
1995 (September) USCG begins issuing STCW certificates (CG-5601) to comply with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers
1996 (October) Revised STCW certificate (CG-5611) complies with 1995 amendments to 1978 convention; also includes photo
1997 (February 1) Some STCW components of come into effect (enforcement beginning on 7-28-1999), including Basic Safety Training (BST)
1997 USCG approves the first “Training Record Book” (created by the Paul Hall Center) to document the training history of a mariner
1998 (August 1) ll mariners starting service on this date are subject to STCW licensing regulations (can no longer obtain an ocean or coastwise license solely based on previous regulations)
1999 (February 1) Deadline for GMDSS compliance (FCC)
2002 (January) USCG revises medical form CG-719K (last revised in 1987)
2002 (February 1) 1995 Amended STCW regulations come into full effect
2002 (August 1) USCG begins strict enforcement of STCW following 6 month grace period
2002 USCG redesigns the appearance of licenses to produce a more modern look
2002 (September) USCG modifies the existing MMD card to include a serial number and more tamper resistant elements. Also, mariners must now appear in person at a REC to verify identity and provide fingerprints
2003 (February) USCG placed under Department of Homeland Security (from Department of Transportation)
2004 (March) USCG revises form CG-719B (MMD & license application)
2004 (November) Pilot program begins in certain ports to test early version of Transportation Worker’s Identification Credential (TWIC)
2005 (August) USCG revises STCW certificate with enhanced anti-fraud features
2006 (May) TSA & USCG unveil plans to implement the TWIC program
2006 (August) New Orleans REC becomes the first REC to transition to the NMC
2007 (May) On-line status available for Merchant Mariner Applications
2008 (January 7) NMC (formerly located in Arlington, VA) opens in Martinsburg, WV in a newly constructed building
2008 (September 25) Original TWIC deadline
2009 (April 15) Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) regulations come into effect, meaning all newly issued credentials will combine the STCW certificate, MMD & license into this new document. Also, mariners no longer must appear in person at REC, photo/fingerprints are taken from TWIC database, revised user fees, etc. Final deadline for TWIC compliance
2009 (May 7) First MMC issued
2010 (January 1) All mariners must comply with new medical guidelines, using revised CG-719K
2010 (January 4) Regional Exam Centers begin to accept MMC applications via email