Coast Guard extends renewal grace period for MMCs

(NEW ORLEANS) — The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) is applauding the U.S. Coast Guard for issuing a new policy letter that extends the renewal grace period for a merchant mariner credential (MMC) from one year to six years.

The Coast Guard aacted after OMSA called attention to the issue in a letter that urged the service to adopt fair practices that would support merchant marines looking to return to the industry.

“OMSA has long advocated for ending restrictive policies that needlessly prohibit American mariners from returning to the workforce,” said Aaron Smith, president of OMSA. “We applaud the USCG for extending the grace period for renewing a Coast Guard license renewal period and for providing American mariners with more flexibility to contribute their expertise.”

Previously, mariners taking leave had to renew their MMC within one year or face starting over as a new mariner needing to accumulate all new sea time and required tests and training – an expensive and time-consuming process. Removing this burden emboldens skilled and experienced professionals to return to the industry.

Additionally, for those seeking to reactivate an expired captain’s license, it is projected to save between $12,100 and $43,710 in class fees and between 39 and 124 days of classroom instruction.

“There is no practical reason for short MMC renewal limits as they do not enhance safety or retention,” Smith said. “Extending these limits will more effectively facilitate maintaining an experienced and qualified workforce and enhance national security by providing an additional source of fully qualified American mariners to be rapidly activated.”

Historically, the domestic maritime industry has had periods of high utilization followed by periods of slowdown. This natural fluctuation creates opportunities for mariners to both enter the industry and take leave, rendering it not uncommon for skilled mariners to allow their credentials to expire due to the high cost of maintaining many endorsements during a time it is not being utilized.

The one-year grace period for license renewal overlooked the natural cycles of the industry and imposed unnecessary burdens on mariners. The new six-year period corrects the problem by accommodating for industry cycles and individual life circumstances.

“It is a huge win for American mariners,” Smith said. “Doing away with needlessly restrictive policies that negate the needs of industry professionals will create a better environment for mariners to contribute to the needs of the nation.”

Smith added, “OMSA’s work with the Coast Guard on enacting this change is once again proof that while other organizations talk about the importance of U.S. mariners, OMSA is actually doing the work of ensuring the U.S. has a sufficient pool of experienced, hard-working men and women to work offshore.”

Click here to read the Coast Guard policy letter.

– Offshore Marine Service Association

By Professional Mariner Staff