To provide mariners with more timely information about their credential documentation, the U.S. Coast Guard has upgraded its Web site.
In May, the Coast Guard announced a new feature on its Web site that provides merchant mariners with real-time information on the status of pending mariner credential applications.
To gain access to the information, a mariner can log onto http://homeport.uscg.mil/, click on the Merchant Mariners tab, then on Merchant Mariner Application Status.
When a mariner’s application information is entered, the Web page will display the information previously submitted with the application package, the current status of the application process, and will list any change to that mariner’s credentials that have been issued within the previous 120-day period.
The Web site’s Guide for Renewing U.S. Merchant Mariner Documents (MMDs), Licenses, and Certificates of Registry (COR), http://www.uscg.mil/stcw/ldcr-renewal.htm, was updated in February. This guide summarizes the requirements and answers common questions about renewing credentials. The Coast Guard said that processing delays for applications are usually the result of incomplete information being submitted.
The change in the Coast Guard Web site comes amid growing awareness in Congress of the difficulties mariners encounter when applying for or renewing Coast Guard documents.
“The evaluation process for mariner credential applications has become unnecessarily elaborate and time-consuming for all involved,” said U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, when he recently introduced the Merchant Mariner Credentials Improvement Act of 2007. LaTourette is the ranking Republican on the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.
Among the provisions, the new proposed legislation would:
• Remedy the problem of license creep by making all renewals effective on the date the previous license expires.
• Prohibit the Coast Guard from charging a fee for any credential that is not issued within 30 days after the application is complete.
• Allow the secretary of Homeland Security to grant a one-year extension of credentials to help the Coast Guard address any backlog created by the process of consolidating records at the National Maritime Center and the new requirements for physical examinations.
• Require a report on ways to address the projected future shortage in merchant mariners.
If enacted into law, Rep. LaTourette said, “This bill will streamline the existing credentialing process … and allow the Coast Guard to improve its capabilities to manage the program.”