OMSA: Let entry-level mariners work offshore while awaiting MMC

(NEW ORLEANS) — The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) has petitioned the U.S. Coast Guard to allow entry-level mariners to start working offshore while their applications for a merchant mariner credential (MMC) are being approved by the National Maritime Center.

Specifically, OMSA proposed that the Coast Guard reinstate the use of a form called a “temporary certificate of identification” for entry-level mariners. The form had been used until 1992 and allows the holder to begin serving on a vessel while they are waiting for the Coast Guard to approve their MMC application. This application includes proof of a successfully passed physical and drug tests, as well as a copy of the mariner’s TWIC application.

OMSA photo

OMSA believes that reinstating the use of this form will allow vessel operators to hire — and immediately put to work — entry-level mariners such as deck hands who would otherwise have to wait until their applications have been processed.

The proposal was first made in a letter from OMSA President Aaron Smith to Rear Adm. John Mauger, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy. The letter pointed out that while only 105 of the 48,374 application requests were denied by the Coast Guard in 2020, all offshore applicants were still required to wait more than a month for their applications to be processed.

In the letter, Smith asserted, “most Americans do not have the finances and support networks necessary to endure a delay spanning weeks or even months … as such, many otherwise great applicants simply cannot afford to wait to secure a position in the offshore industry.”

OMSA’s letter also mentioned that under its proposal, the only positions that could use this expedited authority are those that do not require the mariner to pass a test or submit sea time for approval, and that existing regulations already require those without TWIC cards to be escorted in restricted areas of vessels.

“The American maritime industry is a great job producer,” Smith said. “This wonderful industry puts high school graduates on a pathway to six-figure, family-supporting incomes. Those are the types of careers we should be encouraging. However, we’re losing far too many applicants to other industries that don’t require their new hires to wait several weeks to months for an approval letter from the USCG National Maritime Center in West Virginia.”

The OMSA proposal was generated by the OMSA Workforce Development Committee as part of that committee’s efforts to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent Americans from entering the maritime industry or moving up the hawsepipe. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Coast Guard.

– Offshore Marine Service Association

By Rich Miller