Passport-like booklet replaces four separate mariner credentials

(Dom Yanchunas)

The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) has begun issuing the new consolidated Merchant Mariner Credential.

This passport-like booklet replaces the four separate U.S. Coast Guard-issued credentials that U.S. mariners may have needed to qualify for domestic or international employment. Those papers included the Merchant Mariner’s Document, Merchant Mariner’s License, Certificate of Registry and International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Endorsement.

This single durable document makes it easier for the mariner to carry the credentials around, said Christina Washburn, chief of the NMC’s data management branch. The new format also conforms more closely to international standards.

The consolidated credential eliminates the need for mariners to visit a Regional Examination Center in the application process, as long as they have already enrolled for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). As mariners qualify for new endorsements, the NMC will mail them a sticker to be placed directly into the little booklet.

Applicants pay $45 for the entire consolidated credential. Previously, they paid $45 for each separate credential.

The first consolidated credentials were issued in May. Because mariners typically renew their licenses every five years, it will take until 2014 for every mariner to receive his or her first consolidated credential.

The new document is the same size and shape as a passport and uses the same photo that was issued in the mariner’s TWIC card. It contains all of the same data that was in the four previous documents, but it is organized to resemble the international endorsement.

“This conforms to the more internationally recognized format that’s used in other countries, as opposed to a certificate or piece of paper that our mariners were carrying,” Washburn said. “This is also more durable than the pieces of paper. They can put this document in their pocket and carry it around pretty easily.”

The consolidated credential does not contain a computer chip like new passports do, but the mariner’s document does have a so-called machine-readable zone that allows the data to be scanned electronically. It contains other security features, and the U.S. Government Printing Office tested the material to ensure that it is rugged enough to withstand salt water, fuel and various chemicals, Washburn said.

“This is as secure as a passport, with the exception of that chip,” she said.

Future versions are expected to include a two-dimensional bar code and the mariner’s fingerprint.

The very first consolidated credential was issued May 7 during the Towing Safety Advisory Committee meeting in Dania Beach, Fla. Jessica Dennis, regulatory compliance officer with Hornbeck Offshore, received serial number 000000001. Her endorsements include second mate of steam motor vessels, able seaman, wiper and stewards department.

Dom Yanchunas

By Professional Mariner Staff