• Coast Guard Issues Final Rule Consolidating U.S. Merchant Mariner Qualification Credentials
  • May 11, 2009 | Authors: Jeanne M. Grasso; Jonathan K. Waldron; Conor Warde
  • Law Firm: Blank Rome LLP - Washington Office
  • New Development

    The U.S. Coast Guard issued a final rule on March 16, 2009 to consolidate U.S. merchant mariner credentials into a single credential to be known as a “Merchant Mariner Credential” (“MMC”). This rule will minimize the now-existing redundant credentialing requirements. It is important to note that the final rule does not consolidate the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (“TWIC”) requirement into the MMC. Mariners will need to have both an MMC and a TWIC. This final rule will become effective on April 15, 2009.

    Background

    Previous regulations authorized the Coast Guard to issue up to four credentials to merchant mariners. These credentials included: (1) a Merchant Mariner’s Document (“MMD”), (2) a Merchant Mariner’s License, (3) a Certificate of Registry (“COR”), and (4) an STCW Endorsement. Additionally, the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 required all merchant mariners to undergo a security threat assessment as a prerequisite to obtaining a TWIC. Therefore, because each credential is for a separate purpose, U.S. merchant mariners would potentially require up to four separate credentials, plus a TWIC, and be forced to appear in person multiple times for similar applications. Now, mariners will only need one credential, the MMC, and a TWIC.

    Discussion

    The Coast Guard has issued this final rule to streamline the merchant mariner credentialing process and to reduce overlaps and redundancies between the previously issued credentials. The MMC will now replace the need for separate credentials for U.S. merchant mariners.

    The interaction between TWIC and the MMC is a significant part of this new rule. Under the TWIC program, which is administered by the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) rather than the Coast Guard, all credentialed mariners must have a TWIC by April 15, 2009. Mariners failing to have a TWIC by that date will be subject to Coast Guard suspension and revocation proceedings.

    A mariner may continue to serve under the authority of his or her current license, MMD, COR, and/or STCW endorsement until the first renewal or upgrade of that credential after April 15, 2009, but no later than April 15, 2014. However, failure of a mariner to hold a TWIC serves as a basis for the denial of an application for an original, renewal, new endorsement, duplicate, or raise of grade.

    Conclusions and Recommendations

    This new rule should simplify the merchant mariner credentialing process and, by most accounts, represents an improvement over the previous credentialing system administered by the Coast Guard. U.S. merchant mariners are now able to apply for and receive one consolidated Coast Guard-issued credential in the form of the Merchant Mariner Credential. Mariners should ensure they hold valid TWICs by April 15, 2009 to ensure that the validity of their credentials is not adversely affected.