Merchant Mariners hire licensing consultants for a variety of reasons. The consultant can serve as eyes and ears while the applicant is away for long periods of time, easing fear that delays could jeopardize the license. Some mariners need help documenting sea service in a format that the National Maritime Center (NMC) will accept. Others have medical conditions and need assistance with Coast Guard requests for diagnostic results.
In general, consultants help the mariner prepare and compile applications and send them to the NMC. Consultants can verify legal documents, handle appeals of license denials, answer specific questions about the process and review the medical evaluation process and qualifying sea service. Consultants also assist with license upgrades and endorsement.
The Coast Guard licensing forms and procedures for licensing have become extremely cumbersome, detailed, and difficult to understand and/or complete properly. A tiny mistake can hold up the mariner’s application for weeks or months, especially if that mariner is out to sea or out of the country.
In 2008, the Coast Guard stopped issuing licenses from the Regional Exam Centers (REC). Now it processes all licenses and upgrades centrally at the NMC. This switch added many new challenges which create frustrations and headaches for working mariners.
A consultant makes sure that a client’s sea service is correct for the license for which he or she is applying. The consultant also checks for additional licenses or upgrades a mariner qualifies for with their current sea time, and informs the client of what sea time and classes they need for their future upgrade.
The medical evaluation can be very daunting. Many physicians are not aware certain medications can trigger a license refusal. Medications used for treating depression, anxiety or insomnia are common today, however, they throw a red flag for the USCG. Many doctors don’t recognize the effect anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications can have on a Merchant Mariners career. Give your consultant a 12-month list of all medications taken. The consultant then talks to the doctor and points out the medications that will prevent his client from getting a license. A consultant asks the doctor if an alternative treatment is available. All un-used prescriptions should be canceled and properly disposed of.
A physician’s signature does not always get a clearance stamp from the NMC. The USCG is doing a much better job today of screening out mariners who are potentially hazardous to maritime and public safety, and I support their reasoning. We have to consider all other Mariners safety and their families who are waiting for their safe return.
A basic piece of advice to mariners: Don’t file at the last minute. Don’t wait until your license is close to being expired before applying to be renewed. A mariner should start the process about a year before expiration. That allows plenty of time in case there are any holdups in the process. If everything gets done ahead of time, the Coast Guard will delay issuing the license until a month before expiration. Giving the mariner peace of mind.
Some of the above information was found on the Professional Mariner website in their article "When your license is at stake"