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April 19, 2002

Incomplete applications add to Coast Guard licensing crunch
Many U.S. Coast Guard Regional Exam Centers (REC) that issue merchant mariner licenses and documents report a rise in the number of incomplete mariner applications being submitted.  This problem is worsening an already severe backlog at many RECs caused in part by a surge of last-minute filings to meet new training and qualifications standards that went into effect Feb. 1, 2002. 

Two misconceptions may lie behind the spike in incomplete applications:
  • First, mariners apparently believe that an early, though incomplete, application     will be processed faster than a complete application submitted at a later date, and;
  • Second, mariners seem to think that if they have any application in process at an REC after August 1, 2002 to meet the new training and qualifications standards (known as STCW-95), they will be allowed to work on a vessel in foreign trade while their application is being processed.

“Neither is true, and there is nothing to be gained in submitting an incomplete package,” said Captain Ernest J. Fink, Commanding Officer, National Maritime Center.

The Coast Guard has taken steps to reduce the backlog and enhance customer service at RECs.  Newer and more modern equipment used to process mariner licenses and documents has been purchased and put into service.  Over twenty temporary contractor employees have been hired to fill clerical and evaluator positions at six key RECs to help reduce the backlog situation over the next six months.

The Coast Guard says it needs the cooperation of all mariners to overcome the REC backlogs and ensure proper credentials are issued.  Mariners are strongly encouraged to thoroughly review their applications for completeness prior to submission to the Coast Guard for evaluation.  Anyone with questions about the application process or requirements should contact their local REC or visit      

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