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January 30 & 31, 2002

January 15, 2002

USCG issues new licenses, warns on STCW delays
NEW MERCHANT MARINERS' LICENSESThe U.S. Coast Guard has started to issue new merchant mariner license certificates. Anti-counterfeiting technology includes using a computerized system for better security and centralized record keeping.

But mariners who have not yet begun the process of requesting new or upgraded licenses or other credentials, face delays in processing at the service's licensing centers because of a looming deadline for new training and qualifications.

February 1, 2002 is the deadline for compliance with the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers, 1978, as amended. The STCW requires additional training for most seafarers as well as new methods for demonstrating the ability to perform duties. When a mariner complies with the STCW, the Coast Guard issues an STCW certificate attesting to the qualifications.

The STCW standards were adopted five years ago. Many mariners have long since completed the necessary training and obtained their certification--but many have not. Those who have yet to complete the necessary training will be unable to sail on international voyages on vessels over 200 gross registered tons after the deadline.

Coast Guard licensing officials report that the service's Regional Exam Centers are already have backlogs in processing license and merchant mariner document requests because of an increase in STCW certification requests.

In October the Coast Guard warned mariners that some STCW commercial training courses were filled to capacity and asked mariners to review the STCW requirements, arrange for training, and start their license applications early to avoid delays. With the STCW compliance deadline now just two weeks away, mariners who are just now submitting their applications are not likely to receive their STCW certificate until well after the compliance deadline.

Coast Guard licensing officials are closely monitoring the situation and say they have taken "numerous steps" to minimize the impact on mariners who are still in the application process.

NEW LICENSES: The new licenses will be issued to all licensed merchant mariners, including Masters, Chief Engineers and Radio Officers. This license retains the traditional border design, title and vessel graphic design of the old version but will not have pre-printed text and fill-in-the-blank endorsement lines.

On new licenses the text, title, endorsements and issue/signature information will now be completely printed from the Coast Guard's computerized Merchant Marine Licensing and Documentation System. The new license forms, produced by the U. S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, employ the latest technology in counterfeiting deterrence. The old-style licenses remain valid and mariners do not have to obtain a new one until their regular renewal date or when an endorsement or some other change is required.