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September 14, 2006

USCG speeds post-Katrina merchant mariner documentation

The U.S. Coast Guard is moving quickly to restore vital services to merchant mariners in the New Orleans area.

Regional Examination Center (REC) Houston, previously reported as havening incurred a loss of communications has been restored to full operating capability.

Hurricane Katrina caused the Coast Guard's REC in New Orleans to close its doors as employees evacuated the city. This REC is the largest in the country and regularly issues 20 percent of all mariners' credentials issued nationwide. Mariners serving on most commercial vessels are required to hold credentials that provide identification and attest to the mariners' qualifications. Many mariners in the hurricane devastated area lost their credentials in the subsequent flooding. These mariners, as well as those seeking routine renewal of expiring credentials, need Coast Guard services before they can return to shipboard employment.

Short-term plans include the augmentation of staffs at RECs surrounding REC New Orleans' area, including Houston, Memphis, Charleston, and Miami, with personnel who formerly staffed the REC in New Orleans.

Additional space has been identified in Memphis and inquiries for additional space are being made in Houston. Miami and Charleston will absorb new staff within their existing work areas. In addition, the Coast Guard will establish REC representatives at the Marine Safety Office, Morgan City, Louisiana, to provide limited services to mariners including fingerprinting and identification. The Coast Guard is also looking to establish similar services in a Gulf Coast location to the east of New Orleans.

Mariners who lost their credentials as a result of the hurricane may apply for duplicate credentials at any REC. Even though the REC in New Orleans was heavily flooded and remains inaccessible, centralized, electronic records will allow the Coast Guard to quickly identify the qualifications currently held by the mariner and to issue replacement credentials.

Many mariners have already contacted an REC to inquire about the status of their records or transactions that were in process in New Orleans at the time of the evacuation. The remaining RECs have already received information about processing these applicants. In many cases, records that existed in REC New Orleans may be recovered through copies, identified through letters sent to applicants, or verified from information in centralized mariners' records. Mariners who had an application pending in New Orleans should contact another REC and provide that REC with copies of the documents submitted to the New Orleans REC along with any correspondence received in response to the application.

Phone numbers of U.S. Coast Guard Regional Examination Centers:

Anchorage (907) 271-6736

Baltimore (410) 962-5132/5147

Boston (617) 223-3040/41/42

Charleston (843) 720-3250 or (800) 826-1511

Guam (671) 339-2001

Honolulu (808) 522-8264

Houston (713) 948-3350/51

Juneau (907) 463-2458

San Pedro (310) 732-2080

Memphis (901) 544-3297 or (866) 777-2784

Miami (305) 536-6548/49/6874 or (800) 982-9374

New York (212) 668-7492/7864/4970/6395

Portland, Ore. (503) 240-9346

Oakland, Calif. (510) 637-1124

San Juan (787) 729-2376

Seattle (206) 220-7327

St. Louis (314) 539-3091

Toledo, Ohio (419) 418-6010

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