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Marine Log

March 23, 2007

Bill to streamline mariner credentialing

Legislation to improve the licensing and credentialing process for merchant mariners has been introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH), Ranking Republican on the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are also sponsors of the legislation.

The Merchant Mariner Credentials Improvement Act of 2007 includes provisions identified by shippers, merchant mariners and maritime workers that will ensure greater efficiency and eliminate unnecessary and redundant procedures in the existing credentialing process administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

"It is apparent that the evaluation process for mariner credential applications has become unnecessarily elaborate and time-consuming for all involved," said LaTourette. "This bill will streamline the existing credentialing process to minimize procedural errors that prevent merchant mariners from carrying on with their important work and to allow the Coast Guard to improve its capabilities to manage the program."

The bill contains the following provisions:

    Remedies the problem of "license creep" by making all renewals effective on the date that the previous license expires.

    Prohibits the Coast Guard from charging a fee for any credential that is not issued within 30 days after the application is complete.

    Prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from fingerprinting an individual separately for both the merchant mariner credential and the Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC).

    Allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant a 1-year extension on credentials to help the Coast Guard address any backlog created by the process of consolidating records at the National Maritime Center and the new requirements for physical examinations.

    Allows new seamen on offshore supply vessels and towing vessels to work on a temporary basis while approval of a mariner credential application is pending, but only after DHS determines that the worker does not pose a safety and security risk.

    Requires a report to: (1) expand a pilot program which helped mariners complete application forms, (2) simplify the application process so that errors occur less frequently, (3) provide mariners with a notice of status of their applications, and (4) require documentation to be stored in electronic format.

    Requires a report on ways to address the projected future shortage of merchant mariners.

    Requires a report on altering Merchant Mariner Documents to make them TWIC and International Labor Organization-compliant, including adding a biometric identifier to the card.