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A Guide to United States Coast Guard (USCG) Merchant Mariner Credential (Z Card) Process for New Aspirants and Professional Mariners

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Established in 1790 by the U.S. Congress, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is one of the five armed forces of the United States. USCG is the only military organization operating under the Department of Homeland Security. USCG’s mission includes regulation and enforcement of maritime law in rivers, in the ports, littoral regions and on the high seas and, is tasked with the duty to preserve nation's maritime interests around the world. Also USCG is a unique instrument of maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship.

The National Maritime Center (NMC) is the Merchant Mariner Credentialing (MMC) Authority for the USCG under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. To ensure a safe, secure, and environmentally sound Marine Transportation System, the mission of the NMC is to issue credentials to fully-qualified mariners in the United States maritime jurisdiction. The Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing (CG-MMC), as set forth in Title 46 of the U.S. Code, develops regulations and sets policies governing United States Merchant Marine credentialing and maritime labor issues. The focus is on the Human Element dimension of the Marine Transportation System (MTS) which serves as the first of the four MTS dimensions - Mariners, Vessels, Waterways, and Ports.

What is a USCG Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC)?

A Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) (also know as Merchant Marine Document or Merchant Marine Z Card or USCG Z Card) is a credential combining the elements of the merchant mariner’s document (MMD), merchant mariner’s license (license), and certificate of registry (COR) as well as the STCW endorsement issued pursuant to the STCW Convention and STCW Code. MMDs, licenses, STCW endorsements and CORs are no longer issued as separate documents and all qualifications formerly entered on those separate documents appear in the form of an endorsement(s) on an MMC. An MMC authorizes the holder to serve in any capacity endorsed thereon, or in any lower capacity in the same department, or in any capacity covered by a general endorsement. An MMC may be issued to qualified applicants by the National Maritime Center or at any Regional Examination Center or through the mail.

This document is issued to qualified mariners and is requirement for all crew members of ships with a Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) of over 100 and, is also required for all vessels required to operate with a Master Mariner of all sizes. MMC replaces all old documents issued by USCG and a mariner may continue to serve under the authority of and within any restriction on their license, MMD, COR, and/or STCW endorsement until the first renewal or upgrade of that credential, but not later than April 15, 2014.

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      Pic:USCG NMC Regional Centers (REC) - For accurate details, please check with USCG. Credits: USCG

How to get USCG Merchant Marine Credential MMC (Z Card)?

  • USCG has established several Regional Examination Centers (RECs - see picture above) along with Monitoring Centers throughout the country. RECs pre-screen applications for completeness, administer exams, and conduct oversight of approved courses. They also serve as an outreach to the Maritime Industry to ensure a better understanding of the merchant marine credentialing process.
  • If applicable, obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Submit CG-719B (Application for Merchant Mariner Credential) to a local Regional Exam Center (REC) in person or by mail
  • Application content is verified by the REC and forwarded to the National Maritime Center (NMC) for processing
  • Application is reviewed - Security (criminal record review, verify citizenship); Medical (719K/E for entry level; 719K Physical Exam form completed within 12 months of application date); and Professional Qualifications (service experience, training, examinations)
  • Mariner credential is printed and mailed to mariner

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