Merchant Mariner Credential application process: Quick, nearly pain-free!

by Tim Flanagan on June 28, 2009

Last week, I wrote about my “quick and painless” experience enrolling for my Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). I was somewhat astonished that it all went so smoothly.

So imagine my further astonishment when, by Friday of that same week, I had completed all the paperwork and submitted my application for a Merchant Mariner Credential!

Heck, I’d only made the decision to apply for the credential on Monday.

The fact is, this isn’t rocket surgery. But there are an awful lot of steps. As my grandmother used to say, “There’s many a slip, twixt the cup and the lip.” I’m not really sure what that means, but my intuition tells me it applies in this situation.

Applying for an original, entry-level “ordinary seaman” credential, as I was doing, is probably a bit easier than the application process many mariners would face. The “Merchant Mariner Credential Application Acceptance Checklist” is certainly intimidating! But it turns out I didn’t have to complete all the items listed there. Here’s what I had to do:

(1) Complete MMC application. That’s form 719B. It’s about four pages long.

(2) Apply for your TWIC and include application receipt with your MMC application. You need not have received your TWIC, but you need to have applied for it. You don’t need to submit photographs with the your MMC application, because they’ll use the same digital photo taken during your TWIC enrollment.

(3) Have a doctor complete the physical exam form (719K or 719K/E). I was due for a physical anyway, so I scheduled this with my doctor and we went through the more comprehensive 719K form together. Coincidentally, I needed a Tetanus shot; that swelled up and hurt for about three days after, which is why this process was only almost pain-free.

When you take the form to your doctor, be sure to note the three most common omissions made on this form, which can delay your application:

  • They must test your eyesight corrected and uncorrected. I can’t even see the big “E” uncorrected, so prob’ly I should wear corrective lenses while operating vessels, I’m guessing.
  • They must indicate which color blindness testing methodology was used.
  • They must complete the boxes where they are asked to mark “competent” or “not competent”. Hint: you want them to mark the “competent” box!

(4) Take a “DOT 5 Panel” drug test and have the test administrator complete form 719P. I found that Swedish Hospital in Ballard has a little operation they call “Business Health Link“. It may not be the cheapest option, at $70 (including the required medical review officer signature), but it’s in the ballpark, it was nearby, and it was quick and painless, the way I like it. Ballard is an old Seattle seafaring neighborhood with a strong Scandinavian background, so it’s no surprise that Swedish Hospital provides convenient, fast drug-testing services for the benefit of the many commercial maritime firms in the area. I got my results back in two days.

(5) Pay the fees at Print out the receipt. This site is a little confusing. It’s helpful if you know what the total is supposed to be. Take your time. If you’re completely flummoxed by the site, and I wouldn’t blame you a bit, you can pay at the USCG Examination Center, assuming you’re going there in person.

(6) Mail or carry the whole stack of papers to your local USCG Regional Examination Center. I showed up without an appointment about ten minutes before closing time on a Friday afternoon. Good plan, eh?

To my extraordinary shock and delight, the place was empty and I was assisted almost immediately. I was there a total of 20 minutes, including time spent waiting, reviewing and signing forms, checking my TWIC status on the computer, and administering the Merchant Mariner Oath.

At this point, I’m done. There’s nothing else to do but wait. The TWIC will be delivered back to the TWIC Enrollment Center, so I’ll need to drive back down there to pick it up, but the MMC will be mailed to me at home.

See? Reasonably quick, reasonably painless.

Now, to find a job that gets me out on a boat every day for at least four hours, so that I can earn my precious sea time. Job leads are appreciated!

{ 4 trackbacks }

Maritime Monday 169
July 6, 2009 at 2:19 am
The Coast Guard Compass | Mariner Licensing and Documentation
July 18, 2009 at 6:05 am
Good to go: Merchant Mariner Credential arrives in 24 days
July 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm
TWIC enrollment: not so easy for everyone
August 3, 2009 at 10:22 am

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kevin hennagin July 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm

please just wanted to know how to become Merchant Mariner

2 Mac July 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I like the way you wrote of your experience. I hope it continues to go so well for you. Can you please give us updates on your progress and let us know what date you have credentials in hand.

3 William Vagedes July 19, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Will somebody please, help me ? I’m Trying to locate material on the web to help in my study for my QMED-Machinist endorsement . I was a MR1 in the Navy several years ago. I have 3yrs. sea time. I’ve been a Tool and die /Repair Machinist for 25 years. I Can’t seem to find very many of the publications listed on the NMC website. I’ve tried google books, amazon, scib’, even ebay no luck.

4 William Vagedes July 20, 2009 at 11:32 am

Yesterday I was pretty overwhelmed with my study for a QMED-Machinist endorsement and Istumbled upon this:MARINE EDUCATION TEXTBOOKS, INC.
124 North Van Avenue
Houma, LA 70363-5895 U.S.A.
Telephone: (985) 879-3866
24-Hour Fax: (985) 879-3911
For $155 dolars I was able to by 4 different textbooks touted to help me study for the REC exams. I don’t know how good they are but I’m going to buy them. Thanks

5 Roger July 28, 2009 at 3:39 am

Contact used book dealers to locate “Blue Book” originally published by Cornell Press (author – Patterson ((I believe)).) Will cost you about $20 and will prepare you for any rating in the engine room. Contains questions and answers with self testing for CG tests.

6 cahbreis July 28, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Thanks so much for the post, Tim! All the sites I’ve looked at have been written in Greek. This really helps and encourages me!

7 Anderson Azevedo July 31, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Well I am surprised how quick my I got my M.M.C.! as soon as I was clear from me the medical evaluator it was quick ! In matter of two days I got my stuff back….. Yeah swallow that Baltimore REC! N.M.C. keep up the good work.

8 Jarrod Dease August 8, 2009 at 12:23 pm

i have had my MMD since 06 and havent found any entry leve jobs yet. i went to several union halls and they told me i had to go to Piney Point. So i drove there from VA to MD and was told that i had to attend the training school for about 6-9 month give or take a few. without pay. is there any other way to get connected with any job without having to go to that school. please contact me, if anyone has any sugjestions.

9 Fran Steel August 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Well, I might have knocked on some wood before you when and shouted to the world that it was “quick and nearly pain-free”.
Do you have your MMC yet?
Did you know that the USCG is using this blog entry as a poster child for “how well” they are doing?
Did you know that many, many, many, many mariners are pretty sick and tired of NMC screwing up their MMCs?
Not to throw cold water, just a little reality.
Good luck and I sincerely hope that all of your USCG experiences are as pleasant as this one was.

10 Tim Flanagan August 14, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Yes, it arrived 24 days later. To be sure, my application was extremely straightforward. Lots of folks are frustrated with the system, for many reasons. I haven’t heard as much about the MMC process as I have about the TWIC process. I’ve discussed that a tiny bit here:

11 James Burnett August 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Hello Tim
I have had a dream about working my way around the world
Then stay in Austraila for a year .and then work my way back home.
I have all my documents (Z-card /TWIC/passport),this leaves me for my next stage.
Do you know of any places for a strong mechanic willing to work for 6 months while waiting for school to get the STCW-95 training
any ascendants,Will be greatly apprecited

12 franklin manglona September 1, 2009 at 3:40 pm

im gonna be be signing up soon what jobs are there do they have guards or anything that pays good hows the pay

13 tracy September 2, 2009 at 12:52 pm

I got my TWIC card in only 5 days.

14 C.Chandler October 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm

To Jarrod,

Getting a maritime job is the same as getting any other job, but me im going the piney point, its a sure way to start out, competitive world out there..and with no trainig you are not really competition to anybody else tryn to get the job with a lil training so good luck on that…..

15 Matthew Zuchowski October 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Thanks for the helpful info on the MMC.
I’m changing careers and have virtually zero sea experience. I’m looking at starting here:

16 Preston October 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm

“Did you know that the USCG is using this blog entry as a poster child for “how well” they are doing?”

Haha- of course he knows that. Why do you think he wrote the articles?

17 Tim Flanagan October 29, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Wait a minute, what? I’m not sure what you mean, Preston. If you mean that I wrote the articles because I thought it was a good story and might generate traffic, you’re right! It’s a blog, after all…the whole point is to generate traffic.

If, however, you were suggesting that I’m some kind of shill for the USCG, I would be obliged to correct that misapprehension on your part.

18 John J. Enriquez November 9, 2009 at 9:35 am

Sound like the REC Long Beach.
But then, we’re all good.

19 John S. Parkin November 10, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Whats going on fellow mariners. Look My family has been on the Delaware river for over 60 years now. My pops in a Master Cpt. on a tug. After getting my MMC and Twic card some 7 months ago they couldnt find me not one job. NOT ONE. Its the economy its down in the dumps right now for everyone. So I hit the internet. I hit it hard. Sent out over 100 resume’s and online applications. Finally I got one reply. On company called me. I live in Biloxi MS. The company is out of Metroplois IL. I got in my car and drove 11 hours that day they called and interveiwed the next morning. Needless to say they hired me. So for anyone looking for a entry level job, the key is PERSISTANCE! Just keep sending out resumes’ and keep filling out the online apps. Im employed on a river boat, Ive never worked on a barge boat before and it was way different from the harbor tugs Im used to. Not to mention much more dangerous! So yeah, I recieved my MMC 22 days after submitting my app to the USCG exam center in Mandeville, La. But there was one hold up, when you apply for your TWIC card tell them your occupation is MERCHANT MARINE. If I didnt follow my application online, I wouldve had to wait for a ltter. But the USCG has a page you can trackl your application. Once I saw there was a issue I called and they walked me through it, still only 22 days. Well I leave again tommorro for my 28 days on. Its a great job and love it! The 28 on and 28 off stinks a little but hey I have a job right? Thanks and be safe.

20 joe serrao November 13, 2009 at 10:54 am

Hi guy’s, I have just returned from 14 months in Iraq as a convoy driver. I am planning on starting the mmd/twic process this week. I was in the USN from 87-91, in deck dept. and I have quite a bit of sea time. I have been told that a dd-214 is not acceptable as proof of sea time. Does anyone know the correct route to take to get a compliant
verification of USN sea time?

21 Mariness November 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

Joe S.,
For Military records requests go to:
You’ll need to provide either Transcript of Sea Service, (page four and eight of the service record), Performance Evaluations, History of Assignments, or letters of qualification.
Depending on your military rating, your sea service MAY be creditable for up to 60% of time served. Also, your sea service needs to have been w/in the last 3 years for.

22 joe serrao November 22, 2009 at 11:51 am

Thanks, If it has to be in the last 3 years I guess I will only be able to use it for resume puposes, not as a quicker route to A/B, but every little bit helps. Thanks again for the reply.

23 Barbara Allen Washington November 28, 2009 at 9:26 am


24 John February 25, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Well you need to start with the internet. Search Deck hand employment, but watch out for those sites who charge, you should never pay for employment info! Just surf the net for different marine transportation comapnies, Moran Transportation, Bouchard Trans, don jon, They’re many many comapanies out there, but I tell you the economy hit the maritime industry very hard and we arent on the upslide just yet, many people say just before summer we’ll see more cargo and commodities but you never know. Its very hard to get a entry level deck hand job because ther’re so many of us outa work. So if you find something hang onto it just until at least you get your upgrade on endorsement(A/B). Then you have a better chance in getting hired but not much better in the times we’re in. I work for a company on the miss river, if you want to work on inland water ways google that. You have different companies all up and down from Chicago to Davant La. So happy hunting and good luck hope to see all of you on the water!

25 Peter Creciun September 17, 2010 at 6:42 am

I doing what you did right now…well as of Tues. Here in Charelston SC. As far as work goes for entry level wich is you & I…Well in my countless hours of on line searching I found this & I hope you find it as exciting as I did Milirty Sealift Command the MSC. The app.process after mailing from them takes 7 days. Then 30-60 days for them to process. That’s all I’ve found after a true nuckle dragging exp. overall.I hope it helps you.

26 Tina Cook October 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Thanks for sharing. I gained a lot of very useful information from this. I am in the process right now of the exact same situation. I was able to print out some documents from your article that helped me. Thanks again.

27 thrillin adventure March 9, 2011 at 3:38 am

i recrived my twic while at a shipyard i quit to become a merchant mariner ive sent n my mariner app last fri along w 140 what i want to know is do i get my passport next how long will it take im itching 4 adventure

28 Dan April 6, 2011 at 6:10 pm

“To my extraordinary shock and delight, the place was empty and I was assisted almost immediately. I was there a total of 20 minutes, including time spent waiting, reviewing and signing forms, checking my TWIC status on the computer, and administering the Merchant Mariner Oath.”

Your experience was much different than mine, it took me nearly two hours to complete the process!

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