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 pay.gov. 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!