While it is not a requirement, I do recommend that you complete the application process BEFORE you take the course.
There is a large misunderstanding that you must complete an approved course before you can apply to the US Coast Guard for a license. If you take the class first and are not approved for the license than you have wasted your time and money. The OUPV course is $900 and eight days; the Master course is $1,100 and ten days. That is a lot of time and money to spend unless you are confident that you will qualify. To qualify for an OUPV or Master license you need:
- At least 360 days of experience on boats, more for a Master Near Coastal.
- To be able to pass a Merchant Mariner Physical exam and a DOT/USCG approved drug screening.
- And you must be able to pass the FBI criminal background check and terrorist threat assessment.
Documenting your qualifying sea service does not have a cost associated with it, so this is where I recommend you start. Sea service experience is measured over your lifetime and can be counted from age 16. It is measured in eight-hour calendar days where any day you were on a boat, had a position of responsibility, and were away from the dock for more than four-hours counts as one calendar day. To document your experience use the Coast Guard form 719S. Read the instructions on the form and complete the form exactly as per the instructions.
The physical exam is the most common problem that people have getting a license. The physical exam MUST be completed on the Coast Guard form 719K. This is a nine-page form that you should read carefully and fill out as much as you can before visiting the doctor. While any medical doctor can conduct the physical exam, doctors at professional occupational clinics are most familiar with these types of exams. The general rule for these exams is that if the doctor wants to send you to a specialist for any part of the exam go to a different doctor. The average cost of a Merchant Mariner Physical exam is about $100 to $120.
The USCG/DOT approved drug screening needs to be conducted at a USCG accepted physicality and must include the doctors signature. The easiest way to get this done is to use the Coast Guard from 719P. This form as instructions and options for drug screening. BTW – If you smoke pot or are on a prescription pain medication don’t bother; you will not pass the drug screening and, even if pot is legal in your state, the USCG will not issue you a license if you test positive; PERIOD. The average cost of the USCG/DOT Drug Screening is $35 to $50.
The Coast Guard will not accept any application unless the applicant has enrolled in the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) program. This program is administered by TSA and requires the applicant to provide personal information such as height, weight, eye and hair color, and physical address. During the application process TSA will take a digital photo and make digital copies of your fingerprints. This information is forwarded to the FBI for the criminal background check and threat assessment. When completing the TWIC application form make sure that you check the Merchant Mariner box otherwise TSA can not forward your digital information and FBI background check to the USCG; which may result in delays in the application process. The cost of the TWIC enrollment is $132.50.
Now that you have all this completed you are ready to fill out the Merchant Mariner Credential application form 719B. As with all forms read the entire form carefully before filling in your information. The cost of the application is a $100 evaluation fee and a $45 issuance fee. You do not need to pay the $95 examination fee if you plan on taking an approved course. Here is an outline of the application form:
- Section I is personal information.
- Section II is Type of Transaction; if you are applying for your first license check LICENSE and ORIGINAL. In the “Applying For” box you need to be specific about exactly what you are applying for; such as OUPV Inland, or Master 50 ton Near Coastal. Whatever you are applying for you MUST have the sea service documented to support the request. Different licenses require different amounts of sea service experience. A little research on my website (ColumbiaPacificMaritime.com) can answer the question of how much experience is needed for each license.
- Section III is your criminal background. You need to declare everything. If it shows up on the FBI background check and you do not declare it a BIG red flag goes up; if you declare it and it does not show up on the FBI report it is not a big deal. If you answer YES to any question you need to provide a short and to the point statement saying what the crime was and how you have met the court mandated requirements for the crime.
- Section IV is character references. If you are applying for an original license you must provide three character references from individuals that will recommend you for a Merchant Mariner Credential officer’s endorsement.
- Section V is the Mariner’s Consent; a signature for the National Driver’s Registry is required, the Mariner’s Tracking System is optional.
- Section VI is Certification and Oath. A signature certifying that your statements are true is required. Do not sign the Oath statement; this signature must be witnessed by the USCG or a notary. When using a notary to take the Mariner’s Oath use the Oath Form provided by the Coast Guard.
In addition to these documents the applicant must also provide evidence of completion of either American Red Cross or American Heart Association First Aid/CPR Training within one year of the application date. The average cost of this training is $50 to $75.
The application package containing this information must be delivered to one of the 17 USCG Regional Exam Centers (REC) around the nation. Delivery can be done in person, by fax, mail, or through the postal service. The REC will forward your application to the National Maritime Center (NMC) for evaluation. The evaluation process will take from two to six weeks. If approved you will receive a letter stating that you are approved to test; if not approved you will receive a letter stating that you have 30-days to provide additional information needed for you approval OR the specific reason that you were denied.
No it is not easy to get a license. If it was easy everyone would have one.