How to Get a Captain License

Getting a professional mariner license, AKA Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), is not a spontaneous action; it is a process that requires planning and perseverance. The application that you present to the Coast Guard will consist of several CG 719 series forms, along with copies of certificates and documents. The total number will depend on what you are applying for. When completing the Coast Guard forms, read the instructions on the form carefully and complete the form exactly as stated in the instructions. Never send any original documents with the application, always send copies; and always make copies of all the CG forms for your records. Here is an outline of the process:

  1. The first step is to research the professional credential that you need for the job; and the sea service requirements for the credential.
  2. The second step is to document your qualifying sea service to insure that you have the necessary experience. Sea service is a measurement of your lifetime experience on the water, it is measured in calendar days, and never expires. Any day that you were on a vessel of any size or type; had a position of responsibility, such as operator or deckhand, and were away from the dock counts as one calendar day. Use the small vessel sea service form CG 719S to document this experience.
  3. Once you have documented your qualifying experience you will need to enroll in the TWIC program. This is done at a Universal Enrollment Center (UEC) operated by TSA. Enrollment in the TWIC program is required for every application for an original issue of any MMC, without exception.
  4. Next you need to get a Merchant Mariner Physical Exam using form CG 719K, and a USCG/DOT drug screening using form CG 719P. The physical exam may be completed by any doctor, but using a doctor at a health occupational clinic is generally less expensive and less time consuming.
  5. For the original issue of an MMC officer endorsement, such as OUPV or Master, the applicant must complete an American Red Cross or American Heart Association First Aid/CPR course within one year of the application date.
  6. Complete the application form CG 719B. This will include having a notary administer the Merchant Mariner Oath, and paying the application fees online.
  7. The application package, consisting of the CG 719 series forms and copies of your TWIC and First Aid/CPR cards, must be delivered to one of the USCG Regional Exam Centers (REC) around the nation. Delivery may be done in person, using a postal mail service, email, or fax. If delivery is made in person then the personal at the REC can accept the application fees over the counter, and administer the Merchant Mariner Oath.
  8. Upon approval of your application you will receive a letter from the US Coast Guard stating that you are approved to test. At this time you can either complete an approved course, or complete the exams at the REC. If you completed the course before applying for the credential simply include a copy of the course completion certificate with your application package.

All the USCG forms, professional requirements, and approved course information is available at:


About Dennis

Instructor and Director at Columbia Pacific Maritime LLC
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