The Coast Guard’s passport-style license document

 The Coast Guard began issuing a new passport-style license document about five years ago (in 2010). The style is professional in appearance and, for all intents and purposes, useful. I have heard good and bad comments from mariners about it. Here is my take on it.

When a student graduates from medical or law school, he or she receives an attractive diploma. The same is true for graduates of an accredited university or college, or those who complete a course of study at a technical or trade school. A printed diploma does not really serve any purpose other than to display on a wall in a den or office. In fact, most are showcased in this way so that people can see that the person achieved a certain level of expertise. Still, people are proud of their accomplishments and want to show it.

Well, merchant mariners are no different than any other professional. They, too, are proud of their accomplishments and should have a document they can display to demonstrate their expertise. That’s why, in addition to the passport-style credential, the Coast Guard should supply mariners with a license suitable for framing. MERPAC, a Coast Guard advisory committee, has requested it.

I am a professional mariner, proud of it, and would like to show it.

Sure, I hated packing my old framed license in my brief case. But I was always proud of what that framed piece of paper meant to me professionally. I think a passport-style credential that contains all of your endorsements and all other pertinent information in a single document you can carry around is great. However, I still want a copy of my license to hang on the wall of my office, just like every other professional.

The answer is very simple. The Coast Guard should issue a beautiful license suitable for framing, along with the passport-style document for mariners to carry with them. After all, the mariner shells out assorted fees to get the document. The least our federal government can do is to recognize mariners as professionals and provide us with a document that we can proudly display.

This column/blog originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of WorkBoat.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or

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