The Coast Guard has made changes to mariner credentialing services that it says will simply the process for those who are renewing or applying for credentials for the first time.

On Oct. 1, the National Maritime Center, which reviews and determines eligibility of all applicants, released a new 719 series of credential application forms that will replace the existing ones. They are available electronically in a PDF format on the NMC website.

The new forms reflect introduction of the mariner medical certificate (required for those working on vessels to which STCW applies), reduce the number of conditions to be checked by a medical provider from 88 to 34, and have been reformatted to make them easier for mariners to complete, according to a statement from the NMC.

Mariners are encouraged to start using the new forms as soon as possible, but the NMC will continue to accept the old ones for a period of time should mariners have already begun the application process.

At an open house held Sept. 15 at the NMC’s headquarters in Martinsburg, W. Va., Capt. Jeffrey Novotny, NMC’s commanding officer, outlined additional updates in services:

  • Merchant mariner credentials can now be postdated, which allows a mariner to apply for a new credential up to eight months in advance of an MMC’s expiration date. The new credential will be dated the day after the current one expires.
  • The addition of three new commercial printers for credential production “will provide higher quality credentials to mariners much faster than before,” Novotny said. In the past, credentials were printed, bound and laminated by hand.
  • As of July 1, mariners have had the option to chat online with an NMC customer service representative through its website. In July and August, the line fielded nearly 2,000 calls. A unique benefit is being able to print the discussion transcript by providing an email address and requesting a transcript.

The NMC normally processes about 60,000 credentials and endorsements a year, but handled a record 81,000 in 2014. Novotny said the NMC anticipates processing about 65,000 applications this year.

“We are here to serve and assist the mariner,” Novotny said in remarks at the Open House, attended by mariners and maritime company representatives. “Our goal is to do this as efficiently and effectively as possible.”