Coast Guard Covid-19 update: MMC, medical, course approval extensions

The Coast Guard released a Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) last week that updates guidance concerning mariner credentials, medical certificates and course approvals. The MSIB also updates the actions being taken by the Coast Guard due to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes (Covid-19).

The provisions in this MSIB are consistent with the Executive Order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery issued on May 19, 2020.

The Coast Guard has also been consulting with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other
administrations to ensure alignment with respect to the extension of endorsements issued in accordance with
the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

To mitigate the impact to the seafarers and the industry caused by Covid-19, the Coast Guard is taking the following actions:

  • Regional Exam Centers and Monitoring Units. RECs and Monitoring Units will remain closed until further notice. Mariners with questions may contact the National Maritime Center (NMC) by calling the Customer Service Center at 1-888-IASKNMC, emailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil, or through the NMC online chat system.
  • National Endorsements: Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMC) and Medical Certificates (National
    Endorsements only) that expire between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020, are extended until
    Dec. 31, 2020. Mariners who are actively working on expired credentials that meet the expiration
    criteria must carry the expired credential with a copy of this notice. This measure relaxes the requirement
    to carry an unexpired medical certificate and not the actual medical standards. It is important that
    mariners with disqualifying medical conditions do not sail.
  • STCW Endorsements: MMCs with STCW endorsements that expire between March 1, 2020, and
    Sept. 30, 2020, are extended until Dec. 31, 2020. Mariners who are actively working on expired
    credentials that meet the expiration criteria must carry the expired credential with a copy of this notice.
  • STCW Medical Certificates: STCW Medical Certificates that expire between March 1, 2020 and
    Sept. 30, 2020 are extended until Dec. 31, 2020. Mariners who are actively working on an
    expired medical certificate that meet the expiration criteria must carry the expired certificate with a copy
    of this notice. This measure ONLY relaxes the requirement to carry an unexpired STCW medical certificate and not the actual medical standards. It is important that mariners with disqualifying medical conditions do not sail.
  • ¬†Additional administrative measures: The following items that expire in between March 1, 2020, and
    Sept. 30, 2020, are extended until Dec. 31, 2020: Additional Information letters, Qualified Assessor letters, Designated Examiner letters, Approval to Test letters, and mariner training course completion certificates.
  • ¬†Pilot Annual Physical examinations. 46 USC 7101(e)(3) requires that pilots undergo an annual physical
    examination each year while holding a credential. The Coast Guard does not intend to enforce this
    requirement given the current national emergency and the lack of medical care. This measure ONLY
    relaxes the requirement for an annual physical and not the actual medical standards. This posture applies
    until Dec. 31, 2020 irrespective of when the medical certificate expires. It is important that pilots with disqualifying medical conditions do not sail.
  • Course and Program Approvals.
    o Course and program approvals that expire between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, are
    extended for six months from their current expiration date. This MISB serves as formal notification of
    the extension. The NMC will not issue new course approval letters or certificates. NMC will update
    internal records to ensure the acceptance of course completion certificates issued during the extension
    and that the website reflects appropriate information.
    o The NMC will continue to work with training providers on a case-by-case basis to implement alternate
    training delivery methods, including distance learning or blended learning. Approved requests and
    new requests for alternate training delivery methods will be valid until Dec. 31, 2020 for the
    knowledge-based online course material. All testing, practical assessments, and labs associated with
    these courses must be completed no later than six months from the completion of the knowledge-based
    portion of the training. This MSIB serves as the extension for previously approved courses using
    alternate delivery methods.

Please be aware that these measures may cause a backlog in the processing of credentials and course
approvals, especially near the end of the extension dates. Mariners are strongly encouraged to fulfill the
requirements and submit their application as early as possible in order to avoid a lapse in their credential.
Similarly, training providers need to make every effort to submit their application early to avoid expiration of
their current approval.

The NMC may issue additional guidance on these extensions and other administrative measures consistent
with this MSIB. This guidance will be posted at https://www.uscg.mil/nmc//. If you have questions, visit the
NMC website, or contact the NMC Customer Service Center by using the NMC online chat system, by emailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil, or by calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).

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