For mariners that have been frustrated with dealing with the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) for their credentials, there is hope.

The NMC is testing a real-time, person-to-person service for mariners.

As Dale DuPont reported in the August issue of WorkBoat that just hit the streets, the NMC began live online chat beta testing for mariners to talk directly to customer service agents on July 1. The hope is that it will provide a timesaving option for what is often a laborious credentialing process.

The first phase of the program began June 8 with a Help Ticket feature — similar to the current 24/7 email system — that also provides a mechanism that permits the Coast Guard to more readily track a request to completion. As Dale wrote in her News Log story, through late June, the NMC had logged about 20 help tickets a day and still received several hundred direct e-mails daily. The Coast Guard expects these numbers to grow as people become more aware of the system.

Here’s how it works: For the online chat phase, mariners talk directly to one of five agents (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday). Then they are able to save a copy of their conversation transcript and upload files during the chat. While agents are logged into the live chat, the ticketing system will be unavailable but activated again when agents log out.

The Coast Guard plans to evaluate the chat system in October to determine the next step. For more information, you can click on the red Live Chat button under "Important Links" on the NMC homepage.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.