Have you ever wondered what happens to the documents you file to receive your merchant mariner credentials? Are they dropped in a big hole? Reviewed by some high-tech robot? Disappear for weeks on end in the wilds of West Virginia?

If this has ever intrigued you, and you can get to landlocked Martinsburg, W.Va., then you might want to attend the open house at the National Maritime Center planned for Sept. 15.

The center is where the Coast Guard reviews and processes all MMD applications, and decides whether you have the right stuff to be a licensed mariner. In 2009, The Coast Guard consolidated the credentialing functions that were previously done at 17 regional centers into one centralized location. Licenses, documents, certificates of registry and endorsements were also combined into a single Merchant Mariner Credential, a red booklet that resembles a U.S. passport.

“As part of a continuing effort to better serve the maritime community, the NMC is providing the public an opportunity to visit and tour the facility to learn more about and witness the processes used to evaluate and produce merchant mariner credentials,” Capt. Jeffrey Novotny, the NMC’s commanding officer, said in a statement.

The open house will run from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Information sessions will be held in the morning, led by experts involved in different phases of the credentialing process. There will also be opportunities to meet with NMC staff to discuss individual mariner cases. A guided tour of the facility will be offered.

In the afternoon, there will be breakout sessions in which mariners and industry can direct questions to the center’s credentialing experts.

This is a good opportunity to learn how applications are handled and ask questions about current and future credentialing policies. The credentialing process has been sharply criticized over the years by mariners, industry and Congress, who have been frustrated over delays, bottlenecks and long processing times. The Coast Guard has been working to make improvements, and this is your chance to get a firsthand look at how it’s all going.

You’ll need to pre-register online.

Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.