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THE MARINE LOG FEATURES CALENDAR FOR 2003

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February 20, 2003

Tough new requirements for MMD's
The U.S. Coast Guard has now stopped renewing and issuing Merchant Mariners' Documents (MMDs) using the previously issued form and has begun renewing and reissuing MMDs using a new form. Mariners may encounter delays as new issuance procedures go into practice and the Coast Guard warns that the "delays may persist for some weeks."

The new MMD form is more tamper-resistant and facilitates verification of an MMD holder's identity, citizenship, and qualifications to work aboard U.S.-flagged vessels, says the Coast Guard in a notice in the Federal Register.

MMDs both serve as identity cards for merchant mariners and provide information about the mariners' professional qualifications. The previous MMDs, serve the second of these purposes "well enough," says the Coast Guard. "However, they no longer serve the first with sufficient confidence."

The Coast Guard is replacing them using a new form that will be issued through a more secure process. It says it will "make every effort to effect a smooth and easy transition" and fis considering whether to allow mariners to replace their previously issued MMDs with new MMDs on an accelerated basis, i.e. at an earlier date than current expiration date.

To ensure that only eligible mariners receive MMDs, the Coast Guard will conduct a criminal-record review of mariners seeking renewal or re-issuance of a previously issued MMD, or issuance of an original MMD. The review may include verification of identities; criminal histories; and sobriety (as gauged from, among other sources, the National Drivers' Register). This review will be consistent with applicable law and Coast Guard regulations.

Because of the importance of establishing positive proof of identity to facilitate the background investigation, it will be necessary for holders of, and applicants for, an MMD to be present at a Regional Examination Center (REC) to be fingerprinted.

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