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February 12, 2009

USCG works to speed up mariner credentialing

The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing its efforts to reduce the processing time for mariner credentials.

The National Maritime Center, the Coast Guard's new centralized mariner credentialing processing facility in Martinsburg, W.Va., consolidated the Mariner Licensing and Documentation program that until a year ago was was performed in the 17 Regional Examination Centers.

The NMC receives mariners applications and conducts detailed evaluations to ensure the mariners' meet applicable requirements for the credentials sought. All mariners are evaluated in three areas including a professional qualification evaluation, a safety and security evaluation, and a medical evaluation.

The Coast Guard says the NMC has achieved notable progress, but has faced a challenge processing credentials since late fall. Many of the delays are because of the complexity of completing the application, which requires follow-up communication with mariners to obtain correct or additional information. But the NMC says that 16 percent of the delays result from production bottlenecks in the medical evaluation stage of the process.

"Over the past six months the NMC has issued more than 36,000 credentials with 18,000 of those credentials issued in less than 30 days," said Capt. David Stalfort commanding officer of the Coast Guard's National Maritime Center. "Unfortunately, the NMC's average processing time of 80 days is not yet where the Coast Guard wants it to be and that is why we are taking action to remedy the problem and ensure it does not occur in the future."

The NMC is taking the following actions:

Immediate Process Changes: NMC has recently implemented enhanced risk-based screening procedures to streamline the medical evaluation process and is prioritizing all credential renewals received to focus on current credentials that have expired or are near expiration. This process is specifically designed to increase the throughput of credentials and keep working mariners employed. Thousands of credentials have been produced and mailed to mariners as a result of these changes.

Surging Resources Aggressively: The Coast Guard is surging personnel to assist with medical screenings and evaluations including: Coast Guard active duty medical staff from around the country; Public Health Service personnel and medically trained Coast Guard Auxiliary members. NMC has also increased the medical staffing contract in its medical evaluations branch to provide additional capacity.

Building Long Term Capabilities: The Coast Guard is taking measures to expand the size of the medical evaluation branch to ensure long-term capacity to meet the medical evaluation demand and ensure efficient processing. The Coast Guard is also looking to enhance the credentialing database to enable electronic workflow to improve both the efficiency and the quality of the screening and evaluation process.

Maritime Industry Outreach: The Coast Guard is aggressively communicating its action plans to industry leaders, marine employers, individual mariners and the public via the NMC call center, the NMC website and the Coast Guard list server. NMC is also providing its 17 Regional Examination Centers with clearer medical guidelines so they may better serve the mariners in completing their applications and avoiding generally preventable delays.

The NMC encourages mariners to submit their new or renewal applications early to ensure adequate processing time. Mariners with existing medical conditions should add extra time to process and review their requests to allow for the possibility of additional documentation requirements.

For more information about the NMC's Mariner Licensing and Documentation program visit http://www.uscg.mil/nmc or the Homeport site at http://homeport.uscg.mil and select Merchant Mariners.


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