06 MAR 2019

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order making it easier for members of the armed forces to use their sea time and training to meet U.S. Coast Guard merchant marine licensing requirements after they leave active duty. At present, Navy, Army and Coast Guard service doesn’t usually count towards the classroom and sea time needed to gain certification as an AB, QMED, deck officer or engineer. 

Under the “Military to Maritime” initiative, the U.S. Army’s little-known but extensive marine operations have been working to fix this gap by harmonizing their training with merchant marine standards. The executive order will expand on this effort, and will cover Navy and Coast Guard service members as well.

Under Trump’s order, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security (which houses the USCG) must compile a list of all potentially applicable military training and sea service and submit it to the NMC within one year. NMC will then determine which military training and experience is eligible for use in credentialing. In addition, NMC is required to make every effort to waive license application fees for active duty service members.  The services are also ordered to provide certification of departing service members’ sea time (required for license applications) within one month of discharge or release.

“It makes it easier for sea service veterans to get high-paying, high-skilled jobs as mariners by waiving government-issued licensing fees and by crediting military training in the National Maritime Center credentialing system,” said Peter Navarro, the head of the White House’s Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. “In these ways, it incentivizes our nation’s most experienced seamen to enter the U.S. Merchant Marine, which is sometimes called the nation’s Fourth Arm of Defense.  Currently, we face a shortfall of Merchant Mariners that may have serious national security implications.”

Navarro noted that American mariners earn on average $65,000 per year, well above the national average, and that many earn substantially more. Despite the financial benefits, the number of Merchant Mariners with unlimited ocean-going credentials who have sailed in the last 18 months has dropped below 12,000leaving a potential shortfall in the event of a sealift emergency.


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