Coast Guard officials responding to health and safety challenges necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic have chosen to extend mariner credentials, medical certificates and course approvals for the benefit of the maritime industry.
In a marine safety information bulletin (MSIB) released in late December the Coast Guard said these provisions are consistent with the executive order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, which was issued in mid-May.
At the same time the Coast Guard advised that this decision may cause a backlog in processing of credentials and course approvals, especially near the end of the extension dates. They advised that mariners and training providers fulfill requirements and submit applications as early as possible to avoid a lapse in their credential or training approval. Under their current statutory authority, the Coast Guard said, the expiration dates of merchant mariner credentials may be extended for no more than one year.
Merchant mariner credentials that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, are extended until the earlier of Oct. 31, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date.
Merchant mariner credentials with STCW endorsements that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 20, 2021 are extended to the earlier of Oct. 31, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date of the credential.
STCW is an acronym for the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended.
Medical certificates that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 20, 2021 are likewise extended until the earlier of Oct. 31, 2021 or one year after the initial expiration date of that medical certificate.
Pilot annual physical exams require that pilots undergo an annual physical exam each year while holding the credential. However, the Coast Guard does not intend to enforce this requirement due to the pandemic and its impacts on health care providers.
Mariners actively working on expired medical certificates that meet the extension criteria must, meanwhile, carry the expired certification with a cop of the MSIB notice.