The U.S. Coast Guard is relaxing some of its credentialing requirements in order to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on vessel and port operations. In particular, it is reducing rules related to the much-criticized TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Card) and extending credentials that are set to expire.
Under normal circumstances, American mariners have to acquire a valid TWIC from the Transportation Security Administration in order to apply for and keep a Coast Guard-issued Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). The TWIC application process requires an in-person visit to a TSA enrollment center, but TSA reports that some of its contractors’ centers have closed due to the pandemic.
The USCG says that it will provide flexibility regarding TWIC requirements during the COVID-19 crisis. In general, it will not pursue suspension and revocation actions for existing MMCs due to expired TWICs. In addition, it will also accept MMC applications from individuals who have completed the TWIC application process (enrollment) but have not yet received their TWIC approval. If a mariner applies for a renewal, raise of grade, new endorsement or duplicate merchant mariner credential while their TWIC is expired, they may apply without a valid TWIC if they demonstrate that they have enrolled for a TWIC renewal.
Additionally, for the time being, the Coast Guard has relaxed TWIC requirements for new hires at port facilities. If the new hire has enrolled in the TWIC application process and can present valid ID, they may be allowed into secure areas so long as at least one TWIC-licensed person is present. No side-by-side escort is required.
Licensing process changes
Given the disruption caused by the outbreak and the need to keep maritime commerce flowing, MMC national endorsements, STCW endorsements and medical certificates that are set to expire between March 1 and July 31 have been extended through October 31. A variety of additional certifications and approval notices – like the Approval to Test letter – have also been extended for the same period.
Due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the Coast Guard has closed its regional examination centers (RECs) indefinitely. MMC applications may still be submitted online via the National Maritime Center’s web portal.