My first ICW trip was on my Uncle Russ’ Higgins named “Tempus Fugit.” If your Latin is rusty, tempus fugit means time flies. Time does flies; five years have passed and it’s time to renew my Captain’s License. My license expires in 2013. However, the process can be started 12 months prior.
Under the provisions of the new Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) regulations, which became effective April 15, 2009, mariners are able to submit credential applications by mail to one of the 17 Regional Examination Centers (REC) located throughout the nation and will no longer need to appear at an REC. This will save mariners time and money. If you live in the Miami area you’ll avoid lots of aggravation.
When I renewed in 2008 I drove to downtown Miami, found parking which is a challenge and entered the Federal Building. Security was tight. As I walked past the police and federal guards they all saw my 8″ x 11″ white envelope and commented that I must be headed for the REC. I passed through the metal detector and was directed to the floor for the REC. What all of Miami’s finest failed to mention was that the REC was closed. The security guards at the Aventura Mall know enough not to let you in if the mall is closed.
One of the many benefits of the new regulation is the ability for mariners to mail an application to an REC, so long as they have either applied for a Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) at one of 149 TWIC Enrollment Centers or have already been issued a TWIC. As part of the TWIC enrollment process, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will have already verified a mariner’s identity and taken fingerprints and photograph, which will be sent to the Coast Guard (CG) electronically for use in processing the MMC application; even though the Coast Guard has already taken your fingerprints electronically and verified your identity. This is the Federal Government. Before you bash Obama for adding useless jobs to the Federal payroll, I should remind you that the Maritime Transportation Security Act, which created TWIC, was signed into law by Bush 43.
The implication for all this duplication of effort is that after taking a course at Maritime Profession Training in 1997 and submitting my graduation certificate to the USCG to obtain my license without further testing, and being fingerprinted three times (once by the Hollywood Police, twice by the CG), having three physicals which included pissing in a cup (the infamous drug test), the Coast Guard doesn’t know who I am, so the TSA must verify my identity.
There is an exemption for the TWIC, which is not highly advertised. It’s basically a statement certifying that you do not require a TWIC. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you have never had a TWIC you must still apply, pay the fees get fingerprinted again and have your picture taken. If you don’t need a TWIC, which I’m guessing is about 75% of all captains; you don’t have to travel back to the TWIC office to pick up your card. This makes a lot of sense. Imagine how easy traveling would be if you bought your airline ticket and didn’t fly.
Based on my last call to the Coast Guard I used my captain’s license for a year not in compliance with TWIC regulations. Much like the IRS, if you call five times with a question you will get five different answers. I called the Coast Guard when the TWIC first came out and was told I didn’t need the card if I didn’t go into secure areas.
This would have been my last renewal, as meeting the professional requirements for days at sea would be impossible because I sold my boat a year ago. There is no room for part-time captains. So considering the hassle to renew and the fact that I don’t really need a license I decided not to renew. I have already ordered my new business cards — Capt. Bob E. Sherman (Ret.). Be careful how you use the card as my identity has never been properly verified. I’ll be able to sleep better at night, dreaming of my real identity, knowing I have saved $300 and many hours filling out forms and pissing in a cup.