We get lots of questions about the best strategy for getting a United States Coast Guard (USCG) License.
All of these questions are the original reason we created MM-SEAS. We wanted to provide mariners with a software that will support their career progression, and securely store their essential paperwork.
Here are three rules to guide you through the sometimes confusing process of gaining your merchant mariner credential:
Along your professional maritime journey, make sure you are leaving every location with the correct maritime documents.
If you take a CPR class, make sure you leave with your CPR card. If you are leaving a boat, no matter the size, make sure you have some documentation of your service on the boat.
Every professional sailor I have interacted with, including myself, has needed to go back to a captain they sailed with to request a sea service letter on official letterhead or a CG-719s months after leaving the boat. It’s embarrassing, frustrating and easily avoidable.
Keep track of your days and provide that information to the captain a few days before departing the boat. This makes creating the letter and verifying your dates of service easier for them while also helping ensure that you walk down the gangplank with the documentation you need!
Always know where your documents are! At all times! No matter what!
Your entire professional career depends on these documents. Literally no one else is keeping track of them for you. It’s a common myth that the USCG National Maritime Center tracks and stores your documents. This is totally false! The NMC website even states, “It is the mariner’s responsibility to keep copies of all sea service records.”
Use anything that works for you to never lose these documents. I personally have 23 different sea service documents and 26 different USCG approved course certificates that
I historically kept copies of in two physical locations and a copy backed up in the cloud in addition to emailing scanned copies to myself. With all of these measures, I’ve still had trouble locating everything and had numerous spreadsheets so that I could track my career progression.
Here’s a video of how to add a CG-719s form into MM-SEAS allowing you to securely store your paperwork and track your sea time!
Keep going! Do not let a frustrating paperwork process stand in your way!
If you have all of your documentation, you are 95% of the way there and can make informed decisions on your next maritime career steps. Knowing exactly how many sea days the USCG is going to give you credit for, let’s you plan out your next job allowing you to take into consideration the tonnage, route and role.
Armed with this information, you can start to strategically plan which USCG approved training you will take next and when you want to take it. This will help you take charge of your career and plan your next licence upgrade without wasting time and money on unnecessary training.
The process to get your first USCG license, upgrade your current one or even renew the one you have is pretty much the same. All you need to do is have all of your documents, understand what they are telling you, and have a plan for your next steps… and, that can really be the tricky part of the process.
We hope this made your life a little easier and if you have other questions the MM-SEAS team is always here to help!
No matter what, when you are ready to submit your application, you can choose to have the MM-SEAS staff create a perfect application, handle the USCG application fees and work with the USCG on your behalf to resolve any issues for a flat fee of $299 or you can choose to submit on your own.
Pro MM-SEAS members get access to unlimited live 1 on 1 calls with one of our USCG Licensing Specialists. We've found that answering questions live with screen sharing in a video call makes both of our lives easier. Pro MM-SEAS members can access these features inside of MM-SEAS under License Guidance.
Nate has over 15 years of professional maritime experience and has hawsepiped his way to a 3rd Mate Unlimited Endorsement with full STCW compliance. He is proud veteran of the NOAA Commissioned Corps.