PVA President Testifies Before Congress

Monday, July 13, 2009

In testimony before Congress, PVA President Bill Clark told legislators that the Coast Guard’s centralized system for issuing merchant mariner credentials must be improved.

Captain Clark, who is also co-owner and operator of South Ferry, Inc., of Shelter Island, N.Y. testified before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on the subject of the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center and Mariner Credentials. 

“PVA is aware of too many instances in which a mariner has been prevented from working because of credentialing processing delays,” said Captain Clark.  “We don’t buy into the notion that a properly completed application should be held up in-system awaiting assignment to an evaluator.” 

Key points of Captain Clark’s testimony include:
•    Coast Guard credentials are essential for a mariner to be able to obtain a new job or to continue in an existing one.  Delays threaten a mariner’s livelihood.
•    The National Maritime Center’s (NMC) average processing time of 80 days must be drastically reduced. Mariners must also do their part by ensuring that their application package is complete.
•    Many delays have been associated with those applications for which medical reviews had to be done.  It is imperative that the NMC maintain adequate staffing levels to carry-out medial reviews expeditiously. 
•    With respect to medical evaluations, a bad situation will become even worse if the Coast Guard changes the requirement for a mariner evaluation to every two years instead of the current every five years.  PVA urges the Coast Guard to delay any move towards two-year evaluations until the current system demonstrates that it can issue credentials in a timely manner.  
•    PVA urges the Coast Guard to expand its “trusted agent” program as a way to ease the pressures on the NMC by ensuring that mariners submit complete and accurate applications.   
•    There should be one or more merchant mariners on staff at NMC to serve as a point of contact for mariners and who can advocate for them within the NMC. 

A copy of PVA’s full written statement can be accessed at: http://www.pvastaff.com/pvamemberupdate/pvaCGCtestimony.pdf

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