Coast Guard announces final rule for requirements for merchant marine officers

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship Directorate announced the Federal Register is scheduled to publish a final rule Thursday to amend Coast Guard regulations relating to merchant mariner training and service.

These regulatory changes remove the expiration date of the radar-observer endorsement from merchant mariner’s licenses, thereby eliminating confusion regarding the expiration date of the license. The changes also permit an apprentice mate of towing vessels to reduce the sea-service time for obtaining a license as “mate (pilot) of towing vessels” by completing additional Coast Guard approved training, which could result in an increase in the number of rigorously trained towing pilots available to the maritime industry. An alternate path for obtaining a license as “mate (pilot) of towing vessels is created by the changes for those individuals with, among other things, at least three years experience as a qualified master of steam or motor vessels 200 gross register tons or less, while maintaining or exceeding existing sea service time requirements for the mate (pilot) license.

This final rule follows consideration of public comments on its potential impact. Public comments regarding reduced sea service time provisions and removal of the radar-observer endorsement expiration date from the license were supportive. According to the preamble of the final rule, proponents of the alternate service provisions laud it as a streamlined mechanism for experienced masters from other segments of the industry to operate towing vessels.

The final rule and related materials may be reviewed at http://www.regulations.gov, docket number USCG-2006-26202.

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