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Requirements to Obtain a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License

To obtain a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s License, unlike a driver’s license, there is a lot more to it than just paying a fee and taking an eye test.  
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For those skippers out there who choose to obtain a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license, it is imperative to remember the date of issue on your certificate five-years hence, for it is at that point you must renew. Like a state driver’s license, you will be notified by the USCG of the impending expiration, but unlike a driver’s license, there is a lot more to it than just paying a fee and taking an eye test.

I recently went through the process and discovered that the following (all found at uscg.mil/nmc) are required:

• Completed renewal application CG-719B

• Small Vessel Sea Service form CG-719S

• Proof of ownership of your vessel

• Physical Exam Report CG-719K

• Periodic Drug Testing form CG-719P

• Copies of Transportation Workers Identification Card, or statement of exemption

Copy of current Merchant Mariner Credential

You must document 360 days on board in the previous five years: a “day” defined as at least four-hours underway on a boat. I sail a lot but just barely made the requirement, as one day boating in every five—year ‘round—is a lot of time on the water for someone not employed as a mariner.

The drug test must be conducted at a SAMHSA accredited lab, analyzed for only a DOT 5 Panel, and signed by a Certified Medical Review Officer.

There is a $95 fee, payable by check or money order, or with a major credit card, at pay.gov. The completed packet must then be mailed to your nearest Regional Examination Center. Meticulous preparation is paramount here, one small error will delay your renewal. So it’s a smart move to check in with the Customer Service Center (at 888-427-5662) before mailing your application.

If the renewal has slipped your mind and it is past five years don’t despair, you have a grace period until the sixth year, after which you would need to repeat the entire application process.

Exactly five weeks after mailing the renewal packet my new Merchant Mariner Credential arrived; it had a striking resemblance to a U.S. Passport and is good till 2020.

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