Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/617100
51 Winter 2015–2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings from the mariner to determine if he or she is quali- fed for the medical certifcate, and if not, the NMC will deny the medical certifcate. Once the mariner has received the medical certifcate, he or she must carry it with the merchant mariner credential at all times. 4 The mariner should be ready to present the certifcate along with the credential during any Coast Guard inspection or investigation. Further, the medical certifcate is valid for vary- ing amounts of time, based on the type of vessel on which the mariner serves. If the mariner serves aboard vessels to which STCW applies, the medical certifcate is valid for up to two years, unless the mariner is under the age of 18, in which case the maximum period of validity would be one year. For those mariners serving as a frst-class pilot, the maximum period of valid- ity is two years, and for all other mariners, the maximum period is fve years. Finally, mariners who receive a waiver of certain medical conditions may receive time-limited certificates, which expire in one or two years, depending on the condition. Additionally, mariners must comply with the terms of the waiver to renew their certifcates. This time-limited medi- cal certifcate eliminates S&R action on mariners who are noncompliant with the previous rules' waivers. As medical ftness was embedded in the former MMCs, those mari- ners with a medical waiver were obliged to comply with its terms, including providing the annual information to the NMC. However, once issued, the National Maritime Center had no administrative mechanism to void or revoke the waiv- ers when necessary. In such cases, the Coast Guard's only recourse was through suspension and revocation action, as a mariner operating outside the scope of the medical waiver could be sanctioned for misconduct. The Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise (S&R NCOE), co- located with the NMC, maintained a list of thousands of mariners who had difficulty complying with a waiver's terms. Now, with time-limited medical certifcates and the self-enforcing mechanism that requires a valid certifcate to accompany the merchant mariner credential, this removes the need for suspension and revocation action to compel waiver compliance. Medical Disqualifcation Regardless of whether a mariner holds a valid medical cer- tifcate for one, two, or fve years, medical conditions may arise during that time frame that could render the mariner unft. If a mariner is on a time-limited medical certifcate issued due to an existing condition, he/she may have an obligation to report a change in the medical condition. If, however, a mariner experiences a new condition, there is no such reporting obligation. However, the Coast Guard learns of new conditions through a variety of sources. The NMC may receive medical informa- tion from marine employers, Coast Guard investigating off- cers, and from mariners themselves who are self-reporting. For example, during the course of a Coast Guard investiga- tion, investigating offcers (IOs) may learn of a medical con- dition concerning one of the operators. When this happens, they forward any relevant medical information to the NMC medical staff for review. The National Maritime Center staff reviews the information as a new or changed condition and then works with the S&R NCOE to advise the Coast Guard IO. In some instances, the NMC requires further medical infor- mation to make a more informed decision. In the aforemen- tioned case, the S&R NCOE would work with the local inves- tigating offcer to fashion a request for more information via a phone call, email, or administrative subpoena. Once the National Maritime Center personnel have the information necessary to determine the mariner's ftness, they refer the matter to the S&R NCOE for possible suspension and revo- cation action. S&R Investigation and Action The S&R NCOE has investigating offcers on staff who may represent the National Maritime Center offcer in charge of marine inspection in cases throughout the country. While the NCOE exercises this authority at times, the preferred course of action is to work in partnership with a local inves- tigating offcer. The S&R NCOE investigating offcer team as well as the local unit may investigate the mariner to determine whether he/she had knowledge of his or her condition before operat- ing under the authority of the credential. If not, then the IO Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center.