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
53 Winter 2015–2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings For the newly minted merchant mariner, the notion of hav- ing your merchant mariner credential (MMC) suspended or revoked can be very upsetting. Discussions with fellow mariners, even those never subject to a suspension and revocation (S&R) proceeding, may conjure up frightening scenarios. Even well-seasoned mariners with decades of ser- vice may readily blanch when confronted by a Coast Guard investigating offcer (IO) who may simply be gathering pre- liminary information relevant to a recent marine casualty. We'll be setting these horror stories aside for now, so we can part the curtain of dread, uncertainty, and astonishment that has colored the S&R process and cut to the facts: Plain and simple, the Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise (S&R NCOE) helps maintain the standards for professional conduct and mariner competency. We attempt to seamlessly increase the quality and professionalism of the S&R process, all the while remembering the statutory intent — promoting safety at sea. The Beginning The Coast Guard's suspension and revocation enforcement system began after the nation and Congress witnessed horrible maritime incidents on U.S. waters over hundreds of years. Legislation enacted in the late 1800s created the Steamboat Inspection Service, which could grant and revoke pilot, engineer, master, and chief mate licenses. 1 After a succession of shifts and changes for the law and the Coast Guard, safety at sea still drives the current statutory and regulatory provisions that drive the suspension and revoca- tion process. Remedial vs. Penal While the sanctions resulting from S&R enforcement actions do not involve monetary fnes or jail time, for someone who earns a living as a mariner, losing a credential — even if only for a short time — can be devastating. Suspension and revocation enforcement sanctions span a continuum that runs from dismissal (if the case is not proved) to revocation, at the highest end. Once a credential is revoked, it may only be re-issued under very limited conditions. 2 Title 46 United States Code §§7703 and 7704 provide the backdrop of offenses Congress has approved where the Coast Guard may suspend or revoke a merchant mariner credential. By law, certain offenses are actionable only when the Coast Guard can prove that the mariner was "acting under the authority" of the credential at the time of the offense; for others, the mariner must only be a "holder of" a credential to be subject to S&R. Lesser-known offenses are also applicable to mariners, such as incompetence, convictions, or driving under the infuence (DUI) charges. The consequences arising from such offenses can blindside a mariner and cause the loss of an MMC. "Holder of" Ofenses The law allows for S&R action when the mariner is sim- ply a "holder" when that mariner is convicted of an offense that would prevent issuing or renewing a license. Examples include homicide, assault, robbery, destruction of property, burglary, and larceny. 3 Since the Coast Guard National Maritime Center (NMC) serves as an applicant's adjudicator regarding convictions that prevent issuing or renewing credentials, NMC person- nel decide if criminal convictions falling outside those spe- cifcally identifed in regulations will affect the credential. It is not uncommon to issue a complaint against a mariner who was convicted of a land-based offense such as assault or damage to property. Since the ultimate purpose of suspension and revocation is safety at sea, it makes sound marine safety sense to suspend or revoke a merchant mariner credential for offenses that Mariners Can Lose Credentials for What? Navigating through suspension and revocation. by MR. JaMes P. FinK National Technical Advisor U.S. Coast Guard Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise