Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ask the MSSC—You have questions. We have answers from the USCG Marine Safety and Security Council.

How does the Coast Guard track medical conditions of non-licensed personnel?

Answered by the USCG Office of Vessel Activities.

Merchant mariner non-licensed personnel include two groups:
1. Qualified ratings such as able seaman, qualified member of the engineering department, and tankerman;
2. Entry-level positions such as ordinary seaman, wipers, and steward’s department personnel (food handlers).

The Coast Guard handles each of these groups differently.

Qualified ratings follow a process similar to licensed personnel. Qualified ratings are required to have physical examinations every five years. Compliance with this requirement is monitored through the application process. Applicants for original and renewal of credentials must submit a completed form CG 719K Merchant Mariner Physical Examination Report with their application. The CG-719K is completed by the medical professional who conducted the physical evaluation of the applicant. It documents a comprehensive review of the applicant’s medical and physical condition. The CG-719K is reviewed to flag any potential medical issues and a determination is made whether the mariner is physically qualified for a merchant mariner credential.

Entry-level applicants follow a similar but abbreviated process. They submit a different form, CG-719K/E Merchant Marine Certification of Fitness for Entry-Level Ratings. This form is shorter than that required of licensed personnel and qualified ratings. In the CG-719K/E the medical professional attests to the applicant’s ability to perform basic physical shipboard tasks. A full physical examination is not required. Entry-level applicants with limited service on non-seagoing vessels and/or on seagoing vessels of less than 200 gross register tons are not required to submit a physical exam of any type, nor are they required to demonstrate ability to perform basic physical shipboard tasks.

If the Coast Guard determines that a merchant mariner has a medical issue that may affect the mariner’s ability to perform his duties, the Coast Guard may still grant the credential. These waivers may require special conditions as simple as using and having spare eyeglasses aboard. In the case of medical conditions that are stable but have the potential to deteriorate over time, the medical waiver may include a stipulation that the mariner undergo periodic medical evaluations more frequently than the standard five years. All physical waivers require that the mariner report any change in the waived condition to the credential issuing authority within 30 days.

The Coast Guard monitors licensed personnel in the same manner, with the exception of pilots, who must submit a CG-719K annually.