Sailing on expired MMD

What happens if you get signed on a ship with valid credentials, but your MMD expires before getting signed off? Does the coast guard allow you to stay signed on?

I’m trying to get on a ship but my MMD expires in the next couple of months. I’m waiting for the NMC to issue my new MMD (waiting for review status). The NMC is unfortunately backed-up and the wait time is 3 months instead of the usual 1 month. Thank you!

I saw a girl get turned away from an APL job in the NJ hall years ago for this reason. I think they saw her documents were about to expire and they forced her to throw the job back.


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That’s the union rules, not the USCG rules.

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If your MMC has expired and the renewal hasn’t been approved, then you don’t have a valid credential and you can no longer hold a position that requires it. If you have the email that your MMC was approved for issuance then you might have a valid credential at that point, but if you don’t have the new credential physically on the vessel then you may still be out of luck.

From the NMC FAQs:

  1. Once issued, how long is my MMC valid? Can I continue to work after my MMC is expired?

An MMC is valid for a term of 5 years. Adding an endorsement during this period does not change the expiration date. The only time the expiration date will change is when a mariner applies for and meets all renewal requirements. Once an MMC has expired, a mariner may not serve under the authority of that credential.


I wasn’t sure which he wanted — answered the only scenario I’ve ever personally witnessed. Though I figured they were basing that rule to throw the job back based on validity of the credential itself and not their own rules.

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Ok understood. If your MMD is expired then you cannot sail. Even if you were already signed on to a ship. Got it. Thank you very much!

Side note: I’m extremely disappointed in the NMC. The industry is already lacking sailors. We need them to step up their game. It’s absolutely absurd IMO.


Well by the book she could have still shipped, since her documents were not expired yet.

I imagine the union has some sort of cut off - 6 months maybe - that they won’t ship you within.

Yeah, it seems the processing time and backlog is getting worse.

During the initial shutdowns for Covid they allowed 1-year extensions for credentials expiring up until June, 2021. That extension was issued under the authority of 46 USC 7507 which, besides national emergencies and natural disasters, exists for the express purpose of extensions to allow the MNC to clear an application backlog.

Interestingly, that USC section specifies that the extension can apply to an individual seaman. It does not, of course, explain any mechanism for a seaman to request such relief.

So short of writing a letter to the Secretary of DHS and expecting a reply, I hope for your sake that they do step up their game.

They currently recommend applying 3 months ahead, but clearly right now that might be cutting it close. I think you are allowed to apply 8 months ahead without effecting your new credential date starting from the original expiration date.

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This is actually a situation I have with a crewmember right now. Vessel is completing an international voyage, the MMD expires prior to arriving back into the United States, but they have the approval and shipment notification from the NMC. Basically, the document must be waiting for them at the first US port or they have to get off. At least that is how the USCG sees it. Foreign governments not so much. An expiration date is an expiration date to them.

In years past, this crewmember would likely not have been allowed to join the vessel by the company or union. Nowadays though, it seems that all sorts of concessions are being made to get reliefs onboard. The one to really keep an eye on is your Passport. Quite a few countries will not entertain allowing entry if you are under one year to renewal on that.

My best advice is to constantly stay aware of and ahead of renewal dates and timelines. I always start renewal on my license at least 6 months in advance. Usually around 8 months just to be safe.


Thank you very much for the responses. Y’all are extremely helpful.

The NMC is coast guard personnel, right? Is the NMC low on staff? I know COVID ruined the supply chain but it seems an NMC evaluator could do their job from home, right? Is the NMC short staffed? Why don’t they make moves and get more help?

I really don’t understand the excuse they have for being this far behind. My application has been waiting to be reviewed since June 22nd. Meanwhile their are sailors I know who have been stuck on ships for almost a year. I’m not blaming the lack of sailors on the NMC, but they sure aren’t helping the situation.


Thank you. This was the response I was looking for. Much appreciated

In this case I would also go to the credential verification section of the NMC website. If it shows the new credential on there, I would print out the pages and have that on hand. Many PSCs may accept that along with the CG Letter

My son was in the situation described by @DamnYankee. He flew out to join before it arrived. I took a picture of it and sent it to him. That satisfied Class during an audit as well as PSC. The MMC was mailed to the agent prior to the ship arriving the States. He got it when the ship hit the States.

My MMC just got approved for issuance. I sent in my application around June 22nd. It’s currently August 9th. About a month and a half wait ain’t too bad. Thanks again guys