[B]US unveils ship papers packet[/B]
12 Mar 2009
Merchant mariners in the US will have an easier time keeping together their bulging packet of seafarer credentials, thanks to a US Coast Guard initiative. Seafarers already have to carry up to four separate seafarer credentials: a merchant mariner’s document, a merchant mariner’s licence, a certificate of registry and an STCW card; then there’s the newly mandated TWIC card. Under the new scheme, Coast Guard officials told Fairplay, mariners will be issued a single passport-like book that will contain all documents, licences and endorsements (except the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, but plans are in the works to incorporate that as well). Under the final rule to be published early next week, the new documents will begin to be issued on 15 April. The system will also make applying for credentials easier because an applicant need only be fingerprinted and photographed for a TWIC card. Those biometric characteristics will then be forwarded to the Coast Guard. Captain David C Stalfort, commander of the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center, said it’s important that seafarers tick the “mariner box” when applying for a TWIC, so the Transportation Security Administration “knows to forward the data to us”.