Archive for July, 2009

In a previous post I pondered my renewal process and promised an update.  To recap, starting in January I submitted my documents and hoped for the best knowing the NMC was just in its rookie year.  The time frame I anticipated was about 4 to 5 months.  I was starting well before my license was to expire and I didn’t believe I had any issues that might slow the process.   All my paperwork was accepted through the Boston REC and after some wrangling over semantics (the new “dateless” radar endorsement) I had a completed set of renewal documents on their way to West Virginia.  The NMC had my package by February 18th.

As the weeks dragged by I noted little progress.  While the paperwork was definitely in West Virginia, its status had remained a mystery…..the MEB thing was taking too long.  On March 10th I was checking the NMC site for progress when I noted the good folks at MEB needed more info.   I called to try and get some detail and was eventually able to discern that a procedure I had 4 years prior (and reported on my annual 719k) was creating a problem.  Luckily the supervisor on watch sent me an email detailing exactly what was needed rather than make me wait for the snail mail.  I was able to schedule most of the appointments prior to returning to work.  The snail mail notice didn’t arrive for 7 more days. After a couple of weeks of work and  a battery of tests at my doctor’s office, I submitted 15 pages of documents to the good people of MEB.  Luckily they were true to their word that I would be moved along to the top of the pile now that they had the necessary info.  It was now April 4th.

After progressing to the next level I was informed that PQEB could take a couple of weeks before they even looked at my folder, it was then I began to  sweat.  Once I cleared MEB I thought I was home free, but facing this new information and a delay that was encroaching on my expiration date I asked for special consideration by sending an email to the staff supervisor at NMC requesting (politely) that my situation be given special dispensation.  (I wouldn’t have known to ask  if an operator at the NMC had not suggested the option was available.)  To my surprise, special dispensation is exactly what I got.  My paperwork was accelerated through the maze and I received my new license, MMD, and STCW in the mail in short order.  I was printed and issued on April 15th.  The whole thing took a mere 86 days from the day I sent my package to my License Consultant.

Now as if that wasn’t enough, the regulations regarding the VSO endorsement came into the picture.  My outfit wanted all of  its Masters so endorsed.  This endorsement is only required if you are the designated security officer on a vessel over 200 gross tons that sails past the Demarcation line.  Your MMC needed to carry the USCG endorsement and it needed to be done by July 1st, 2009.(this deadline has since been extended due to the high volume of mariners submitting  for the endorsement)

I sat through a 3 day CSO,VSO, FSO course at Kings Point MMA and submitted my paperwork yet again.  My license consultant doesn’t handle STCW endorsements, so I spoke with the NMC which directed me to send my stuff to the center and that I would have my endorsement in due course.  Of course this information was completely wrong.  I found out after 4 days that I needed to reclaim my paperwork and submit it via my REC of choice, REC Boston did my stuff before, so Boston it is.  After speaking with Boston and confirming my requirements for submitting (turns out I’ll be issued the new MMC for no charge) I sent my documents to Boston. After being approved at my favorite REC, it was on to West Virginia and within 3 weeks my new MMC was in hand.

That would be a great ending but nooo……..since I was at work when my new MMC arrived, I wasn’t able to read it to be sure it included all that it should.  Well, there you go…..

The Master’s ticket I sat for in 1984 was no longer included in my “credential” even though it is prominently listed on my recently issued “legacy document”.  Jeez, now I called the NMC and asked why it was omitted from my license and was promptly handed off like a hot potato.  I would have to speak with a supervisor, gee d’ya think? BUT, the supervisors have all gone home for the day, call back tomorrow.

Today (July 18th) I call the center and speak with said supervisor who agrees I have been shortchanged and now will send a note to my evaluator so they can dig my files out of the archives.   I was told there is only one guy at the NMC that handles these kind of errors…….I’ll let that one sink in.  One guy.

Anyway, I sat down after that call expecting another week or two of wrangling the system to get what I needed.  Later that day I made a followup call on the off chance that I would catch someone “in the know” before they headed for the coffee machine, but it was “no joy”.  I had all but accepted my fate.

Then the damnedest thing happened, my original evaluator called me and after apologizing for the omission promised to send out an endorsement sticker for the MMC to make everything right.  Her explanation for omitting the endorsement was credible, she didn’t want to mess up my pilotage and in focusing so very hard on that, my Inland Master’s AGT endorsement was overlooked.

Okay, so now I’ll carry a slightly disorganized MMC for the next five years. When the endorsement sticker shows up and if I don’t mess it up sticking it, I won’t have to deal with the NMC again until early 2014….right?  I’m pretty sure I could push the issue and demand a new and correct MMC, but by doing that even I would think I was just busting balls.

So, in a nutshell here’s the smart thing to do.

Start early, 6 months is the least amount of time I would suggest you allow.

Check your status frequently on the NMC website, have your mariner’s number handy.

Know your options; you can get things expedited if you write (email) and ask (politely).  You’ll get the consideration if they can give it.  I was fast approaching my expiration and unemployment, I asked and was moved along.  All my issues were already settled so it was just that I was at the bottom of the PQEB pile, and that pile was 2-3 weeks deep.

Don’t freak out because its taking so long.  It doesn’t speed things or people up, it just makes you and everyone else miserable.

Don’t hesitate to write an email, ask for a supervisor and demand an explanation from the NMC, just do it politely.  These folks have enough of us to deal with and I found that if I was quietly persistent, I got listened to.  Almost every person I dealt with by phone in the REC Boston and the folks in West Virginia did as good a job for me as the circumstances allowed.  I don’t doubt there are some huge hurdles facing the working stiffs down there in Martinsburg, I can only hope the command structure is taking care to retain the talent and not abuse the folks that are trying to do a good job.  I spoke with enough of them to believe they want to make us happy.

In 4 years I hope to be able to renew online from the comfort of my kitchen table and have it take nary a week to clear and receive my new license.  And of course, my next letter to Santa will ask for just that…….

Read Full Post »

This is what happens when you give a tugboat guy time lapse software.

Read Full Post »

Follow this link to the gCaptain Forums; this series of posts was submitted by a former contract evaluator at the NMC and makes interesting if discouraging reading.  The information has been addressed by many well respected voices on the gCaptain Forum and by many that are suffering through the excruciatingly slow renewal/application process that is the N.M.C.

Hearings will be held this July 9th  before the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, and Mr. Elijah Cummings will be in attendance.  The committee should pay heed to all the comments but give a particularly critical listen to Captain Richard Block’s comments and concerns as he champions  the working mariner.

I have a deep desire to see Captain Richard Block succeed in conveying the necessary urgency to Congress on the 9th and see some real progress.  It just seems that with all he is suggesting, there wouldn’t appear to be a glimmer of hope that anything concrete will be accomplished for years…..the pile of sh…. er, EGO that needs to be navigated has run lesser men aground, good luck Capt. Block.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: