By Mark Edward Nero
The US Maritime Administration says it’s working with the Coast Guard to certify sea service veterans as credentialed merchant mariners in an attempt to address a personnel shortfall that Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen has called a top priority.
This “military to mariner” program is a Coast Guard certification program that takes Coast Guard, Navy and Military Sealift Command veterans with watch-standing experience and helps pave the way for a merchant mariner career.
Given their extensive training and at-sea experience, veterans should get credit for the standards and certifications in watchkeeping which the Coast Guard tests you to in order to be able to get your credential,” Jaenichen said May 16 at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2016.
“We’re moving in a direction where we could combine the training that you get in the military so that once you are out as a veteran, if you decide not to stay, you have an opportunity to get a merchant mariner credential and be able to help us on the mariner side,” he said.
This expedited credentialing process would be a boon for MarAd, which says it would be barely able to meet Defense Department surge needs today and may not be able to meet those needs in the near future.
“I would say that the sealift fleet is at a tipping point. The United States’ presence in the maritime domain is currently at the lowest level in our history,” Jaenichen said, noting there are only 79 US-flagged ships participating in international trade – a 25 percent drop from just three years ago.
The decline of the US fleet meant a loss of jobs – 2,300 jobs out of a 12,000-job industry, Jaenichen said.