September 7, 2020

Renew Your Captains License – A Maritime Guide

USCG Captains License Renewal

The process to renew your Captains License is sometimes very confusing. With the National Maritime Center always behind on issuing mariners their Merchant Mariner Credentials, maritime professionals are starting the process earlier than normal.

It is every mariners responsibility to keep track of their Merchant Mariner Credential. The U.S. Coast Guard will not send a notice of renewal. If you want to know your renewal date, look on the front section of your credential to see your expiration date.

Captains Licenses are issued with an expiration date of 5 years. You cannot work on an expired license, but there is a 1 year grace period before its completely lost and you have to start over again.

Time Table for Renewing your Captains License

The U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center is always busy. Mariners who need to renew their license will need to start the process in advance of their expiration date. How Early? Some say at least 3 months in advance. When it comes to your credentials, you don’t want to be caught with your pants down.

If you are renewing and your expiration date is almost up, you can ask the National Maritime Center for an extension.

How to fill out MMC ApplicationRenew your Captains License

U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Application is the first step for any mariner to renew their Captains License. This may be a little confusing for some mariners. For ease of use, the CG_719B application gives you the directions on how to fill out the application on the first 2 pages of the application.

Lets break down how to fill out this MMC Application in sections.

MMC Application Section I- This section is pretty self explanatory. It includes  the following:

  1. Legal Name
  2. Social Security Number (Do not fill out SSN for renewals)
  3. Reference Number-Fill this section out with your mariner reference number. If you don’t know what your reference number is, it is on the front page of your MMC.

You get the idea. Not really that hard to fill out section I.

MMC Application Section II- To renew your captains license, you will need to fill out this section with the following steps.

  1. Under this section, you need to place a check mark under Officer in the Endorsement Category and check renewal. If you are upgrading AND renewing you will need to check the raise in grade section as well as renewal.
  2. Under the description you will write out what you are renewing. For instance, if you have an OUPV/6 pack Captains License. You will write that out in this section. However, lets say you just got out of class to upgrade to 100 ton masters license. In this case you would write out renewal of Merchant Mariner Credentials, and raise of grade to 100 ton Masters License. A misconception about renewing your Captains License is that you can’t upgrade the license as well. This is simply not true. It saves the mariner from paying both fees.
  3. For Renewal Transactions Only- If you want your MMC issued immediately, check this box. This means that you will receive your MMC with a new expiration date. To get the most out of your renewals, I suggest leaving this blank. You will still get your MMC in the same amount of time, but if you leave it blank, your new credentials will go into effect ONLY AFTER the date of expiration on your old MMC.

MMC Application Section III Safety & Suitability

  1. TWIC Exemption Statement- This is not common among mariners. Most will leave this blank.
  2.  Criminal Record- In this section, mariners will fill out subsections A-F. If you have a conviction that the coast guard already knows about, you can put “On File” next to any yes answer. If you have NEW convictions in the last 5 years since you have held your current credential, you will need to complete CG-719C Conviction Statement.
  3. National Driver Registry- You must check this section if you are applying for an original, renewal, or new officer endorsement.

MMC Application Section IV Mariners Consent

  1. Mariner Outreach System- This is optional for everyone. I always check it, but its up to you.
  2. For Continuity Renewal Only- This just says that you understand that a Document of Continuity is not valid for use in accordance with 46 CFR 10.227.
  3. Consent- check only if your are under 18 years of age, and have a notarized statement from a parent/guardian and have attached that statement.
  4. Certification- just a statement that your signature attests that all the information is true and correct.
  5. Applicants Signature- Sign and date this under signature of applicant. You do not need to worry about the oath unless you have never taken the oath. You must swear to the oath under section 4 if this is your Original Application.
  6. Mariners Consent Continued- This is for mariners that use a third party to renew their application. You may check the boxes on the left to give the 3rd party access to that part of the process.


How To Renew Your TWIC

By now you should have a Transportation Worker Identification Card. This card is how the U.S. Coast Guard does their background checks. Even if you don’t use this card (Charter Boat Captains), you may want to keep it up to date. Keep in mind that if your TWIC Card is close to expiration (within 6 months), you may just want to renew it as well. The cost of this renewal is $125.00. Make sure you make an appointment with your local TWIC Office to renew. Walk-ins are allowed, but they always take appointments first, so if you don’t have an appointment, you may be sitting there all day.

Coast Guard Physical & Drug Test

In order to renew your license, you will need to get a physical and drug test. When getting your physical, make sure the Doctor fills out CG 719K completely. I suggest going somewhere that does these physicals on a regular basis. It can be very confusing (even for doctors).

You may not need to take a physical or drug test for the following reasons:

  • Your Medical Card is not expired and will not expire for 6 months or more. If you are within 6 months of expiration, better to be on the safe side and go ahead and get a new physical.


  • If you work for a boat company that automatically enrolls you in a drug consortium. You will not need to take a drug test. Keep in mind that your company will have to add a “Drug Consortium Letter” along with your application.

Documentation of Seatime

For small vessels, you can print out a small vessel sea service form, and fill out completely. If you own your own vessel, you may fill it out and sign. If you are working on another vessel, you can still sign off your sea time as the captain, but to make it easy, i would just have the owner of the vessel sign off on it.

For larger vessels, your company will give you an updated seatime letter upon request. Be sure that all the information is correct in this letter.

Radar Renewals

For Captains who hold an endorsement as Radar Observer, the sea time letter has changed a bit. As of 2019, the Coast Guard has discontinued radar renewals (radar refresher). This means that Captains/Mates that hold an endorsement for Radar Observer will not need to take a refresher class as long as the following apply:

  • Mariners have documented seatime of 360 days in the past 5 years on a vessel with operational radar.

Captain’s, when you get an updated seatime letter from your company, it MUST say that you were assigned to vessels with operational radar. Be sure your company knows this and adds it to the Seatime letters of ALL Captains and Mates.

Example: Vessel XYZ-Gross Tons=390- IMO Number XXXXXXX- Days 540 12 hr days.

The Above Vessel is equipped with Operational Radar.

Merchant Mariner Credential & Pay.Gov

This is the easiest way to pay for your Captains License Renewal. It is pretty straight forward but i will run you through the steps.

  1. go to, on the right hand side it says “Pay a Merchant Mariner User Fee”. Click the link.
  2. when you click the link, it brings you to an information page “About This Form”, read carefully and when done, click “Continue to the Form”.
  3. Fill out the application for all the information given, don’t forget your Reference number. ***YOU WILL NEED TO SELECT A REGIONAL EXAM CENTER WHERE YOU WILL SEND YOUR APPLICATION***
  4. When it comes to the section of what you are paying for
    • Under Credential Category- you will chose Officer Endorsements Only OR Officer Endorsements and Rating Endorsements ( If you have a deck rating such as Able Seaman).
    • Under Type of Endorsement- you will chose Officer Renewal OR Officer Renewal and Raise in Grade. (If you want to upgrade your license at the same time).
    • Under Examination/Testing Fees-If just renewing, I always put “Course in Lieu of Exam”. If renewing AND raise of grade, Chose that one.
    • Under Issuance Fees- Pay MMC Issuance Fee Now
      • The total for the fee will be in the box on the right side. That is how much you need to pay.
    • Press continue and fill out credit card information. Elect to have the receipt emailed to you as well as printing one out for your records.


This process can be difficult without the proper documentation. Make sure you have everything in order before you send this to the Regional Exam Center of your choice. This will ensure a smooth process to renew your Captains License.

How to Renew your Captain’s License

The process of renewing your Captains License is sometimes very confusing. With the National Maritime Center always behind on issuing mariners their Merchant Mariner Credentials, maritime professionals are starting the process earlier than normal.

Steps to Renew your MMC

  1. Merchant Mariner Application
    • Fill this out completely, making sure you print your name at the bottom of page 4 & 5.
  2. U.S. Coast Guard Physical & Drug Test
    • Remember that if you are part of a drug consortium, you will not need to take a drug test.
    • If your Medical card will not expire over the next 6 months, you will not need to take a physical.
  3. Small Vessel Sea Service Form
    • If you are on smaller vessels, you will need to fill out a small vessel sea service form
    • If you are on larger vessels, your company will give you an updated seatime letter upon request.
      • Remember that if you have operational radar, it needs to be included in your seatime letter.
  4. Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC)
    • If your TWIC is within 6 months of your renewal, you will want to renew that as well.
  5. Pay.Gov Receipt
    • Don’t forget to include your Pay.Gov receipt in your application package.
  6. Conviction Statement
    • If you do have convictions within the last 5 years, you need to submit this statement as well.

Once all this information is gathered, Send it to the nearest Regional Exam Center. You may send it through the mail, but they prefer sending via email. Once it is sent via email you should receive confirmation that it was received in a day or two.

If you need to upgrade your license, check out our Maritime Courses Page.

Renew Your Captains License

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