In order to obtain employment as a Great Lakes mariner, you must obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the Transportation Security Administration, and a Merchant Mariner Credential, including the U.S. Coast Guard Medical Certificate from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Many of our represented vessels will make Canadian ports a regular part of their trade pattern, and crew members must be able to clear Canadian customs prior to entry into a Canadian port. A common issue among newly credentialed individuals is the discovery that a DUI/OWI on your record prevents you from clearing Canadian customs (a DUI/OWI is a misdemeanor in the United States, but is a felony in Canada.) All crew members on vessels entering a Canadian port must be able to clear Canadian customs, otherwise, they must disembark the vessel prior to entering a Canadian port. If you have ever received a DUI/OWI, we strongly suggest applying for rehabilitation with Canadian Immigration prior to applying for a TWIC/MMC. Learn more about Inadmissibility to Canada and Individual Rehabilitation from the Government of Canada website. 


Obtaining a TWIC is the first step in obtaining the credentials needed to work as a Great Lakes mariner. Without qualifying for a TWIC, you will be unable to continue the application process for an MMC. To obtain your TWIC, visit the TSA's TWIC webpage to apply and schedule an appointment at your nearest enrollment center. Note: When applying for TWIC, be sure to identify your occupation to TSA as a Merchant Mariner.

The cost of obtaining a TWIC is currently $125.25.

Merchant Mariner Credential

A Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) is issued by the United States Coast Guard after submitting a detailed application package that includes the following forms: 

  • CG-719B - Application for Merchant Mariner Credential 
  • CG-719K - Application for Medical Certificate
  • CG-719C - Conviction Statement
  • CG-719S - Small Vessel Sea Service Form
  • CG-719P - DOT/USCG Periodic Drug Testing Form

The application process isn't necessarily difficult, but there are some common pitfalls that may delay the processing of your application or create unnecessary expenses. We recommend completing the forms in the following order: 

dot/uscg periodic drug testing form - 719p

Start here, as this step usually takes the longest as you wait to receive your results from the lab. This form requires you to submit to a 5-panel DOT drug test, which you can schedule with your local Occupational Health clinic. Print out Form 719P and bring it with you to your appointment. After a specimen is collected, this form will be collected by the clinic and returned to you with your results via mail. It may be a few weeks before you receive the completed form in the mail.  

The cost associated with drug testing usually ranges from $50 - $150 depending on location.

application for medical certificate - 719k

Schedule an appointment for a physical exam as soon as possible. Often, you may be able to schedule your physical exam at the same time as your drug test, so be sure to check with the clinic to see if you can consolidate both appointments into one visit. To complete this form, you must undergo a physical exam. Call your physician and ask if they will perform a Coast Guard physical (you should print the form prior to visiting your physician as most do not have the appropriate form on hand.) Your physician may refer you to a local Occupational Health clinic if they are unable to perform the exam, although any physician should be able to do so. 

The U.S. Coast Guard has a shortened version of this exam (Form 719K/E) for entry-level applicants, although we recommend using the regular form as most companies will accept it as your pre-employment physical if it has been completed within a year of obtaining employment. 

The cost of a physical exam may vary from $75 to $200 depending on location. 

conviction statement - 719c

While you wait for the results of your drug test, you can start completing the remaining forms required for your application package. If you have a past criminal record, you must complete Form 719C. This form is straight-forward, and the instructions on the first-page outline what you must disclose. Be sure to complete this form as instructed - failure to do so will raise a red flag during the processing of your application and can cause delays of several weeks. 

If you do not have a criminal record, you do not need to complete this form or include it in your application package. 

Small vessel sea service form - 719S

If you have worked on small vessels under 200 GRT, you may document your sea service on this form. For work on Great Lakes freighters, small vessel sea service generally doesn't count for anything, so if you do have time on small vessels but are unsure of the information requested by Form 719S, you can skip this and exclude it from your application package. evaluation user fee

In order to process your application, you must visit the website to pay your application and issuance fees. This website will ask for some basic information, but pay attention to these particular fields: 

Regional Exam Center where you will send your application: You can use any of the available options, but we strongly suggest using Toledo, OH as they are familiar with processing applications for Great Lakes mariners, and especially if you plan on using a consulting service to review your application prior to submission to the Coast Guard (more information about that below.)

Credential Category: Select "Rating Endorsements only"

Type of Endorsement: Select "Rating Original Endorsement $95.00"

Examination/Testing Fees: Leave this field blank. 

Issuance Fees: Select "Pay MMC Issuance Fee Now $45.00"

Once you complete the online form and make your payment, remember to print out a copy of the receipt at the end. You will need to include this with your application package. 

Total fees: $140.00

application for merchant mariner credential - 719b

Once your Form 719P form has been returned to you with a Negative result, you have a completed 719K in hand and have made your payment to, you are ready to take the final steps in completing your application package. Fill out Form 719B as instructed. 

The U.S. Coast Guard publishes a checklist for you to verify you have all the necessary documents in order. It is a good idea to print this checklist and review it at this step. 

application review consulting services

The application forms and steps involved in applying for an MMC are extensive, and errors can lead to significant delays in receiving your credential. There are a number of consultants available that will review your application for mistakes and work with you to correct them prior to submitting your application to the U.S. Coast Guard. While many applicants successfully complete their applications without help from a consultant, some applicants prefer having a professional review their application. 

Sea K's Maritime Licensing Service is used by many Great Lakes mariners for initial applications, renewals, and raise of grade. This service is owned and operated by Chuck Kakuska, a gentleman who used to run the Toledo Regional Exam Center where applications are processed, and is very familiar with both common and uncommon mistakes that can delay the processing of your application. 

MM-SEAS is a relatively new online tool that provides guidance with your MMC application and provides a tracking feature to show you upgrade options later in your career. It currently offers a 14-day trial period that does not require a credit card. 

submitting your application

Once you have reviewed your application materials and have your documents in order, you must submit your application package to a Regional Exam Center (REC.) DO NOT make the mistake of sending your application to the National Maritime Center - they do not process application packages, and sending your information to the NMC will result in significant delays. If you are using a consulting service such as Sea K's Licensing, your consultant may take care of submitting your application after they have reviewed it. Check with them to see if they submit the application package on your behalf. If you are submitting your application yourself, the preferred method to submit your application is through email. You can submit your application package to any REC, but we do recommend you use the Toledo, OH REC, by emailing your application to

Checking Application Status

You can monitor the status of your application by clicking here

Additional tips & information

Once your application is approved and mailed, keep an eye on your mailbox. By the time you reach this step, you likely already have your TWIC in your possession, and just need to get your MMC and USCG Medical Certificate. It is important you watch for both the MMC and Medical Certificate. These often come in separate envelopes, and you need to have both in order to obtain employment onboard a Great Lakes freighter. There is a pouch in the back of your MMC that is meant to hold the Medical Certificate, which resembles a small grocery store receipt. Do not lose this!

Upon successful completion of the application process, you should have each of the following: 


Merchant Mariner

U.S.C.G. Medical

You will need to include scanned copies of both sides of your TWIC Card, pages 2, 3, and 4 of your MMC, and your USCG Medical Certificate with your job application to the shipping companies. Visit the Jobs page for information on how to apply, or visit Employment Opportunities for information about current job openings.