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NWMA Kicks off Weekly Podcasts

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NWMA Weekly Podcasts Offer Great Info on Northwest Maritime Academy

You’ve heard of the popular TED Talks on various topics of interest. Well, now the Northwest Maritime Academy is launching its own “Ben talks” of sorts.

Capt. Benjamin Garman, administrator of the Northwest Maritime Academy, has started weekly podcasts called “NWMA Weekly” that are filled to the gunwales with good information about what the academy has to offer.

Garman, who holds a 200-Ton Near Coastal Captain’s License, and videographer Chance Busey, assistant marketing director at Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard, are creating the NWMA Weekly podcasts to inform on everything from careers as a merchant mariner to how to properly tie off your boat to a dock cleat.

View NWMA Weekly on the Northwest Maritime Academy’s Facebook page. There you will see last week’s Episode 1 on what the Academy is all about and who it is for, and Episode No. 2, a podcast on how to become a crew member on a U.S. flagged licensed vessel. This includes careers on container ships, Military Sealift Commands, Washington State ferries, cruise ships, NOAA research vessels and more.

Northwest Maritime Academy Helps Land Careers on U.S. Licensed Vessels

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The Rainier, a 231-foot hydrographic survey vessel with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), passes through the Ballard Locks in September 2017. Rainier carries a complement of commissioned NOAA officers as well as engineers and many other civilian crew members.

From Capt. Garman’s transcript of NWMA Weekly’s Episode 2: How to Become a Crew Member on a Licensed Vessel:

Joining a ship is not as easy as one might think. Gone are the days of tall ships that “acquired” needed

sailors in any manner they could — look up “shanghaiing” for some colorful maritime history. Nowadays, if you want to go out on the big blue seas you need a binder full of government and private documents to even get to the ship, and yet more before you can get signed on as crew.

Here are the first steps to becoming crew on a U.S. flagged Licensed Vessel. Do them in this order and save a bit of time:

  1. Get a driver’s license or state ID card and a copy of your birth certificate: This satisfies the requirement to have two forms of identification to get your passport.
  2. Get your passport: They are good for 10 years and are accepted everywhere as a valid from of ID. You will need it to be hired by any respectable maritime company.
  3. Get your TWIC card (Transportation Workers Identification Credential): This is a federal requirement developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for truckers and mariners working at U.S. ports.
  4. Get a U.S. Coast Guard physical and drug test: This is a specific physical and urine test that must be carried out in accordance with USCG forms, filled out by the physician completely or the Coast Guard will kick it back. The best way to ensure that the many boxes are checked is to go to a WorkSource clinic (https://www.worksourcewa.com/). Schedule ahead of time and tell them you are a merchant mariner in need of the USCG physical and USCG drug test.
  5. Fill out your application form for your MMC (Merchant Mariner Credential): The USCG has made a handy list to help guide you through the process at USCG Application Checklists.
  6. An important form for your initial application is CG Form 719B. Be sure to put your full name and Social Security Number on every single document for it to be valid.

Capt. Garman’s Additional Helpful Hints

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Capt. Ben Garman holds the documents needed for a career as a crew member on a U.S. licensed vessel. It’s not a daunting task when taken one step at a time, he says. His NWMA Weekly podcasts explain how and much more.

A note on stress management: The people who work for the U.S. Coast Guard Regional Exam Centers (REC) and National Maritime Center (NMC) are mostly retired Coast Guard and Navy personnel. Please remember that these men and women are there to help you as best they can and are not out to get you, but are limited in their scope of power by what is set out by the admirals outranking them.

They can help your application along; however, they also have the ability to put your application at the bottom of the pile if they perceive a bad attitude or rude behavior. Being nice to the people assisting you on the phone and online chat can make the process much easier. (Bringing in donuts or cookies to the REC in person can save you weeks off your application time!)

Use the NMC online “Live Chat” feature: When you are confused about something when dealing with the National Maritime Center in this process, I advise you to use the “Live Chat” feature on the site. It is the fastest and best route for questions. If they cannot answer you they will kick you up to the appropriate evaluator many times faster than on the phone. They are able to send you links to the correct forms if you are confused.

A word on Marijuana: At the time of this writing Marijuana is legal in 30 states for medical use, but that has nothing to do with the federal government. The authority over merchant mariners is the United States Coast Guard, which is under the authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. One of Homeland Security’s jobs is to stop the trafficking of drugs by water.

Marijuana is classified as a illegal drug by the Homeland Security. If you want to have your application approved, anything concerning marijuana should be marked as a hard No. Not in the past. Not in the present. Not ever for any reason.

Just as the federal government would not allow an airline pilot to be under the influence of marijuana, the USCG does not want the person on the helm of a ship going under a trillion dollar bridge to be stoned. Just don’t do it!

The Best Northwest Maritime Academy Pro Tip: To save at least two weeks off your application process, when you are all set with all the items on the above list and you have your 719B filled out perfectly, instead of mailing it in, take it in by hand to the nearest REC. Not only will you get an expert Coast Guard employee double-checking your work, it instantly gets mailed to the National Maritime Center for approval.


“Good luck and remember that NWMA at Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard is here for you with all your licensing questions and struggles if you run into rough seas with the process of becoming a mariner.” – Capt. Ben Garman.

Check out NMWA Weekly podcasts on Facebook. For more information call Capt. Garman at (253) 358-2447


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