Service on vessels may be strenuous and impose unique physical demands on mariners. The public safety risks associated with the medical and physical conditions of mariners on vessels are important considerations for the safe operation of vessels and the safety and well-being of the crew. (Merchant Mariner Medical Manual)

Per the NMC (National Maritime Center), less than 2% of all medical evaluations (719K Forms) sent for final review are found not fit for certification. (NMC Medical Evaluations Brochure)

The U.S. Coast Guard’s expectation is that you disclose all current and past medical conditions on your 719K form. Reporting of medical conditions, including mental health, is likely not an excluding factor for licensure, however, not reporting them can have serious implications.

The below are the most common medical conditions that can delay the processing of a mariner’s application if the appropriate information isn’t submitted. (NMC Medical Evaluations Brochure)

  1. Cardiovascular Conditions
  2. Seizure Disorders
  3. Psychiatric Disorders
  4. Sleep Disorders
  5. Chronic Use of Impairing Medications

Mariners with medical conditions should work with their medical evaluator to see if they qualify for a medical waiver. (NMC Medical Evaluations Brochure)

Medical Waivers are granted by the NMC Medical Evaluations Division for conditions documented on the 719K form that do not pose a significant risk to maritime safety. The waiver is an acknowledgement by the Coast Guard that the condition was identified and places a responsibility on the mariner to immediately report any significant change in the identified condition(s). (NMC Medical Evaluations Brochure)

Objective medical evidence must indicate that the condition is sufficiently controlled and the effects of medication pose no significant risk to maritime and public safety. (Merchant Mariner Medical Manual)

Waivers are issued in conjunction with your Medical Certificate, so you WILL receive a medical certificate. Your waiver will be issued in the form of a letter, which will accompany your actual medical certificate.

Common restrictions/limitations that may be implemented include, but are not limited to (Merchant Mariner Medical Manual):

  • “Must carry self-administered medications” (for mariners with conditions requiring medications to ensure safe functioning)
  • “Daylight operations only” (for mariners unable to pass the color vision standards)
  • “25 nautical miles from Harbor of Safe Refuge” (if the medical condition creates a need for surveillance and/or availability to obtain medical assistance)
  • “Special equipment required while sleeping” (for mariners with obstructive sleep apnea)

Reporting of medical conditions, including mental health, is likely not an excluding factor. However, not reporting them is far more serious, as your signature on your Merchant Mariner Credential application attests that all information is true and correct.