U.S. Coast Guard Requirements for Getting a Z-Card

A Z-card is required for all employees working on U.S. ships.
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A Z-card is a required document for any employee working a ship flying under the U.S. flag. Issued by the Coast Guard, the Z-card was formerly known as the Merchant Mariner Document, or MMD. In 2009, the MMD was combined with the Merchant Mariner's License, the Standards of Training Certificate and Watchkeeping Endorsement, and the Certificate of Registry to form the Merchant Mariner Credential, or MMC.

Age and Citizenship Requirements

An applicant for a Z-card, or MMC certificate, must be at least 16 years old. If the applicant is under 18, he must have a notarized statement of consent from a parent or guardian. He must be a U.S. citizen or have an Alien Registration Card from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and he must have a valid Social Security card. In addition, he must hold a Transportation Worker's Identification Credential issued by the Transportation Safety Administration.

Fees for MMC

Fees ranging from $45 to $140 as of 2010 are required with application for a Z-card or MMC credential, depending on the specific rating applied for and whether an examination is required.

Physical Requirements

Applicants for a Z-card must pass a physical examination. Different types of licenses also have specific vision requirements regarding uncorrected visual acuity and color vision, and some licenses have specific blood pressure requirements. Physical condition requirements for some licenses include the proven ability to climb steep ladders, maintain balance on a moving deck, haul heavy fire hoses and open 56-pound waterproof doors.

Drug Requirements

An applicant for the MMC must prove he is free of any dangerous drugs. He must submit a form from an approved laboratory showing he has been screened for evidence of amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates and PCP.

Criminal Record Review

An applicant for the MMC must submit documentation of any criminal record, including any infractions for driving while intoxicated, any proceedings in a military court, any driver's license suspension, any warning letter from the Coast Guard, or any violation of maritime or environmental regulations. A search of the National Driver Register is also performed to check for any vehicular offenses.

Written Examinations

All forms of the Z-card or MMC except unqualified entry-level ratings require passing a written examination. The Deck Examination covers materials regarding ocean routes, Great Lakes routes, river and inland water routes, uninspected towing vessels and mobile offshore drilling units. The Engineering Examination covers all materials required for the Unlimited, Limited and MODU Engineering Officer Endorsements, and for Engine Rating Endorsements. All exams are given at Coast Guard Regional Examination Centers.

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