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  • May 20, 2024

    My least favorite type of call to receive is from someone who went through all the trouble of getting their captain’s license but didn’t renew it.

    As far as the U.S. Coast Guard is concerned, if you let your captain’s license expire, it’s like you never had it at all. What a waste of all that time and effort!

    Now, if you’ve just realized you forgot to renew, don’t panic. Your license may not be sleeping with the fishes just yet.

    For those nearing the renewal deadline, you’re in the right place. Here’s how to navigate a USCG captain’s license renewal.


    Quote Card: USCG Captain’s License Renewal: Navigating the Process

    Renew It or Lose It: Why It’s Important to Renew Your Captain’s License

    The Coast Guard doesn’t send out helpful reminders when it’s time for license renewals, so many people simply forget — especially if they don’t use their license professionally. 

    Your captain’s license expires after five years, but many people don’t realize there’s a grace period to renew after expiration without jumping through extra hoops. You can’t use your expired license during this period, but you don’t lose it.

    However, after the grace period ends, everything starts over. You then need another 360 days of boating experience — and you can’t reuse days you logged for your original license — as well as another captain’s license course and exam.

    USCG Captain’s License Renewal Requirements

    Like your original license, USCG captain’s license renewal requires 360 days of experience on the water. But here’s where it gets tricky. While you may have had 10, 15, or even 25 years to collect days the first time around (starting from your 16th birthday), a renewal requires all 360 days to take place within five years.

    Not logging enough days is the number one reason people fail to renew their captain’s licenses. Most captains are recreational boaters who get a license for the education and safety that come from it. For them, 360 days is a fair amount of time to get in only five years.

    Why the requirement? Essentially, the USCG wants to make sure you haven’t forgotten the Rules of the Road after being away from the water. With that in mind, there is one alternative route to renewal.

    Mariners Learning System offers a specialized Deck License Renewal online course and exam designed as a refresher for the Rules of the Road and other foundational areas of boating. The USCG accepts this course in place of those 360 days of experience.

    You can take this self-paced, online course over a single weekend; it’s written as a 12-hour course. If you complete the course, you don’t need to have a single day logged on the water to renew your captain’s license.  


    Infographic: USCG Captain’s License Renewal: Navigating the Process

    The USCG Captain’s License Renewal Process: Step by Step

    The USCG captain’s license renewal process can be broken down into three simple steps:

    Step #1: Gather the Renewal Requirements

    You’ll need many of the same documents and credentials for your renewal that you needed for your original license, including:

    • Sea Service Form CG-719S or our course completion certificate: We recommend submitting a copy of your current MMC (Merchant Mariner Credential), which is the license.
    • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC card): This proves you’ve passed a background check. Your TWIC card from your original license will suffice.
    • Physical exam: You can get this from your primary care doctor as long as they provide a physical approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Be sure to double-check beforehand.
    • Drug test: This also needs to be DOT-approved.

    Unlike your original license, you don’t need to be CPR and First Aid certified for your renewal.

    Step #2: Fill Out Your Application

    Once you meet the USCG captain’s license renewal requirements, you can fill out the application form: Form CG-719B. The form is only a few pages long, and it shouldn’t take long to complete.

    Mariners is happy to help if you need guidance or clarification. The National Maritime Center can provide assistance online or over the phone as well.

    Step #3: Submit Your Application

    The final step is to pay the fee and send your application via email to the Regional Exam Center (REC). The Coast Guard then processes the application. As long as everything is complete, they’ll reissue your captain’s license within a few weeks.

    Common USCG Captain’s License Renewal Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

    For many people, new concerns crop up during their five years with a captain’s license, causing them to worry about renewal. This often takes the shape of new medical issues or new traffic violations on their record. Good news: Neither of these are automatic disqualifiers.

    Because every situation is unique, I recommend people give us a call if they have concerns about their renewal. Our licensing specialists will give you the best advice they can to help you get your license renewed smoothly.

    Start Your Captain’s License Renewal Today

    Our number one tip for your USCG captain’s license renewal is this: Don’t wait!

    We recommend getting started around six months before expiration. If you’re already in the grace period, act now so you don’t risk returning to a blank slate.

    Wherever you are in your USCG captain’s license renewal, Mariners is here to help you navigate the process. Reach out today with any questions or concerns.

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