Growth Trends for Related Jobs

How to Get a Merchant Marine Z Card

careertrend article image

If you want to make a career of working aboard ships or ocean-going vessels, you must have a license. To begin a sea-going career, get a Z-card, also known as a merchant mariner's document or merchant mariner's credential. Your entry level title as a beginner will be either wiper, ordinary seaman or steward.

Entry Level Licensing

Go to the Transportation Safety Administration website and follow the directions to apply for a transportation worker identification card, or TWIC. You must go to an enrollment center, "provide biographic information, identity documents, biometric information (fingerprints), sit for a digital photograph, and pay the established TWIC fee" to receive the card, according to the TSA.

Go to the National Maritime Center website's "application and forms" section. Download and print CG Form 719K/E Entry-Level Physical Examination Report, CG Form 719P Chemical Testing Report, and CG Form 719B Application.

Call a health care provider and schedule an appointment to complete CG Form 719K/E Entry-Level Physical Examination.

Call a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) approved facility and schedule a drug test or arrange for a medical facility to collect a urine sample and transport it to a SAMSHA lab. Ensure the paperwork documenting the drug test is completed.

Fill out the CG Form 719B Application for Merchant Mariner Credential. Arrange for an authorized representative to deliver the Merchant Mariner Oath.

Submit completed forms to the applicable Coast Guard Regional Exam Center (REC) as listed on the National Maritime Center website's "REC information" tab.


When making your medical appointment, ensure that the facility can complete the necessary paperwork. Inform the provider of your requirements. Individuals with experience and prior sea service will have to submit additional documentation that is not required for entry-level beginners. Use delivery confirmation if mailing your application and make copies of each document. A notary public or Coast Guard official may administer the Merchant Mariner Oath. Do not sign the oath until you have a valid witness.


Ensure that your drug test is administered within six months of applying for the z-card and your physical is conducted within one year of applying. Physicals and drug tests beyond this time period are not accepted.

If you have any criminal convictions you must provide a written account of all offenses to the Coast Guard.


Miriam Breeze, a freelance writer since 2009, is a 12-year Marine Corps veteran and was a merchant mariner for five years. She specializes in health care topics and has published articles on and She has a Bachelor of Science in nursing from National University and a California registered nursing license.

Photo Credits