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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Re-Employment Rights

What is the Re-employment Program?

The Maritime Administration's Re-Employment Program helps currently-employed workers who volunteer for qualifying service in the U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM) resume that employment after completing USMM service. Similar to military reservists, mariners in this scenario have the legal right to resume previous work (to be granted "re-employment") after serving their country.

MARAD administers, reviews and certifies requests for, and documentation related to, re-employment rights, including support and enforcement of these rights when employers contest.

How does it work?

Here is a typical process assuming uncontested approval by all parties:

  1. Worker volunteers to leave his or her employment for service in the USMM
  2. Worker informs employer of intent to serve
  3. Worker enters USMM as a mariner and completes service
  4. Mariner submits application to MARAD for right to return to position at previous employer
  5. MARAD reviews and approves application
  6. Worker returns to his or her position at previous employer


Only certain merchant mariners are entitled to re-employment rights, essentially those who:

  1. satisfy the following certain employment scenario:
  • permanently employed in a shore-side position
  • volunteer to leave that position, and
  • intend to return to that position (or in a non-sea-based capacity) after serving in the United States Merchant Marine


  1. are employed in the USMM on a vessel supporting the sealift needs of the United States during a:
  • war
  • armed conflict
  • national emergency, or
  • maritime mobilization need

Details on Qualifying Service

Under authority delegated by the Secretary of Transportation, MARAD certifies that a merchant mariner set to recieve re-employment benefit rights:

  1. possessed a valid license, certificate of registry, merchant mariner document or merchant mariner credential issued by the US Coast Guard during the period of USMM employment


  1. was employed in the activation or operation of a vessel that:
  • is in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) or Ready Reserve Force (RRF) when in use or being activated for use at the request of Secretary of Defense; or
  • is requisitioned by the Secretary of Transportation during any national emergency declared by proclamation of the President; or
  • is owned, chartered or controlled by the U.S. for a war, armed conflict, national emergency or maritime mobilization need (including testing for readiness performance)

What is the Re-employment Application Process?

  1. Prior to volunteer service, worker gives advanced written or verbal notice of above applicable employment as a merchant seaman to the person’s employer.
  2. Mariner completes service in the USMM. Contact X for answers about how to become a U.S. merchant mariner.
  3. Mariner gathers USMM service documentation, to include:
    • certificate(s) of discharge or letter certifying service from the Master of the sealift vessels or authorized representatives of government-contracted ship managers; and
    • copies of U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), license and/or Merchant Mariners Document (MMD); and
    • a letter of request for certification​​​​​​  
  4. Mariner submits application to previous employer for re-employment no later than 14 days after completion of service that is less than 181 days OR 90 days after completion of service greater than 181 days
  5. Mariner submits an application to MARAD (address below) for certification of re-employment rights within 45 days after completion of service.
Maritime Administration
Office of Labor and Training (MAR - 650)
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590
  1. MARAD reviews application for certification of re-employment rights and issues approval or denial of certification no later than 20 days after receiving certification request.

Application Denials

  • If MARAD legally denies an application, the process ends and the worker is responsible for seeking and securing employment at their previous employer or a different employer
  • If MARAD legally approves an application but the previous employer denies re-employment, MARAD works with government, and in some cases legal, agencies to grant the mariner re-employment. See Contested and Ineligible Re-employment section below.

Contested and Ineligible Re-employment

MARAD provides administrative assistance to former mariners who are certified for re-employment but whose previous employer contests or outright refuses re-employment. Every situation is unique, but there are guidelines to keep things civil. Here is the basic process:

  1. Worker provides a complaint in writing to the MARAD address above describing any allegations of failure, refusal, or imminent failure or refusal of an employer to grant re-employment rights.
  2. MARAD communicates with the worker and the previous employer to attempt to resolve the complaint without litigation
  3. If attempts to resolve the complaint are unsuccessful, MARAD might seek advice of the Department of Labor
  4. If worker requests, MARAD refers a complaint regarding the employer (private or State) to the Attorney General OR a complaint regarding the Federal executive agency to the Merit Systems Protection Board for litigation

This program does not NOT provide re-employment rights or benefits for:

  • current merchant mariners who simply want to find work after completing service in the USMM
  • commercially employed mariners or workers who might serve in a sea-based capacity
  • civil service mariners who are employed and serving on U.S.-flag vessels
  • workers claiming any branch of the United States Armed Forces as their previous employer 

As always, merchant mariners have the right NOT to seek employment at their previous employer, and in any case, a previous employer can proactively grant re-employment on their own accord without prompting from MARAD or the re-employment rights process. The Re-Employment Program exists only to ensure that requested re-employment is processed and granted when legally justified.

Legal Citation

Re-employment protection for merchant seamen is found in the U.S. Code at:

Title 46 Appendix §1132
The citation in the Code of Federal Regulation is:
Title 46 §349


For questions about the Re-employment Program, contact the Office of Labor and Training at 202-366-0029 or