You are here

Re-employment Rights For Merchant Mariners

Who is eligible

U.S. merchant seamen who voluntarily leave their existing employment for employment on a vessel supporting the sea-lift needs of the United States during a:

  1. war,
  2. armed conflict,
  3. national emergency or
  4. maritime mobilization need

…are entitled to receive reemployment rights similar to military reservists.

This benefit does not apply to commercially employed mariners or civil service mariners who are employed and serving on U.S.-flag vessels, but is intended to protect those qualified mariners who:

  1. are no longer sailing
  2. volunteer to temporarily leave permanent employment in shore-side positions
  3. to serve on sea-lift vessels in a national crisis.

Reemployment Rights Criteria

The Maritime Administration under authority delegated by the Secretary of Transportation certifies that the merchant seaman was employed in the activation or operation of a vessel –

  1. That is in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) including the Ready Reserve Force (RRF), when in use or being activated for use at the request of Secretary of Defense; or
  2. That is requisitioned by the Secretary of Transportation during any national emergency declared by proclamation of the President; or
  3. That 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); and
  4. During the period of that employment, the merchant seaman possesses a valid license, certificate of registry, merchant mariner document, or merchant mariner credential issued by the US Coast Guard. Women_on_the_Water_Agenda_-_CAL2rev_BJ

Maritime Administration Certification

A U.S. seaman who meets the above criteria may submit an application for certification of reemployment rights within 45 days after completion of service.

The individual must submit documentation to:
Maritime Administration
Office of Maritime Workforce Development Mar-740
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590

Documentation must include:

  • certificate(s) of discharge or letter certifying service from the Master of the sea-lift vessels or authorized representatives of government contracted ship managers,
  • copies of U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), license and/or Merchant Mariners Document (MMD) and
  • a letter of request for certification.

The Maritime Administration will issue or deny certification not later than 20 days after receipt of request from the merchant seaman.

Notification to Employer

Prior to volunteer service, the individual must give advance written or verbal notice of above applicable employment as a merchant seaman to the person’s employer.

After service, the mariner must submit an application to their previous employer for reemployment not 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.


The Maritime Administration shall provide administrative assistance to merchant seamen volunteers who are certified for reemployment per the above instructions and have been refused reemployment.

The seaman must provide a complaint in writing to the Maritime Administration address above describing the allegations of failure, refusal, or imminent failure or refusal of an employer to grant reemployment rights.

The Maritime Administration will communicate with the individual and the employer to attempt to resolve the complaint without litigation.

If attempts to resolve the complaint are unsuccessful the Maritime Administration may seek advice of the Department of Labor.

If the complainant requests, the Maritime Administration will refer to the Attorney General a complaint relating to a private or State employer, or to the Merit Systems Protection Board for litigation, a complaint relating to a Federal executive agency employer.

If there are questions you may contact the Office of Maritime Workforce Development at 202-493-0029

Legal Citation

Reemployment 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

    Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2018