The Martinsburg NMC officially opened on January 7th, 2008 and was unveiled to the public during a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony on June 26, 2008. The building was awarded the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver designation and is a 60,000-square-foot facility that houses U.S. Merchant Mariner Licensing and Documentation (MLD) Production as well as the Merchant Mariner Training Course Approval and Oversight Program.
At the National Maritime Center, the U.S. Coast Guard has centralized its MLD program, while still retaining the 17 Regional Examination Centers, which operate as “storefronts and advocates” for mariners. Approximately 212,000 actively employed merchant mariners, who serve as crew members aboard vessels operating on America's waterways and the world's oceans, now receive the processing of their licenses and/or credentials through the NMC.
The December 2007 issue of Maritime Executive has a comprehensive article titled:
"Earning Back the Trust: One Mariner at a Time", delving into the mission, ambitions and challenges for the NMC.
Captain Anthony Lloyd is the Commanding Officer of the National Maritime Center.
2007 - 2010 Captain David C. Stalfort
2001 - 2007 Captain Ernest J. Fink
1999 - 2001 Captain Myles S. Boothe, Jr.
1997 - 1999 Captain Michael M. Rosecrans
The first federal licensing of mariners was required by the Act of 1852, which authorized the Steamboat Inspection Service to issue licenses to engineers and pilots of steamers carrying passengers. Licensing has been refined and expanded throughout the decades to include masters and chief mates plus others in positions of responsibility on board all types of ships.
Licenses had been issued intermittently by the United States Steamboat Inspection Service, but no continuous effort had been made to insure the skill and character of shipmasters until John D. Hones called together maritime insurers, shipbuilders, government officials and maritime experts to form the American Shipmasters' Association in 1861. The ASA began issuing certificates to qualified mates and masters of sailing vessels even before its incorporation in 1862, receiving the first application from Captain Isaiah Pratt in September 1861. To receive a certificate, seamen had to meet rigorous requirements, including six years experience at sea and a high score on the nautical science and seaman ship examinations administered by the ASA. Applicants also had to produce testimonials to their good character. The ASA continued its program of certification until 1900, by which time Federal law required that most shipmasters be licensed by the United States. Licensing and certifying of U.S. maritime personnel is another of the safety functions of the Coast Guard.
For years, mariners completed their credential applications by hand and sent them to one of the 17 Regional Examination centers around the country. Over the years as workload increased at the RECs due to regulatory changes and an increase in the number of mariners applying for credentials, processing times increased. In an effort to reduce backlog, many RECs began reducing the hours they were open to the public. Many also stopped answering telephone calls from mariners. This led to a decline in customer service. Further, regulations and policies, which were issued by USCG Headquarters and the NMC respectively, were subject to varying interpretation among the 17 REC and complaints about lack of consistency began to increase.