What is the MARAD Waiver and How to Apply

marad waiver

US maritime laws are designed to protect US waterways and coastal waters and give preferred access to US-operated vessels, particularly along trade routes. Owners of vessels not built in the USA cannot get easy access to these prime routes but the US government doesn’t want to block all external trade so there are ways for foreign vessels to participate in commerce. Provision is set out in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, section 27, known as the Jones Act. 

A MARAD waiver is granted by the United State Maritime Administration, and it exempts a vessel and its operators from certain legal requirements, under certain varied circumstances. 

The two most common reasons for a MARAD waiver to be granted are:

  • vessel owners seeking trade routes whose ships were not built in the United States
  • in an emergency situation when repairs or maintenance are needed but cannot be performed in a timely manner

Here is the key information you need and how to apply for a MARAD waiver.

Application Can Be Made Online Or By Mail

The vessel owner or owner-manager needs to submit an application for the small vessel waiver either online or by traditional mail. For most people, this is much easier to do via a website where you can complete the process from the comfort of your own home. When you submit online, it’s usually an easy step-by-step process and there is additional information at hand.

There’s a Waiting Period

After your application has been submitted, there will be a period of waiting time after which MARAD will publish a public notice on the Federal Register for thirty days. This will be a note that displays the vessel and its intended use.

MARAD Research

During this thirty-day period, MARAS will utilize various sources to determine whether the issuing of a waiver for your particular vessel will in any way have a negative impact on American vessel builders or the US coastal trade business.


If after this research, MARAD concludes that your vessel will not have any negative impact, then you will be issued the waiver. It might seem daunting but the reality is that most of the applications made to MARAD for waivers are approved and granted.

marad waiver

New Vessel Documentation

Once granted, the MARAD waiver will become part of your vessel’s permanent documentation and will need to stay with it even if you decide to sell the vessel at a later date. Something to note is that once you receive the waiver, you should also file for a Coastwise Trade Endorsement for the passenger trade, assuming of course that the vessel in question does not already have this endorsement approved and in place.

To apply for a Marad waiver, certain conditions need to be met. These specifics can be found online here along with application forms that can be downloaded. There is also a lot more information about the Marad waiver and all other Coast Guard documentation. Feel free to browse through the site for any form you may need.