From my friend Norleen Schumer at Maritimelicensing.com -
As of last week, the NMC has given the responsibility of processing an Original or Renewal of an Entry Level MMD's back to the local Regional Exam Centers. NMC will still be the "Issuing Port" but, the local REC will process the paperwork by making sure that the mariner does not have any "Physical issues", "Drug issues" or "Background issues". If none of these issues are present then the REC will notify the NMC that the document is ready for issue and NMC will proceed.This will undoubtedly save time for the mariner as well as the company's waiting to hire them.All REC's are now open 5 days a week, some offices are on an "appointment only basis" and others are on a "walk-in" basis. Be sure to check with the local REC to determine which is which for you or your mariners convenience.