Army Corps of Engineers dredges

I’m interested to hear what people think about the Army Corps of Engineers dredges. Are you working there now? Did you work there in the past? What was the overall experience like? All comments, good or bad are welcome.


I worked around them while running survey launches and only boarded them for as little time as I had to. The Corps’ official name for them is highly accurate: ‘Floating Plants.’
You couldn’t pay me enough.

I work on Corps of Engineers drift collection vessel. Kinda like it. A friend of mine works on dredge down south. As far as I know he is quite happy there. He works two weeks schedule and able to get as much overtime as he wants.
Depending on the position money are not that grate though.

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I just quit the USACE dredge after 6 miserable, wasted years. So much better off. The schedule is to die for…almost unheard of in our industry…week (sometimes 2) on/off…etched in stone. Good benefits including leave and retirement…but the cult of personality just became more than it was worth…turnover is high lately (imo) the pay, the union, the lack of effective leadership within the command…DISMAL.
I make WAY better money with a fraction of the moral turbidity and a schedule…while less rigid…that I can live with.
I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

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Do you work out of Caven Point?

They don’t have a good reputation in the industry, and it seems to be getting worse. All the feelers I’ve put out there through alumni and friends paint a picture of dysfunction and toxicity.


It’s a US government run business, so yeah…

What is a “floating plant”? Does that mean it’s not really a ship? Is it like a factory where misery is produced?

Exactly. The Corps dredging district I worked in was at the time run by bunch of career oriented dudes who were collectively about as salty as Paris Hilton: land engineers whose knowledge of the maritime environment stemmed from digging holes in the mud and pushing dirt to build levees. The only time I visited my office was to file my time card. spent my days on the boat even if we weren’t moving that day.

I’ve consistently seen jobs posted on USAjobs for the past year or so. Something has to be wrong on the “plants” too. Thanks for your input!

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with them, people are earning an honest living on them but they are literally floating plants. It’s just not something that ever appealed to me when I was working. I think if a guy came from an industrial machinery shop or a dry dock background it would be an easier transition than for a sailor.

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Money. Money is wrong. Deckhands start at $25/h. Drift collection vessels are basically “day boats” , people not allowed to live on board. So, try to support a family on $25 if you live in tri-state area , or SF, or Baltimore. Other than that job is just fine. Personalities vise, well show me a place without a couple of bad apples.

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Since you mention personalities, a COE gig fits some people perfectly. Once a guy finds a particular niche, it’s a gravy train. Steady paycheck, great benefits and home to mama every night. It’s a microcosm of the Washington swamp: you hardly have to produce and it takes a act of Congress to get fired.

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The tone I’m getting from your responses, is that it’s a place to start the death of a career? Yes?

Death is such a harsh word. I feel no animosity toward the COE. I was already familiar with the federal work environment having spent time in other agencies. I made it work for me. That’s where I ended the last 5 years of my working career. In the sixth decade of my life with my wife complaining I was never home, it made sense for the reasons I stated above. Other than the frustration of having to prod deadbeats off their asses to get shit done it wasn’t all bad. An easy transition to retirement.

I could not agree more!

Exactly! It’s perfect retirement job.

I’m not even close to retirement. I don’t think it’s the place for me. Thanks for the input!

I worked for the Portland (OR) District for a few years as mate on one of the two hopper dredges based there. Overall, it was a great experience with good crew and I was able to upgrade my license as fast as possible. The crew changes could be brutal because it is one of the only U.S. Gov jobs with a “roving duty station”. I have also had to deal with Corps employees all over the country for over 30 years working within the remainder of my career. Most people don’t realize that the Corps, being Department of the Army, is huge and there is absolutely no consistency from district to district. Hence all of the various good to terrible job experiences related here. The truth is, to the benefit of the average taxpayer, the Corps should be dismantled entirely. And they certainly should not be in the dredging business when there are large, capable fleets of industry vessels within our country.
But, if you are a Veteran, you will have Veteran’s preference over a non-vet. The pay starts out on the low end but over time increases and they are generous with accumulating time off. You work on great, well maintained vessels because they have incentive to spend as much money as possible each year so the following year they can request more (normal government protocol). They are also great about sending crew members to schools so that was a nice perk.
Good luck.