Career advice

Well, I guess I’m another guy asking for some career advice.

I’ve been working in the maritime industry about 9 years (before that, yachts). I did a few years as a cook, then a few years as a QMED with one of the big oilfield supply boat companies, and now I’m starting my 4th year as a sole engineer on an ocean going tug.

I currently hold a 2nd Assistant Engineer, Oceans, Unlimited HP license.

I like my current job, but the boats are pretty old and I feel like I’m getting behind on my up to date knowledge. I’m not a born mechanic by any means, and definitely feel like I’m behind the curve for a lot of the industry.

But, my biggest concern is my future ability to retire. I’m saving a hefty amount in an IRA, but minimal (1%) company match.

So, I guess the question is - what’s the next step? Join MEBA and work towards that pension? I kinda cringe at the idea of 4 month hitches (I currently do 1 month on/ 1 month off). Try to start buying rental properties and hope for the best?

I’d love to work for somewhere with a real retirement plan and a decent schedule (we all would, right?). I’m pretty out of the loop; I don’t even know what companies to apply to.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

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re: Joining MEBA

If you wanted to join MEBA i’d wait until you had your 1 a/e. There are always a ton of new grads looking for the 3rds jobs and a lot of the older guys with seniority will snag good 2 a/e jobs. The 1 a/e jobs are a lot easier to find because people either don’t have the license or don’t want to sail 1st. Almost anytime you walk into the hall there will be a Seacor/CGL or Liberty first job on the open board.

There is also the option to join and register and continue working your current job. Let your card age. Go to the hall when you want to during your time off.

It takes 5 years of sailing to get vested in the MEBA pension. Then you need 20 years for the full pension. Right now the rule is 240 days of covered employment gets you a pension year. A covered employment day is either a day onboard, on vacation, or at Calhoon. Keep in mind that the seacor/CGL jobs no longer count towards pension. All the pension rules and specifics are available on the website. These are just the very basics.

Most of the contracts are for 90 days. If you aren’t a permanent you don’t need to do 90 on 90 off constantly. Plenty of guys work one job, convert OT to vacation then get a full pension year by sailing for 90 or 120. There is plenty of day/nightwork in some of the ports. There is a lot of flexibility when you work for MEBA.

One friend of mine has a few rental properties. He sticks to doing nightwork and working on coastwise ships so he can manage his properties/stay in cellphone range most of the time.

If you live near a hall you can go in and talk to the MEBA officials or anyone waiting there. They’d be able to fill you in with any question you have. Or you can ask on here and I’m sure someone will chime in.


There are shoreside technician jobs with manufacturers and distributors of equipment that start at around $100,000 a year, plus overtime, plus great benefits. Travel and salary fully paid door to door. Some jobs provide a company vehicle, and some also pay commissions if you sell products. You can be at home most nights.

A friend of mine stopped being a tugboat and fishing boat engineer to start a marine repair business. He works alone out of van and charges $85 an hour, and makes mark up on parts. He has more business than he can handle.

Seagoing wages have not kept up with shoreside. Seagoing benefits are very stingy compared to larger shoreside employers. Good seagoing work is much less available and much less secure.


Thank you for the thoughts. It sure would be nice to find one of those shoreside tech jobs!

Look at the equipment you have onboard and contact the companies that make, distribute, sell or service it. Talk to the vendors that come onboard to do repairs.

Companies like: Sperry, Mathers, Kobelt, Alpha Laval, Quincy, Cat, Cummins, John Deere, Markey, Carrier, Jastrom, etc.

Try companies involved with steering and control systems, hydraulics, electrics, pneumatics, refrigeration, alarm systems, Fire systems, boilers,

One of my former engineers works for a company that distributes industrial food processing equipment. A lot of it has pneumatic drive and controls. They fly him all over the US and Canada to work on equipment.

Another works for a steering system distributor.

Construction, forestry, and mining companies always need people who can fix things.

yea, those guys that fly all over the world to fix a steering system or a radar or something have a good gig and a heck of a visa section in their passport but two things:

  1. you’re ALWAYS on call, no partying or time out of contact !!
  2. AND you absolutely hafta know EVERYTHING about what you’re working on, all of it !! no exceptions.
    sometimes we’d get some tech flown into south america or gawd knows where and this after we’d done all we could to fix stuff and they were always considered a god, and I never saw one leave but what they’d found the culprit. I’m sure there are some exceptions to this story and i couldn’t imagine what passed between the command and his employer and the individual who they flew halfway around the world for a good part of a weeks expenses!

They earned every cent, and few and far between. My radar guy out of Tampa was an effing prince. When my wheelhouse windows got knocked out in a freak wave while pushing, he was there in Everglades fixing my shit on arrival… One of my pals on a Bouchard boat nearby offered assistance that day. We were ok, but the fact he offered went a long way in my small book. Mariners look after mariners, no matter who you work for.

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