Costs of Upgrading and current/future industry

So, here I sit, looking up the courses that are required for me to upgrade from 2nd Mate / 1600 Master to Chief Mate / Master and I have found myself wondering a few things. I would like to see what some of the other guys on here think.

With current state of the maritime industry and the amount of idle licenses just waiting for a job, I am wondering if it is a wise decision to fork out the almost $10k just for the courses (Med PIC, Adv. Meteorology, Adv Ship handling, Adv Stability, etc). I hear of all these people who are working at much lower capacities than their licenses allow and some sitting at home or the union hall for extended times with no job in sight.

I currently work in the GOM oil industry as many of you may know. It is all doom and gloom here when talking to others which is understandable since the market is shaky. I am scared that I will fork out the cash for the courses, test, get the license and never actually work on it. I hear of Unlimited guys working as ABs. I know I am lucky to have the position that I hold and am not complaining in any fashion. Then throw in all the talk of the automated vessels that the industry is attempting to develop (who knows if it is actually viable, I see many issues but I have been proven wrong many times in the past) who knows what the future actually holds for us?

While I am still in my 20s I have plenty of time to go through the process and obtain the license. I surely do not need a spot in that capacity as of yet, I am still learning things all the time in the capacity that I currently hold.

Just wanting to see what you guys think and if it is a wise move to go ahead and throw down to get the license and spend the money? I have been telling ABs for the past few years to get all they can and upgrade since the classes that were required were offered by the company at no charge but when it comes to throwing the money down with an uncertain future that could be a different situation all together.

I do not foresee myself going to another industry at the moment, even if I had the Chief Mate/Master. I am one of the lucky ones who happen to be on a nice vessel and work with a great crew with a good schedule. If I was laid off though, looking would be in the future obviously.

If you love what you’re doing, fuck the naysayers and make it happen.


In my book, it’s absolutely worth it, if for no other reason than that the boats in O&G are getting bigger even with the downturn. That 1600 Master won’t be much good in the bigger companies much longer if you have any desire to get past mate pay. With the new large OSV requirements, it’s going to be harder for companies to not assist with the class requirements you have, even if they previously had a huge aversion to paying for anything “Unlimited” as in the past.

Now am I saying dive in and take them all in a year? No, not at all. I’m pretty sure that they can be spread out pretty well, (I’d search for info on that, but I was already typing up this reply when I thought of it) so you’re not out all that at once. There will always be doom and gloom, even in the best of times, and that CM Unlimited (and then Master) is going to be a whole lot more useful than a 1600 Master or Master OSV if things do totally shit the bed in the US oilfield.

TL;DR… as Lee_Shore said… if you love what you’re doing, fuck 'em and go for it.

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Im just unsure if it is going to become an expensive license that I will never work on. I do not know how much room for advancement lies in other industries. I know where I am, we only have a select few vessels that require my Unlimited License and the guys who are on those vessels pretty much stay there. I almost made it to one of them, got on one of our SubSea Construction vessels for a total of 6 hours before I was sent to another one that did not require my license.

Most of the vessels that my employer has are all either under 3,000 or classed OSV so my license does not really apply.

I do want to have all I can get, in the way of licensing, I just fear it will be a big expense to never work on… I am probably just letting the fear mongering get to me lol

I agree, I also just submitted to the USCG for my Master OSV after I completed the assessment. Just waiting on a PQEB…

I can currently work on any of our vessels and I work for one of the largest OSV companies (Think Orange) and have for a long time (7 years started as OS). I let our coordinator know that I was interested in a Chief Mate spot (Third Captain as is despised on the forum) on one of the vessels if the position comes available.

We shall see what the future holds.

I have also considered submitting for the Domestic Chief Mate/Master and testing without the courses and then after passing, go get the courses one at a time and submit them for the STCW so I do not whine too much about spending the money lol

oh, but it does… that was the big reason I pushed so dang hard for my CM and then my Master Unlimited myself… it’s good on 312’s or the SSCV’s we have. It’s about to get a lot harder for a lot of folks to get the Large OSV tickets, so if you have an “I can sail on anything we have afloat” you’ll be in a better position than many. Course, I’m one to talk, I too was on “a big blue” before they down-manned… but I know my license will carry some heft if/when they come back to the GOM.

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Yeah, I know what you mean. I am currently on one of our 312s. I love it so far!

You are only in your 20s. If you can afford it, go for it! If not, as soon as you can, do it!

I can relate to how you feel. I am currently running a 100 grt boat and have yet to get a return on my upgrade, HOWEVER I tell myself just be happy to have a job and eventually it will pay off down the road somehow. You can’t go wrong making yourself better and more marketable.


It’s either in your blood or not. Not sure what I would do if I didn’t go to sea.


I probably will end up doing it. I spoke with the USCG about just testing and getting the Domestic License and then taking the classes at a later date to gain the STCW Portion of that license. They said that will be good to go and will prevent me from spending all that money at one time. Then I can just knock them out.

Also, I despise stagnation so just on that I will more than likely go for it!

There you go.
When I was in my 20s I was content running 70s and 80s era crewboats. In the middle of that I had a stint as an ab on a tug and I wish I would have continued down that route…would have most likely upgraded sooner and most likely would have been running a tug long ago. Now in my late 30s I realize I made a bunch of career limiting moves.
I’ve been one of those people that subconsciously does shit the hard way. Sounds like you are on a better path.

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Yeah, I made things difficult for myself when I was a little younger but quickly realized I wanted to go the path of least resistance while still moving forward.

Thanks, I have never ran crew boats but they look like they would be fun to operate around port. I have also thought about getting my towing endorsement but do not want to work on smaller tugs ( Counterintuitive I suppose).

I was told years ago by one of my mates: always try and get the biggest license that you can get. In the end the guy with the biggest license usually wins.

Don’t be afraid of tugs. I sail on one presently because it’s close to home and I do not want to work long hitches on ships anymore. The new ATB units are practically ships and you will find the job way more challenging than driving a traditional ship.

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I have friends who work on ATBs I believe for Moran. It seems like paperwork is almost non existent and much more laid back than what it is in my industry. I think the pay may be comparable as well!

There is paperwork involved but probably not like you are used too. At least at Reinauer where I worked. Don’t get hung up on pay, nobody ever laid on their deathbed and said they wished they had worked more.

Look for a job that you like, with a schedule that you like, especially if you plan on having a family.

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Yeah, I have been with my wife for a long time. I work even time and would like to keep it that way. I have a few small businesses that create income at home as well so the pay is not a huge deal but if I can make more with the same schedule without loading a ton of stress I go for it lol.

This is all I know at this point in my career. I worked on the same vessel for almost 6 years before getting on the one that I am on now. Luckily I am learning other propulsion systems and the like. Hopefully I will continue to somewhat enjoy this but I would like to travel somewhere other than the Rig and Fourchon one day lol. I did go to morgan city one time…

Yeah they’re fun as long as the weather is nice…great place to learn the fundamentals of small boat handling for sure. I haven’t ran a crewboat in a decade. Once you go steel you never go back :grinning:


I have owned small personal boats and own a charter boat so I have ran that but everything between 23 feet and 280 is a mystery to me lol