DP, Towing, Too many options!

I’m a cadet at GLMA.

I look at this forum religiously and it makes me wonder… what to specialize in when I graduate, and, how do I tailor my years in school to help me do what I want.


How did you figure out what you wanted to do in the marine industry?
Is their any merit in trying to specialize while at the academy. (who to go on my sea project with?)

EDIT: Also, I’m thinking I would want to live in MI and commute to the GOM or wherever. How much (Roughly) does a DPO make? Would I work as a mate also if onboard a DP vessel?

Thanks in advance.

"How did you figure out what you wanted to do in the marine industry? "
Here are my priorities, in order:

  1. How much time off will I get?
  2. When I’m at work am I in a safe and healthy environment?
  3. Does the company provide quality equipment and proper training?
  4. Does management walk the walk as well as talk the talk?
  5. How much will I be paid?
    Ask yourself if you want to be a boat handler or if you want to ride ships across oceans and then watch as the pilot does the fun stuff.
    In the GOM you’ll work 2 for 1. Most everywhere else you’ll work 1 for 1. But, at the inception of a maritime career you probably want to work as much as possible. In the GOM you’ll get a lot of good sea time, most likely 12 hour days, which is important early in your career while you’re upgrading. If you’re on a 28/14 rotation you can get a year’s sea time every calendar year. Not bad. But then it gets really old.
    Look around, explore. Figure out what gets you excited, and pursue it. Don’t spend too much time in a job or company you don’t like. Life is too short. Don’t settle. Don’t ever forget that the company didn’t give you your license, the Coast Guard did, and they can take it away. Don’t ever jeopardize your license for any company.
    I’ll leave the sea project question to the academy guys, I’m not one.

I found early on that having a goal was the key to my career. I didn’t know how the path to a Master’s license would look but that’s what I wanted. I tried tugs, Great Lakes Freighters, tankers, R/V’s, and found a home in the offshore oil field. All of them have their upsides but you won’t know if it’s for you until you give it a shot. At graduation for me the oilfield was the last place on anyone’s list. I ended up here because they were the only one’s hiring at the time I was looking for work and I haven’t looked back.
When I was young and single the time off wasn’t so important as the port calls and cash for travel and toys. Now that I’m married with kids around the equal time on/off is most important with a steady monthly check and good benefits.
For your sea project pick something that interests you. Some guys chase the highest paying cadet ship’s but I don’t recommend that being your sole motivation. My $18 a day on a west coast tanker didn’t make me rich but taught me that tankers weren’t my thing. How valuable of a lesson is that? It probably saved me a few years of frustration trying to get into a closed union at the time I graduated.
I live in Northern Michigan and commute to work. I’m working in W. Africa now but did the GOM thing for several years too. A good company will pay your way from wherever you want to live.
Trainee DPO’s make enough to even live in Traverse City. My vessel doesn’t have the DPO’s on deck while drilling but some rotate them with the mates. They do stand navigation watches underway though. Either way you should get a taste of both if you plan to move up to Master some day. You’ll have to answer for the mistakes of either position so it’s best you fully understand them.

DPO sounds like the best of both worlds if what I believe is correct. When standing a DPO watch I get time to upgrade my license too? Not to mention 12 hour days means good sea time.

Now the dilemma is whether I want to work in the oil industry >< But a good job is a good job.

Siberfire- I recently went to work on a Semi-submersible drilling rig that is Dynamically Positioned. There are several academy guys on here, most all from some academy. There are 2 Kingspoint, a few Suny, A couple of Texas A & M guys, a bunch of MMA engine room guys, basically every maritime academy has some representation here. I have spoken with a few of them about how they got into this line of work (Drilling Rigs). Most of them heard about it from a friend and came over after briefly sailing because they did not like the long hitches or dealing with Unions. They pointed out that they were unaware of this opportunity prior to graduating. Most drilling companies offer a time for time schedule even for entry level 3rd Mates. I asked a few if they regretted coming to drilling rigs and the answers I got were unanimous. They all wish they would have done it sooner. They wish they would have started here straight from the academy. This is a vessel with tonnage and horsepower just like any other vessel. You can upgrade your license all the way to Master and you will even get endorsement on that license such as Ballast Control Operator or Offshore Installation Manager. I understand that there are other viable options for a GLMA graduate, but I think this is an option worth you investigating prior to making a choice. The world wide demand for these positions is expanding and the pay and benefits are attractive.


I’ve always tried to get a diversity of experience. Each job has interesting things to learn that will benefit your career if you take the time to learn them.
DP is one of the worst ways to get experience. Save that job for after you’ve seen the world.

I agree with everything Lee said except getting aboard quicker. I wouldn’t give up my deep ocean experience for anything and wish everyday the pay and benefits weren’t anchoring me to my danm semi. I also hate all the HS&E BS and politics from corporate. The stupid questions in my email in-box every day also suck.

Siberfire - Don’t specialize after graduation, generalize! I’m with John on this one. If there was an old tramp steamer, I’d tell you to jump on it and go see the world, and continue doing that right through second mate. Since that’s not the reality today, I’d say to experience as much as you can, while you can. Attend as many classes as you can, take as much training as you can, and sail as much as you can. Once you’ve gotten an idea of what’s out there, then make a decision as to where to settle down, right about the time you’ve got enough miles to sit for your management level exams. Tugs, Cable Layers, LNG Tankers, MSC, a Navy/CG commission, the oil patch…the world will be your oyster, you just have to make sure you get there, and you have to make sure you experience it or you’ll be like a surgeon who has never held a scalpel. Don’t fall into a rut of that one ship/boat being the end all.
Hell, with our luck you’ll end up going to work for Fedex or DHL anyway…
It might sound like a far off premise some day, but one of these days you’re going to want to stay on the beach…even if for a short while…so always have a plan, and know your plan inside and out.

El Capitan just gave you the best advice you’re going to get. I started back when there were tramp steamers but managed to pick up a master degree in engineering along the way. Education and varied experience are the key to a properous happy career and enjoyable life.
If I had it to do over again I’d do it the same way except for maybe a wife or two…aw hell, even they had their moments! Nah, wouldn’t change a thing.

I know this topic has been approached before but there are so many “what if’s” in this industry…

I want to get my DPO certificate. Should I pay out of pocket to get it myself (and if I should how do I find a ship to get the time on and where to take the course)

or is it just generally understood that I have to just try and be lucky enough to get a job with an outfit like transocean or diamond and have them pay for it once I graduate from the academy?

Ideally I would take the basic course then get thirty days done on my ocean sea project, then I would just have to get 6mths time to complete it. But I guess the big question for that is… can I start a DPO cert with just “cadet observer” on my mmd?

anyone know if any companies that do DPO work with cadets?

Once again, thanks

I guess instead of beating around the bush, the best bet would be to call Transocean, Diamond, SeaDrill, Noble, Maersk, and ask of they would consider a Cadet to do his sea project onboard one of their DP rigs. I don’t know if it’s ever been done, but I suppose it’s worth a shot. John might be able to shed a bit of light from his experiences.
Doing your induction class prior to doing anything would be a good idea. Kongsberg in Houston is about as good as there is, and minus hotel and meals, plan on laying out circa $2400 for each class - Basic and Advanced.
If you play your cards right, you might just be on to something that the companies will bite into.