Employment in the Dredging Sector

I never met Mr. Decker, but if he was on the Northerly Island (the dredge that collapsed the bridge) then he worked for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, one of the only dredging companies I haven’t worked for. The Northerly Island incident is legend among the dredging community!

For me it was primarily about the ratio of days on/off and ease of travel to/from work with some consideration for vessel type and operating area.

The shorter the rotation the easier I needed it to be to get too/from work. The longer I was home the farther I was willing to travel.

For me I found 3wks on/off to be ideal. Pre-SubM Chief of an ATB was a pretty sweet gig.


Curious about this industry…is it all through Army Corps of Engineers?

Are you asking if the COE issues all the contracts or if they own all the dredges? They issue the contracts for Federal projects. Great Lakes, Weeks and Manson are some of the big independent contractors that pick up some of those contracts but there are others.

Lee Shore is correct. The vast majority of the work is government contracts given out by the COE. I have worked a few beach jobs in Florida that were entirely or partially funded by the municipality (I’ve been a dredgeboater since 1995, and currently sail as Capt with Manson Construction). Dredging used to be entirely done by the COE, but in the late 70’s early 80’s private industry got into the game, and now virtually all dredging is done by private industry. The COE still maintains 2 East Coast dredges (McFarland, & Wheeler) as well as 2 West Coast dredges (Yaquina & Essayons) for emergency dredging. There are currently 14-15 unlimited tonnage hopper dredges working in the US, but there is a new build spree going on and all the major companies are currently building new vessels. A lot of the current tonnage is aging. Manson is the highest paid, and is represented by IBU (Inland Boatmans Union, a small West Coast Union), Weeks is non union, and just got bought by Kiewit, Great lakes has SIU for both licensed & unlicensed, Dutra is just getting into the hopper dredge game and claims they are building a new dredge, and there are a couple other one off companies out there. I’ve loved the career, you get more shiphandling than you would imagine (I’ve had 5 or 6 mates go on to become pilots), plus you have to be able to work on the pumps and other dredge gear. SUPER stable crews, almost all family guys, as you can plan your life a year in advance. Everyone has gone to even time (except the COE, but they run a skeleton crew dockside). Most vessels require Unlimited Oceans for Mates. It is NOT glamorous! We have had deep Sea Chief Engineers come aboard to interview and take one look at their quarters and say “Nope”. BUT I’ve been on a Weeks newbuild (Magdalen) and it is like a cruise ship! Our newbuild also offers MUCH nicer accommodation. Right now is a good time to look as there is so much new construction. We see a ton of 3rd -2nd Mate resumes, fewer C/M-Master.


Manson used to call the Seattle MEBA hall for short term relief engineers. I did that a few times on the Newport when it was dredging the Columbia Bar. The company was outstanding, the food (especially the fresh crab that came straight out of the hopper!) was equally outstanding. I was hard work but not overwhelming, the accomodation was nothing to brag about but anyone who expects resort level lodging on a dredge is delusional anyway. Short version, I really enjoyed the work and the people.

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The Newport is still going strong! But it’s been a LONG time since she was on the West Coast. The Bayport is out there now. My dredge (the Glenn Edwards stays (thankfully) Gulf Coast, East Coast.

I thought Weeks’s hopper dredges were MM&P?

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You may be correct, Weeks was Local 25 operating engineers when they bought the dredge I was working on in the late 90’s. The dredging group then chose to go non union. I’ll have to ask some of the recent Weeks Mates we have hired. I worked for B+B on the dredge Columbia, and they had an odd B-book relationship with MM&P, that gave us some of the benefits, but not able to ship out of the hall. But as I told the guy asking the initial question, just get on with a dredging company, then you will have a MUCH easier time moving to the higher paying dredge companies.

You are correct, Weeks is MM&P inland division, captains and chiefs are management.

Even the unlimited hopper dredges? That sucks.

My experience with MM&P Inland was that it really really sucked. A very sorry excuse for a union.

MM&P Deep Sea should be very embarrassed to have its name associated with MM&P Inland.

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Worked on the Stuyvesant. Decent Food and pay, even time. Good crew. Accomodations are pretty good compared to most of the new builds. It was built by the Dutch in the early 80’s but has been ran hard and put away wet.

Also worked on a couple cutter heads for GLDD. Old as hell.

My experience working with dredging crews and equipment around the world: Nice people. Interesting projects. Huge maintenance requirements. If you work there, be ready to work and work hard. But genuinely some of the nicest folks I met in the maritime industry were at Weeks. Maybe just the breaks or the crews but they were super in US and UAE

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I will also say that a lot of dredging companies think they are shipbuilders. They are not. If you get on a newbuild be prepared for it lol.

It seems like guys don’t leave Manson once they get hired.

That is correct! Very good company to work for, I would say we are almost too accommodating at times. Guys quickly forget the reality of the industry when they have it so good for so long. Mates either age out or become pilots, that’s basically the only way folks leave. Right now we lost several long time mates due to age/illness and a pilot gig, Mates moving to relief Capt for Capt retirements, PLUS hiring for a newbuild crew is more turnover than I’ve seen in years.

It’s tough because dredges are such a job specific vessel, and I don’t think ANY newbuild is fun for the first 2 years as the bugs get worked out. I did the break in n the Glenn Edwards and when they asked me about the newbuild I said “NOPE” you have several 35 yr old Capt’s that will do just fine in that position!

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The Stuyvesant was THE place to be back in the 90’s! Both My Chief & my Chief Mate are old Stuyvesant hands that I lured over to Manson. Like I told the kid who started the thread, get on ANY dredge, and you will be able to move in the dredging industry.

Are the engineers there union or non-union? Whats the turnover rate for engineers in dredging?