GOM sailor thinking about SIU or MSC


#1

Im an AB Unltd. with a secret clearance, currently driving a 18 wheeler truck OTR with my wife. Recently things have changed and need to get back to sea so that my wife can find local work and be with the kids. I’ve worked in the gulf for 7 years but had to leave for the down turn. I’m kinda hesitant to go back and wait on OPEC to get their shit straight, so I recently talked to SIU and the man at the desk told me that he can get me on a ship in a couple of weeks with my clearance. I also have a buddy I’ve worked with thats done 20 years with SIU that says I need to go with MSC cause they pay better, have better benefits, training. He says SIU is a racket. I need to make a move in the next couple of weeks maybe two months. I think SIU govt boats is the way to go (im thinking they pay good) and then start applying to companies like Crowley for the long run. Not sure if I should hire on with ECO or Hornbeck or Seacor ect. and hope things get better with pay. I’ve always learned a lot from this forum and laugh at the comments when the guys get into it. Never actually thinking to post any questions, I usually rely on myself for these types of decisions but I could use some outside advise preferably from people actually working for these outfits. Thank you gentlemen in advance.


#2

Try SUP


#3

Sounds like you have a plan and the ticket to make it happen. Just FYI, if your credential or medical expires within the next few months, understand that the National Maritime Center is closed, as in not processing anything. You can still submit- but your apps will sit in the email box until they come back to work after the shutdown is over.

MSC should not be affected by the shutdown so if that’s where you want to go and they are hiring, go for it.


#4

MSC has started sending emails to those that have previously applied. Positions/Announcements for “AB unlimited Only” are opening open in the middle of January.

If you go that route…you do have the STCW endorsement, AB Seafarer-Deck? According to their email, they will no longer hire any new ABs unless they are Unlimited with the STCW Seafarer-Deck endorsement.

The only exception is for those OSs part of MSCs Ordinary Seaman Advancement Program (OSAP). They can be promoted to AB as Special or Limited, but they must still process the STCW endorsement, AB Seafarer-Deck.

MSC’s OSs not part of OSAP must wait until the are unlimed ABs with the AB Seafarer-Deck endorsement before they can move up to AB. Looks like MSC is trying to upgrade their quality of Mariners.

Keep in mine, MSC works in mysteries ways. It may not be an Open Announcement. It may only be for those that have already applied from the prior announcement and have also indicated they are AB Unlimited.


#5

There’s members here with better info than me but as far as SIU or MSC you don’t really have to make a choice. You can fill out the application for MSC and then go to the hall. If you are at the hall you can learn the lay of the land by talking to the other members.

You do have to be careful as the dispatchers don’t always give the right info on jobs they are under pressure to fill. Should be able to get good info by looking at the contracts yourself.


#6

SIU patrolmen and agents now hide contracts from you, unless one is of A seniority. Forget about asking for one as a C, without some sort of a heated dispute. “Why do you need it, is there a problem?”

From my experience, the quality of a mariner, in this case- an AB, is definitely not dependent on whether they’re a special, limited or unlimited. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. For example, I’ve had to work with countless “unlimited” who couldn’t tell left from right when steering and I’ve had hard working, knowledgeable, reliable specials.
Ive no idea why US even bothers with this crap anymore.


#7

If the SIU guy was being truthful with the opportunity of getting out within a couple of weeks I would probably go that route. The pay on SIU government contract ships is not bad these days. It could get you the time for your ‘B’ book and upgrading classes at their school. That said there are a number of caveats.

  1. The guy could be dangling a carrot that is not there just to get you to sign up with the SIU. It is slim pickings for most people starting out with a ‘C’ book. The security clearance is a plus though.
  2. My son is on a SIU government contracted ship and his rotation is 4 months on, 4 months off. Is that something you could live with? Not saying that is the way it is for everyone, but it is typical.
  3. The normal SIU pension is not all that much. It is sometimes referred to as a supplement to your social security. Have a good savings plan.

#8

I read on another thread that MSC was implementing a new pilot program for scheduling mariners 4:1 instead of 6:1 along with a 2 year contract I think? Is that still happening? As far as my credentials I’m all good. I have an AB Unlimited Seafarer Deck on my MMC along with all the STCW requirements to be on an unlimited vessel plus all certifications to test except for flashing light that I have to retake in order re-test for my third mate. MSC sounds cool just wondering if they still have those long 6-8 month hitches. I know beggars can’t be choosers but I’d like unfiltered perspective before I start signing on.

Thanks for the feedback


#9

SIU patrolmen and agents now hide contracts from you, unless one is of A seniority. Forget about asking for one as a C, without some sort of a heated dispute. “Why do you need it, is there a problem?”

Xavier6162:

Its a little disconcerting to have a contract and as a newbie not know what to look for to benefit you, let alone have an agent just hide the thing and not even mention it because I don’t know any better… How long do I have to sail yo get a B book? I assume by that time the agents won’t be as sneaky with trying to hide stuff from me.

Thanks for the feedback


#10
  1. The guy could be dangling a carrot that is not there just to get you to sign up with the SIU. It is slim pickings for most people starting out with a ‘C’ book. The security clearance is a plus though.

  2. My son is on a SIU government contracted ship and his rotation is 4 months on, 4 months off. Is that something you could live with? Not saying that is the way it is for everyone, but it is typical.

  3. The normal SIU pension is not all that much. It is sometimes referred to as a supplement to your social security. Have a good savings plan.

  4. The agent wasn’t even looking at my direction when he didn’t know I had a clearance, as soon as I mentioned it his demeanor changed and offered me to return to talk about the position thats opening up in the next couple of weeks.

  5. I could do even time considering the first 4 months can cover the next four months I’m off. Would you know what the pay is monthly after taxes? And dues I guess.

  6. I’m more worried about the medical benefits, I have a special needs son at home that needs medicine and routine check ups with a specialist at the children’s hospital. My buddy told me of a situation that required him to go to piney point and demand a refund for medical expenses. He’s been out of the SIU for about 6 years and I’m not sure if things have changed since then.

Thanks for the feedback


#11

Sorry, this answer is all over the place, I’m just trying to help because I’ve been there.
I’ll try to look into it more to give you factual answers, but the medical benefits have actually become better with SIU, especially for dependents. No crazy stories of having to fly to Piney Point.

Somebody said it’s hard to get shipped out as a C, but it really isn’t (and that’s without security clearance), I guess it depends on the hall, though. The reason their ears perk up upon hearing that somebody has the clearance is because they have a hard time filling government jobs. Not all of them pay well and my biggest problem is the fact that most of them are prepositioned. And me personally, I’d rather work at a nail salon than sit for 4 months on a ship that never sails. That’s fucking clinical suicidal depression right there. I’d highly advise to get the tankerman assistant endorsement, though (and the corresponding STCW equivalent), and tankers also pay better than most anything else. Those who hate traveling much, also enjoy the routes, as only two SIU tankers go overseas. What is your closest hall?
The most important thing is timing, if you have everything you need and you’re ready to go, you could get shipped the minute you walk into the hall. It’s happened this year. And by timing I mean is seasons- summer/ before and around major holidays. Start of the year is slim pickings.
I’ll disagree with whoever said that gov vessels pay the best, they vary. Some ships have gov contracts but pay atrociously, demeaningly low, for example the gen cargo ship that services the base in Antarctica.
To get to B book, you need to have sailed 90 days for two consecutive years. Not bad at all. It costs though. It’s about a thousand or so to progress to B book. Of course…
What my suspicion is, though, is that you’re missing necessary endorsements. Times have changed (since 2016), things are a little bit different.

In your situation I’d steer towards SIU, pains to say, and get to work, rather than sit in the MSC’s congested and bureaucratic queue. MSC also means you’ll be gone from home for far longer, it’s something to consider.


#12

I would get that flashing light done and get your application in to test for 3rd Mate ASAP. It’s only 4 words per minute! Good luck to you, it sounds you have more things going for you than against.


#13

My son makes around $70K/year. It is not really equal time in that ‘vacation’ (covered employment) does not fully cover the time off. This is important given how retirement time is credited. He files for unemployment during his time off. Understand some companies like Crowley’s ATB’s may accumulate time for a better pension.

Medical Plan benefits can be seen on their website. https://www.seafarers.org/about/benefit-plans/health-and-benefits-plan/


#14

I’m skeptical about this. Shipping was slow when I made the rounds to the halls back years ago as AB and they all told me I’d have a long wait to ship.

How much does the SIU get upfront if a guy doesn’t ship? In any case how motivated is the agent at the hall going to be to sign someone up they know can’t ship?

Given the annual budget of a big union like the SIU how much sense does this make as a policy? As soon as they sign up the guys at the hall are going to tell the new member he’s not going to be able to ship for a while.


#15

I hope you are right. Most of the time I have seen dispatchers go out of their way to help new guys out but unfortunately I have seen a few go out of their way to jerk a guys chain.


#16

It is quite the opposite. They are rather reluctant to sign you up at first. They prefer their piney pointers over people off the street.


#17

I have first hand experence with GOM sailors understanding of maritime unions.

During the oil patch slow-down we had a few oil patch refugees pass through. A couple of them explained to me their version of how unions functioned.

They were surprised to learn that the union had contracts with the companies. It’s hard to imagine how unions could logically exist without contracts but the “union is a racket” sums it up.

A more realistic understanding of how the SIU actually functions would be useful to answer the questions in the OP.


#18

Unions should be required to post all of the contracts, and union rules, on their websites. The members, other mariners, shipowners, and the public have a right to know what the unions and shipowners are contracting to do. The unions only exist because they are protected by federal law. We taxpayers spend a fortune operating the Department of Labor. Most shipowners would cease to exist without federal subsidies and government cargos. The unions and shipowners have a long history of corruption and incompetence. There is a need for transparency.

First, there are too many different unions competing against each other in a race to the bottom. Second, each union has too many different contracts. There is a need for standardized “Master” contracts. When ships are in the same trade, the crews employed on them should get the same wages, benefits, and working conditions. If an owner wishes to pay bonuses or provide superior working conditions to attract the best mariners, the union should encourage that.

The unions should at least get together and agree on a standard “minimum wage” for each position.


#19

You’re combining multiple unrelated discussions. They currently work 4:1 ideally (4 monthminimum onboard them only 1 month off) and the pilot program is to be attached to a ship for 2 years straight.


#20

How is that different than any rights people have, either collectively or individually?

A corporation is just as much a legal fiction as a union.

Any rights to own property only exist because the right is enforced by the state. It’s turtles all the way down.