I want to go merchant marine

I’m currently a truck driver seriously interested in becoming a merchant marine(apprenticeship through union, not academy). The one thing I was worried about was my knee. I tore my meniscus a few years ago. The knee is generally fine but when using it too much or too intensely then it becomes a problem. For example if I play basketball or soccer. I also had a seasonal job delivering for ups in a very hilly neighborhood and it became an issue. Another thing to consider is that wearing heavy boots is hard on the knee so I’d prefer a lighter hiking shoe instead of steel toe boots. (I was wearing boots at ups).

Would I be ok with not wearing steel toe boots at most companies? Do you think I’d have a problem going through an apprenticeship with the seafarers union // being able to do the job of an ordinary seaman or able bodied seaman? Again the knee is mostly ok except when using it too much with heavier footwear.

Almost all shipping companies require safety shoes. Normally, the particular shoe is up to you, but are required to have a safety toe and be slip/oil resistant (ANSI Z41-1999 standard, I believe).

As an entry level mariner, regardless of department (deck, engine, steward), you can expect to spend considerable time on your feet.

I’d also add that you will be working on steel which is more unforgiving on your joints than concrete.

Any entry level unlicensed job is physically demanding and there are not enough crew onboard to take up the slack when someone can not pull their full weight. This has not stopped a lot of physically unfit people from trying though. You sound like you are at least concerned at how you may perform so that’s a lot more conscientiousness than most you will encounter.


Dr.Scholl’s-Naproxen-Ibuprofen-composite toes-pace yourself.

Well every truck company both otr and ltl that I’ve worked for has said officially that you some sort of work boot.

In practice though, it seemed like almost nobody adhered to it at any of the companies. The ones that were strict had some loose monitoring, but you could get away with Nike Monarchs at UPS for example. Do you see 100% of employees wearing some sort of safety toe in practice?

Also, in response to being on my feet. Standing is no problem. So as far as I can tell watch duty should be fine. Its walking, running, jogging, pivoting, jump ropes, etc that gets me if I do it too much.

Interesting did not consider that about steel. I dont think it will be a big deal though. It’s weird I can go to the gym and do squats / leg press just fine. It’s mostly in walking, running, jogging, etc too much that it might start being a problem.

Would you recommend deck or engine? Are they similar in work load?

Do you see 100% of employees wearing some sort of safety toe in practice?

I cannot speak for 100% of the mariners on here and out there, but when I’d go on deck for mooring operations or my cargo watch I’d at least cast a glance at the feet of my AB’s and even threw a Wiper off the deck (they assist on the stern with tying up on MLL vessels) for coming back there in sneakers.

The amount of paperwork and issues that will arise out of an injury is not even close to worth letting anything slide.

Would you recommend deck or engine? Are they similar in work load?

That all depends on you… what interests you more? Working outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions? Working in power plants doing more mechanical-type jobs? Seamanship?

1 Like

Composite safety toes don’t make boots significantly heavier. If you can wear regular hiking boots you can wear safety toe boots no problem.

Well I was definitely thinking deck. Haven’t really been mechanically inclined before and I think most of my other work experience related more to deck.

I guess I’m just a bit overly paranoid about making it work with my knee. I have plenty of savings/am single with no expenses and I can always come back to trucking driving if it doesn’t work out after a year though. The risk is the opportunity cost of giving up my income for 1 year while training if it doesnt work out.

I think you skipped or ignored this part. As an entry level you will be on your feet all the time, whether chipping & painting, mooring ops, working cargo, climbing up and down things, or otherwise scrambling around. Like others have said, it’s physically demanding.

I wouldn’t chance not wearing safety shoes for a number of reasons. While driving a UPS truck you might drop a box on your foot with little consequence, but a heavy shackle on a vessel is going to ruin your day. I’d suggest getting some orthotics to help the pressure on your knees. Also, safety is a big buzz word in this industry, although some companies are more strict than others. Good luck.

1 Like

My main motivation for the Sea was the opportunity to travel and live anywhere. :disappointed: but I do have to consider that I might be better off just sticking to truck driving.

I guess I’m just a bit overly paranoid about making it work with my knee.

If it’s really that bad and causing you concern, perhaps this occupation isn’t for you? On the other hand, I have seen many AB’s and engine room ratings who wore knee braces and special gel inserts in their boots to make everything a bit more comfortable and stable. Slap some Tiger Balm on the knee before starting the work day and put a good tight brace on that keeps everything together… if you’re crouching to paint or do any other kind of work on your knees some even have knee pads and the coveralls on some ships have pockets on the knees for you to permanently insert them.

1 Like

Well I’m not sure what I’ll do yet but im at a store looking at work shoes.

One thing I’ll do is just go with low tops… when I wear my high top converses I dont feel very comfortable. I was wearing a high top at ups as well. Also will go with composite toe over steel toe.

Keene makes very comfortable composite toe shoes and boots. I’ve been happy with mine for years

I just went with the timberland pro powertrain sport alloy.


Can’t believe how comfortable it is. There is a similar one in black that is probably better in rain but the difference in material makes it a bit more stiff and uncomfortable. There is another one in orange that I believe is steel toe.

But this one I love. Hopefully no one says you can’t wear blue or those look like sneakers or anything like that.

I always ALWAYS get a chukka or 6” boot, personally. I need and appreciate the ankle padding/support.

Hmm… well at first I was considering the UA program but after going through these boards a bit more I am considering the SUNY ITM/licensure combo.

-I’m 31 years old with a late July birthday
-I have a Bacehlors in Accounting/Econ with 3.3 GPA
-Live in New Jersey
-I have some money saved in the low six figure range / No debts
-I am single no kids low expenses
-Can work another year and save 40k or so.

How much does this thing cost though? Worth it? Or am I better off truck driving stress free?

In the past I’ve generally been bearish on the paying for school deal and I’m more of one of these “hawsepiper” types.

If you are going through the SIU Unlicensed Apprentice program you MUST have black boots at least 6 inches high with a safety toe for the program. If you don’t bring them they will require you to buy some or go home. On the ship you can try to get away with whatever you want, but if you don’t wear the safety gear the company requires, you will not he covered by their insurance if you injure yourself. If you’re worried about walking too much, you might look at the Steward department.

I’m going through the UA program at Piney Point right now. I have one month left in phase 1. If you can get into SUNY and want to spend the money (and 4 years), go for it! But if you go through the SIU, you can make 3rd mate just as quickly (if not faster) and make money while you’re doing it.

Damn they are as anal as expected.

Well yes I will have to think it through. Itd be their graduate program so itd be a bit faster than 4 years and then there’s stuff like you said earning money during, as well as other considerations not sure what I’ll do.