Is SIU That Bad And Is There Really A Shortage?

Title basically says it all. I just need information and if this is repetitive I apologize. I am new to Gcaptain and am browsing all the time. I am considering to join SIU since my dream was always working on a container ship going overseas. However; is it that bad as they say it is, and is there a huge shortage of mariners?

I am single, no kids, and want to “explore” or travel to other countries for a bit. So I feel like deep sea is perfect for me.

I’ve worked basically the Great Lakes my whole entire maritime career; from 700’-1000’ bulk carrier ships. I’m not new to hard labor.

I’ve had days on the lakes where I had to clean out cargo holds attatched to a harness hiking up the hold, on a chain with a 2 1/2 inch water hose to clean coal out, etc. 15 hour days sometimes but always that. But either way, These jobs were direct hire, so I am extremely new to union halls and all this confusing information to get a job in the hall. I understand the seniority with the A-C book and all that, but I am decisive because I don’t want to be put on a tug or a small ship. (Am I soft? Lol maybe, I don’t want to share a room)

Can I pick which kind of vessel I can be on? I assume that’s how it works?

Even though the Great Lakes does not require any STCW at all(Crazy right) I’ve managed to aquire these credentials:

STCW Basic Training, VPSD, RFPNW, Able-Seaman Unlimited, lifeboatman, OS, and PSC. Obviously have my passport, medical, and TWIC.

The problem is I do not have Able-Seafarer Deck, so I cannot be an AB with all this time I assume with SIU, due to that stupid limitation of AS-D. I do not have it because I got my RFPNW in September of 2023, it is not required on Great Lakes so not enough sea days for AS-D sailing with RFPNW.

I’ve heard however, that they are so short on people at SIU some companies are hiring OS-Special which is essentially OS with AB pay since I have all the credentials except AS-D.

TL:DR - Either way, can someone give me information on the hall since it’s unfamiliar territory for me? Can I get on a ship of my choice if available? Easy to get work? What not to do? Etc…

Much appreciated.

With C seniority you are will be last to get a job. However if jobs are plentiful and no more takers then it’s up to you which ship to go to.

Not sure how it works now, Only time I went to the hall was to find extra ,local tug work on my time off. The hall got me my first ever job. Any other work was by me showing up at an SIU contracted company or working the phone. Sounds like there is plenty of work to go around, as it was a ways back.

I may be able to help you a little bit, I worked thru SIU in 2017 and 2018, I’m currently on a non union OSV in the GoM.

I know SIU desperately needs ABs right now, I’m still on one of their Facebook groups and people are always posting pictures of the job boards. Choke full of AB positions. A guy I worked with in the GoM just got on with SIU as an AB, he’s a C book and only waited 2 weeks. That was unheard of in 2017, 2018 - a C book would wait 2-4 months. It’s a much different job market right now. It will help to have your tankerman endorsement, so pay the money, take the class and get your tankerman assist.

To sail internationally you must have AS-D, the STCW version of AB. However, SIU crews a number of ships that are coastwise, ie. they only run between US ports, so on those you might be able to sail with your AB national rating. And while onboard you can get assessments signed off for your AS-D. Also, they are so short handed they might let you sail internationally with AB national and sign off all your STWC assessments while onboard. You need to go to a hall and show them what you have credential wise and they’ll tell you what they can do for you. The guys at the Houston hall a pretty good, some other halls not so much.

RE: the specific question, Is there a shortage?
I can’t speak for every part of the USA. However, at the company where I work (PNW/Alaska) we have no shortage of ABs. We are turning ABs away. And this is for summer, also. Usually summer has us scrambling to fill positions for crew that want summer-time off. But this year we have too many ABs/deckhands scheduled for summer. We are banking on a few of those mariners wanting unscheduled time-off, in order to absorb the excess.

A complete reversal of the shortage of 2022. Like I said, this is just one part of the country. Could be different elsewhere.

Sign of the times?

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Any non-exempt seagoing vessel is required to above by STCW at all times, even on domestic voyages. The “only on foreign voyages” clause only comes into it when discussing exempt vessels.

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As far as I can see with SIU, there are 80 deck jobs on the board as of a couple days ago. The problem is, as youve discovered, that there is not a shortage of Ordinary Seafarers.

When you are an OS your options are limited, but once you get AB, if you have the right papers, even with a C card you can have your pick of the all ports jobs. I sailed as an AB with SIU when things were considerable tighter, and it took me at most three days to get a job. There are people who make a living out of it, it is a respectable career

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Thanks for the clarification on that, I wasn’t sure.

What’s happened on the Great Lakes is essentially crew cuts and then the aftermath of that causing repercussions. If you really limit the number of entry level positions, than over time, you have fewer people up-grading becoming rated sailors. If you cut OS positions, who is going to do more of the labor? The hard work on these ore carriers? Rated sailors now are doing more manual labor than ever. These used to be good union jobs, but now, not so much. Twelve hour days not on a watch system, but whenever they need you is common-place. You have a different kind of attitude in this situation. Yes, you may make more money, but does the worker stick around to earn a pension? No, a lot leave because the environment is not like what it used to be. The ownership of a couple of the companies are not really transportation outfits. They strike me more as hedge funds, and this type of operation is geared more toward quick monetary returns to shareholders. Kinda like the “Boeing Aircraft Model,” and we all can see where an operation like that may lead…