Is there any way to escape mediocrity in the shipping or shipbuilding industry?

Hey everybody,

I’m a Machinist at Newport News Shipbuilding and have been here for 6 months. I was a Damage Controlman in the Navy prior to this and was looking to get back onto ships without being at sea for long periods of time. I have been disappointed to downright terrified at the mediocre standard shipbuilding is held too. Women being hired en masse for jobs they physically can’t do. Overweight individuals being hired for jobs they cant do. Younger folks being hired for jobs they have no intention of learning or doing for any significant amount of time. Accidents routinely being caused by drug use, sometimes on the job. As a Damage Controlman the fire safety standards are abysmal and WILL end up causing a catastrophic casualty that results in death at some point. I recently found out about the Damage Controlman position at MSC in Norfolk and am very interested in it. However from what I’ve seen they have the exact same issues with employees that NNS does. First, does anybody know exactly what life as a DC in the MSC entails, and second is the culture really as bad at MSC as it is basically everywhere else? How do you escape the mediocrity? Thanks everybody and stay safe.


For shipbuilding. Move to South Korea.

For shipping. Just about anywhere outside of the U.S. Flag has legit sailors who know their trade in greater numbers than what is passing as USCG qualified nowadays. There are a dwindling supply of us still hanging on, but I would say we are losing the war.

It is truly depressing to offer your mentorship or just passing on some of the knowledge accrued, as it was afforded to you, only to be met with a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders.


I agree it is depressing how little people know or want to know about there jobs. And at least where I work, they will all shit on you because you want to learn and are better at the job then they are.

Fuck, here we go. Bring on the “real sailor” and “younger generation cries” tirades again!


There is a lot of “quiet quitting.”

Being on the job and collecting the paycheck, but not having much interest in learning the skills for the job or actually doing it.

Some of this can be blamed on cheapskate owners with too many stupid rules and a bad attitude, but it’s really more of a pervasive societal thing.


This is an issue that transcends age an demographics in my opinion. We are all in this industry, a lot of us on the U.S. flag side of things, and this is a trend that a lot of us are trying to wrap our heads around.

We talk endlessly on this forum about what we can do to improve the viability of the U.S. fleet and this is a big one to me. The nicest, newest ships or tugs in the world won’t mean squat if our national reputation is such that we can’t be trusted with any of it. Be it the maintenance, operations, repairs, etc. If the current generations and next generations have no interest to even attempt to learn, let alone perfect their trade and put in the work, what future is there?

It is ok to admit that we have a problem and it needs to be addressed. It beats the hell out of strutting around like we are exceptional because of our nationality. I’ve been on foreign flagged ships. The difference is night and day.


I only saw MSC though the eyes of a cadet, but I’d wager its worse than everywhere esle. A lot of what youd read here would seem to confirm my suspicion.

50% of academy graduates finish in the bottom half of their class. Most of those who are in the top half quickly realize that they can do better, and leave. Those in the bottom half have no choice but to sail. Statistically I think youre more likely to get a dumbfounded blank stare from the bottom half of the class, which are also more in number.

I do not think America can afford a Merchant Marine. I think we will continue to limp along until some crisis shows our ass, at which point the anti Jones Act folks will have their way, and we will be effectively dissolved.


I don’t know, I get more of that attitude from the older generation.


That sounds about right, mathematically speaking.

Do they “go forward and mulitply” after graduation??


They all cry just for differerent reasons. The problem is there is no one to push the salty ones out because everyone my age and younger has no drive to learn enough to take over leadership roles. It leaves a void


It leaves a void that you will fill eventually because you desire it and demonstrate skill and drive. That part is not new at all. Those same people, if they are still there when you move up the ladder, will still be resentful and shitty.

You know your worth and what you want from the job. If other people are telling you that you are making them look bad by trying hard or showing interest in the job, just smile and nod. I also like to add a “duly noted” and carry on.


You’re familiar with the documentary Idiocracy, no? :smile:


Well, mathematically, if you had 100 people graduate, and the top 40 went shoreside, of the 60 sailing, 84% of sailors would have been in the bottom of the class. Which would lead you to believe, “these academy kids are dumb as hell” when only 2 out of 10 understand what they’re supposed to.

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It’s not just shipping. It’s everything that isn’t a highly paid, don’t get your hands dirty, type of job.

For decades there have been too many taxpayer funded programs that have made work more or less optional.

The number of people that are not employable has really grown.

Covid had a huge impact.There was a surge of retirements. Millions of people were getting twice as much on overly generous state and federal unemployment than they had ever earned working at a job. A lot more people were trained to get by without working. More people were out of work so long that they became unemployable.

A lot of people figured out how to work from home, or on the beach in Mexico. Now, they don’t want to stop.

There is a baby bust.

We have a national shortage of skilled labor that will show up on the job site in just about every industry.


Why would they? If they’re making money and not getting fired why the hell would you choose to go back to an office or back to sea?


Don’t be too hard on the intelligence of the Academy kids.

The middle 50% of the class should be just fine, if they want to sail and do the work. Maybe the top 25% can do better. Most of the bottom 25% will be ok if they work harder.

It also depends on where the kids came from. Kids that come from a fishing family or other maritime background will do better. Kids that grew up on a family farm or logging will do better. They are workers.

Life is not only about making money. It’s also about pursuing your calling.

Some people need the structure of a workplace.

If someone is a real Mariner that hears the call of the sea; that’s who they are, not just what they do for a paycheck. They may want to sail, in some form, at least some of the time, because they are mariners.

For those of you who are not mariners, just guys with a license that made the mistake of going to the Academy, and only do it for money, of course they won’t do it, if they can figure how to make money sitting at home in pajamas while smoking pot and drinking beer.


Is this supposed to be a jab at someone who can pull this off? Because that sounds like a pretty nice setup, and also what a lot of “mariners” do in their vacation time.

Some people don’t. So why bash them for surviving without it?

So every guy with a center console is a Mariner? They want to sail, in some form, at least some of the time.

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That is, without a doubt, the single best reply I have ever seen on this board


Well, 6 pac captains get the same little orange book we do. (Or, sheet of 8.5×11 water resistant paper)

This romantic notion about being called to sea is what brings most people in my opinion. But then you get out here and realize and the illusion disolves when you realized you signed up for a career of counting fire extinguishers and life jackets, fighting rust, and spening most of the day looking out the window. Firefighting, marine survival, small boat handingling, thats the cool shit youre sold on going to an academy. Then you graduate and now youre spening 8 hours a day with your new favorite schizophrenic AB, and making up near miss reports about finding someone on their phone on deck.

So little of what you do out here is what people picture when they are attacted to this call of the sea, Join an ATB and spend more time in port doing cargo than you are underway. Join a harbor tug and spend most of your day looking at the side of a ship waiting for them to tie up. Join a drill rig and read a book. I guess if you’re called to do that, youre a mariner, but I dont remember Jack Sparrow spending half an hour on a DOI. Maybe tall ship sailors are the last real mariners, they can man the ROS ship when we need them, I’m sure of it.