Joining a union as a senior deck officer

A friend of mine made the same transition. He took a 2M job off the board and was fortunate. He did 60 days as 2nd, the CM was fired, and he ended up with the job… Said he would not have been able to do the job without the 60 days to learn. It helped that he has a genius level IQ and a Captain that was very helpful.

Regardless of what the unions say, it’s unrealistic to transition from a tanker to a RORO and vice versa at a senior level position. You are assuming the mates on RORO’s or box boats aren’t involved in cargo ops, or that the ops are easier than what you’re used to.
There is nothing wrong with taking a 3M job and learning a new skill. After a tour or two, you should have no problem getting a CM position. A little humility and patience goes a long way. In the grand scheme of things, 90-180 days is nothing to learn a new skill.


The only contracts that call night mates on a regular basis for the MEBA are Alliance/Mearsk ships and the Hapaq-llyod ships. MEBA mates usually don’t have to rely on nightmating or bother with it.
For mates the MEBA and MMP offer a different experience / culture. It depends what you are looking for.
in regards to night mates, you’ll find that many onboard do not prefer to have nightmates
1- you’d rather get the OT for all the US ports
2- as a chief mate if you don’t get guys you already know coming onboard to nightmate then it’s just better to rely on the guys you already have been working with. Are you going to sleep easier with a random person working cargo at night or a mate you’ve been sailing with ?

It’s possible. The first time I stepped on a container ship I was the CM. Just expect to spend a lot of your off watch hours sitting in your office reading everything,… twice. Play nice with the crew but don’t let yourself get run over. The Bosun and Electrician can be a big help in learning the job. Also don’t be afraid to ask the other officers for help. Spend as much time as you can on deck during cargo.

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What’d you end up doing? Any new insight?

I plan on doing the same thing @ leaving the Gulf for MEBA except in an engineering capacity. I hold a Chief Unlimited but going to try and make the financials work to be able to start as 3rd and hopefully advance when I have a grasp of things.

AMO is looking for tanker mate big time.

Might head over there and do a couple hitches as 3rd. I have my PIC and C/M but no meaningful tanker experience.

Learn the ropes a little while until feeling comfortable running Chief Mate? They must be taking 3rds who have no PIC? How’s that going?

I got an email from AMO saying some of the 3/M jobs do not require PIC. Not really sure how that pans out.

You go and some other mate stands cargo watch with you and hates you the whole time.


This thread getting on a bit, OP probably made their decision one way or another.
Been Union most of my career. Spent some time at the hiring hall. Times change.

Originally I was a Tankerman laid off ect. Found work someplace else when I could. Different type of ship. Learning curve quite easy after tankers.
Met a girl. Decided it was Time to Change. Joined the Union, Sat in the Hall heard about a call. Showed up for a pier head jump. I was hired, As a relief 2nd Mate.
Coastal Ro Pax never been on this kind of ship, Doing my own Pilotage. Again compared to Tankers. Learning curve not so steep. A Bridge is a Bridge once you’ve seen one they are all kind of the same.

New to me. Vehicle Decks, ect.
Ship New to me so on my off duty hours I wandered around made sure I knew where shit was and how it worked. Its what you do. Wandered down to Vehicle deck. Helped crew load and unload. The other 2nd mate thought I was nuts. Doing stuff on my time.
Turns out I was nuts, It came back and bit me on the Ass.

Chief mate, Relief Master on another boat had a jammer and keeled over. Fortunately he survived but it was a sudden and unexpected retirement.
My Chief mate was supposed to replace him. There was a problem. Nobody to replace our CM.
He came up with a cunning plan.
Jack knows the Job and my 2nd FGN certificate was good as CM Coastal. Union rule I could relieve as CM but wasn’t eligible for full time.
WTF. Next Day a Replacement 2nd Arrived. The CM left, I Was CM If I wanted it or not. Hadn’t a clue what to do.
Turned out I did. Loading was easy, The Bosun Helped, The crew helped even The Old Longshore Guys were nice and helped as well. Turns out all you have to do is be polite.
Things went Ok.
In the end I quite enjoyed it. I was doing stuff I hadn’t done for a long time.

I had been dicking around for a decade or so not bothering to go get my Chief Mate.
The company said they didn’t really need me as 2nd Mate, if I went and got my CM they would keep me on. I needed the motivation. I continued to relive as Mate until I got my Chief Mate.

I still worked on Ro Pax vessels. Until retirement last year.
We don’t do Pier Head Jumps these days, ISM ect. We hire and train. Some work out well, some not so much.
So we hire, The certificate we need. We train for ship specific stuff, If they are willing to listen, it works out ok.

When I got the Call there is a new hire coming.
If I hear he or she is young, relatively inexperienced ex cadet. Usually a good sign.
Ex Tanker. Oil Major, No worries, They will catch on.
Ex Navy, Ex CG, It going to be a long shift. Odds are the crew will hate them. They usually work out ok
Ex Deep Sea MM, Aww F@#%.

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Salty rambling old timer that can’t figure out a coherent paragraph, Aww F@#%.