I’m going to be graduating from trade school for diesel in may and was thinking about joint the merchant navy while I’m still young and all that but I have no idea where to start. Do I have to go to the maritime academy? Can I just get a TWIC card and apply for jobs? I grew up in Corpus Christi Texas and have some mechanical experience on a boat as well as knot tying and other general knowledge but I feel as if that might not be enough to get started.
If you’re interested in working on US merchant ships, there are a few different routes you can take to get started. One option is to attend one of the maritime academies, which will give you a license to sail as an officer and provide you with a college degree that can be useful ashore. This can be a great way to get started in a career on the water, and many graduates of these programs go on to have successful careers in the maritime industry.
If you don’t want to attend a maritime academy, there are still options available to you. You can take some basic classes to get started in an entry-level position, such as working as an OS or a wiper. These positions may not require as much training as an officer position, but they can still be a great way to get your foot in the door and start gaining experience.
Another option to consider is the Piney Point program with the Seafarers International Union (SIU). This program provides training and education for entry-level positions in the maritime industry, including deckhands and engine room personnel. The program can be a great way to gain experience and build your skills, and many graduates go on to successful careers in the industry.
Ultimately, the best way to get started in the maritime industry will depend on your goals and experience level. If you’re interested in becoming an officer and have the time and resources to attend a maritime academy, that can be a great option. If you’re looking for an entry-level position or don’t have the resources to attend an academy, there are still options available to you. Do some research and explore your options to find the path that’s right for you
Sounds like you’d be a good deckhand, which is where you should start. Get on deck and find something to do for ~10 hours a day that doesn’t directly sink the boat, and you’ll be a rockstar. You’ll also have ample opportunity to see if working topside (deck) or loud-and-hot-and-crowded-side (engine room) is for you. Then you can think about the quickest way to upgrade. Or do like I did and try a little bit of everything: OSVs, tugs, yachts, sailing day charters, cruise ships, Rube Goldberg amateur-built deathtraps. Then you can upgrade for the job you want, and not just a swinging-dick license.
To get started, you must get a TWIC card, your Merchant Mariner Credential, and you should get your STCW Basic Safety Training. Then you can be a deckhand anywhere. With your existing knowledge of engine repair and things mechanical, you could probably be a better deckhand than 75% of the knuckle-heads who work on boats right now, but you must play the credential and training game like everyone. $1300 should get you where you need to be. And you’ll hemorrhage more money later in proportion to how far you want to go in the industry.
Get, at least, the first two documents I mentioned, then drive down the road to south Louisiana until you start seeing billboards advertising for maritime jobs just south of New Orleans. Or search the forum archives for “Knocking on Doors in LA”. Go talk to these companies in person. Boom, you’re a mariner. Don’t thank me, please, and you’ll certainly find out why not if you work offshore long enough.
The Engineering Candidate Hawsepipe (TECH) program is a comprehensive training program for selected high school graduates and veterans (veterans please click here) who want to pursue careers as seagoing marine engineers. Is this for me? Candidates must meet the United States Coast Guard (USCG) medical requirements for a licensed engineer, and demonstrate high standards of academic achievement and engineering aptitude.
Applications for the next class which is scheduled to start September 2023, with applications closing at 1200 on 5 June, 2023. Interested personnel should complete the application process themselves (link at bottom of this page).
If you are still in Corpus and want to stay there, you can call the SIU Houston hall (see the Piney Point route above - the QMED/Oiler apprentice program has worked well for some of the guys I know) or apply directly to G&H Towing (Houston HQ, but 10 or 11 boats in Corpus). You’ll make a living wage with great benefits to start and the potential of six figures in something like 3-4 years. Schedule is 7/7 or 14/14. Whether you apply directly to G&H or SIU, you will have access to the SIU school at Piney Point. That training, by the way, is at no cost to you.
I know a good handful of folks who started with that apprentice program, or as an OS/Wiper (entry level) and got licensed and then went on to well-compensated land jobs in engineering/plant operations.
As mentioned, you will need a TWIC and MMC.
You can Google both phone numbers. Good luck.