Mariner Pay 2023

Tug Sailor, I hope you are correct. It is long overdue. My sailing career, which straddled the mid-70s to the 21st century teens, saw one draconian cut after another. The 1984 ejection of the MMP from the tankers and a 40% pay cut for the MEBA and the scabs. The late 1980s east-coast tug strike, which resulted in the ejection of the SIU and later Local 333 and a 40% pay cut and dramatic changes in the working rules. (no overtime, living on the tug for a month followed by two weeks off, rather than going home every day, etc.) In 1994, officers on what was left of the U.S. flag non-oil company tanker fleet got hit with a 20% percent pay cut. I made my way through the industry and have been enjoying retirement for the last ten years. (I got a union pension and saved my money.) I would be highly skeptical of the mendacious rhetoric from management that says they respect and value their mariners. From my point of view, it was one financial kick in the crotch after another.


I don’t see many equal time guys going back to 2:1 that shit blows count me out


I think any raise is a double whammy for companies. The higher they raise the pay, the more people will want even time. More even time keeps more people on the benefit role.

I don’t believe everyone that says it, but plenty of people would give up the 2 for 1 schedule if they were getting paid just a little bit more.

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If I had to go back to 2/1 I would be done with my seagoing career. Better off taking up plumbing, carpentry, or electrical.


(Edit: just realized I misread what you were saying. If they increased pay to equalize what people make on 2:1, I’m sure they’d leap for the chance. But going the other way? Not so much)

Nope, unless it’s because there’s a new boat/contract coming on line and they’re actively hiring to make it even time ASAP, going back to 2:1 is a hard no for me. I’d rather take a pay cut and come ashore somewhere.

…and you know as well as I do that they wouldn’t raise the pay significantly because “you’re already making more on a two for one rotation.”

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@ombugge I am curious to get more on your international perspective on this. What opportunities do you see for American mariners in the international market as the global seafarer shortage continues to hound the industry? If I wanted to take my license and go work for a foreign coastal short sea shipping company would they now consider hiring an American where before they would not have done so?

We can debate why an American would want to do such a thing another time, that’s not what I’m asking here, what I am asking is are there now greater international opportunities for American mariners who might, for their own reasons, chose to pursue them than there have been in the past?

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The issue for everyone that isn’t a Cheng is that usually over 50% of the pay is overtime, and to make those nice figures means 11-12 hour days. As you know, it’s much harder on the body for engineers to work 10-12 hour days than to stare out the window or do safety inspections.

It was very eye opening knowing other that are 100% salary (meaning 100% base pay) with a nominal 8hour day that paid nicely, and there was no unknowns regarding the monthly pay. Very rarely did one have to work more than 8hr days as a day worker, and those on watch might have a few hours a week to do residual duties that can’t be completed on watch.

100% base also helps the pension calculations for those sailors that don’t make Cheng/Capt.

Nobody should have to work 12hr days 90 days+ just to make good money. The base pay needs to go up, but members foolishly concentrate on OT.


IFAIK there are no restrictions on nationality as long as you hold a national license that is STCW compliant and issued by the same country as your passport.
Individual flag states MAY have special requirements regarding additional training, medical certificate etc.
There MAY be requirements for visas and in certain domestic trades even language skills other than Standard Maritime English, which is an IMO requirement.

Here is EMSA requirements:

Wages and conditions for seafarers on European flag ships are negotiated between Seamen’s Unions and Shipowners organization, not with individual companies. These conditions apply to all seafarers, whether national or foreign, under their jurisdiction.

NOTE: Many European flag states also operate a Second register (open) register. Qualification requirements is the same, but other conditions may differ.

As for other flag states the rules may differ, but in general STCW compliant licence from an approved IMO member state are required to get an endorsement from any flag state.

PS> One of the reasons why American seafarers have been unpopular among foreign shipowners/manager MAY be the perception of their ability to sue under the JA.
This applies for the large fleet of US owned ships under foreign registers as well. (Not ALL FOCs)

The number of mariners on about 170 deepsea ships is relatively small.

Most mariners are working 12 hour days or more, usually with no overtime. Admittedly, very few of us are working 90+ days

This is absolutely not true outside of US waters.

Show us one case where an American seaman was allowed to sue for injuries on a foreign flag ship that occurred outside of US waters.

Sorry, I forgot to add; “the perception of”.
Now corrected

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Foreign seamen and American longshoremen can and do sue for injuries that occur on foreign flag ships in US waters. That does not stop foreign flag ships from coming to the US.

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I understand that legally American mariners can work for foreign companies/foreign flags, but under the current conditions where demand for qualified seafarers outstrips supply, what is the propensity for non-US companies to hire American mariners? Are they increasingly warm to the idea of having us onboard because of their desperate need, or are we still unlikely to be seriously considered?

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One problem companies have with hiring US mariners is the fact that they are not covered under a national health insurance scheme. Setting up a health insurance policy for them is a major PIA.

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I recommend that you contact Noor Kimit at Seaworthy Consulting in the UK. Google her contact info. She can help you get your UK CeC, and once you have that in hand, she can get you a job.

IIRC, you are a limited license holder from the MMA small vessel program. Without an unlimited license there are some hoops to jump through to get a UK CeC.

As a young person you can buy good expat insurance quite cheap.

It takes some doing for an American to open a bank account for direct deposits in the UK, Europe, or almost anywhere, but it can be done.

Getting work permits in the UK or EU is another process.

I think you’ll find that most of the limited tonnage workboat companies in Europe have never heard of the Jones Act and will have no irrational fear of being sued by an American crewman in the US.

There are a rare handful of American mariners working in the UK and Europe. It’s difficult to do. It’s lower wages, but it can be done.

I applaud your desire to broaden your horizons.


Looks to me like most of the problems for US seafarers to work abroad is US made.

Most flag states stick to STCW system for license grades, both for domestic and foreign trade.
This enables acceptance of foreign licences, education, training and sea time towards issuance of CeC for foreigners serving on vessels under their register. (whether 1st or 2nd register)

IMO rules and guidelines are basis for most Maritime Laws, although there may be national requirements that EXCEED IMO requirements.

The problem with banking applies for all US citizens working abroad, but national health insurance may be more relevant for seafarers.

Even if they don’t know about the JA the problem with suing for damaged in US courts for high rewards is well known and feared.
BTW; US companies operating OSVs under foreign flags isn’t too keen on hiring Americans either.

I posted contact details for several crewing agents/managers on another thread some months ago but can’t find it now.
Here is one website that may be of interest if anybody is seriously looking for jobs:

American OSV companies working abroad don’t want to pay American wage levels or get involved in US taxes, social security, retirement plans, etc. for their workers overseas.

Those things are not issues for foreign companies, as long as Americans are willing to accept the wages.

Most Americans could not afford to work for UK wages, or Eastern European wages.

The P&I clubs all know that they have never had to pay a dime on Jones Act claims to anyone working on foreign flag vessels outside the US.

The P&I Clubs have paid claims by American longshoremen and foreign seamen on foreign flag ships, that got hurt in US ports or within US waters.

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I agree completely. The USCG has completely screwed US mariners with its bizarre and ridiculous licensing and certification scheme that is incomprehensible and does not fit the STCW model.


Why do you say this? If one has unlim license with proper STCW endorsements, it’s easy to go work on a foreign flag. The flag state usually recognizes the STCW part of our MMC and issues proper paperwork.

I presume you mean tug / brown water guys when you say “most mariners”. I can’t speak for the drivers, but I think there is a slight bit difference in duties/amount of physical labor done for engineers on a tug, ferry, etc than engineers on a 1000foot ship.

Example: Washington state ferry engineers work 12hrs, I believe. What does their normal workday consist of vs engineers on a ship that spends 95+% of the time with shaft spinning?

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