MEBA or AMO or Non-union

<font color="#000000]Hopefully this generates some responses. It appears that mates/ABs are the primary contributors here, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I just wrote my 3rd A/E Unlimited license (Steam and Motor) and I’m searching for work. However, I’m at a stand-still as I don’t know which route to go. I am unaware of what opportunities MEBA offers (specifically for new applicants), how the system works, etc. If I have to sit in the hall and wait for jobs every time I want to go to work, how long, on average, does one have to wait? Since I don’t reside near a hall, hotel bills, flights, etc. could add up over time. AMOs option of calling me at home is appealing, but that leads to its own issues. </font>

<font color="#000000]AMO seems decent, aside from the fact that they offer virtually no courses for engineers in FL or OH. It’s almost like the engineers are the red-headed stepchild of the organization. They want refrigeration certification for ocean jobs, but they don’t offer it as a course. OK, that’s not hard to get, but it’s the principle. I’m trying to stay away from the MARAD-contracted ships, preferring the commercial side of the industry. </font>

<font color="#000000]I can pay any initiation fee(s) in full upon joining. Any suggestions?</font>

<font color="#000000]That leads me to the non-union issue. I understand there is a lot or work</font> <font color="#000000]in the Gulf, but the offshore/supply boat sector is something completely new to me. All of my experience is on large commercial ships. Obviously the money issue is what has me considering this option.</font> <font color="#000000]That said, I wrote my license so I don’t have to do certain things anymore, predominantly sharing a room. Forgive my ignorance, but is a dedicated cook a part of the normal crew compliment? I’ve heard the stories of everyone sharing cooking detail, which could be a problem for me (I live out of the freezer). Would my unlimited license qualify me for employment on something larger than a crew boat? I have to assume it would affect the pay to some extent.</font>

<font color="#000000]I realize union topics can present some issues, which I don’t mean to exploit, but any honest opinions or suggestions are welcome. I don’t have a preference to any options, just want to explore all avenues before I decide. </font> <font color="#000000]I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to work for a non-union company, providing the pay/benefits are in line or above normal.</font>

<font color="#000000]Thanks for the help in advance.</font>


I can’t give you insight on the unions or supply vessels but can help with the offshore drilling industry. Perks include not paying dues, getting your training paid for in whichever city you choose to go to (plus school pay too), a regular rotation (usually 21/21 domestically or 28/28 int’l), etc. Oh… you’ll get your own room for the 12 hours you’re not working and they’ll have a stewards department to clean up after you, make your bed, and cook dinner too.

Companies such as Transocean, Diamond, Ensco, and Sea Drill are all looking for licensed engineers on DP drillships and semi-submersibles all of the time. Check out their company websites or for job information. They may expect you to start at oiler but promotions are rapid in the current market if you prove your abilities. Transocean has 8 newbuilds under construction that will need full marine crews over the next few years.

All jobs have their downsides. As an engineer on one of these vessels you’ll be processing the crap of 160 or so people instead of 20 something on your merchant vessel. Good luck in your job search.


I’ve sailed union and non-union and prefer sailing union MEBA. They are a top notch outfit with Calhoun School of Engineering being one of the best in the world. The dues aren’t even enough to be a factor and the initiation fee you pay when you get beyond the applicant level. You begin sailing as an applicant and try it out. Of course in the beginning you aren’t going to get the choice jobs and top pay. Those come with time and experience. The benefits are excellent and the pension is very good. You can sail for many different companies and all the while be working toward a full pension. I have found MEBA to be a very professional outfit with top notch engineers. MM&P has signed a memorandum of understanding with MEBA which basically says they’ll help each other out supplying qualified mariners for each others contracts. MEBA members get first crack at Calhoun so if you’re non-union you may not get into the course you need. Calhoun is presently the only school offering all the courses for STCW for engineers so that’s something to consider. For engineers MEBA is the way to go in my opinion unless you want to work in the oil industry.

Good Luck


Your post reads exactly like what I would have asked, but I guess I was too timid. Anyways I hope the OSV guys can weigh in because I am very curious how that industry handles new 3rd a/e’s especially with all the new class requirements to upgrade to first assistant. I also just got my 3rd license just like you and just joined MEBA which seems like a good deal. I’m actually waiting to get out of the Navy, and have been able to work one day job through the Union which was good experience and good money. FYI MEBA has inport night relief and day work jobs that randomly pop up which you can take when you’re in between assignments. Don’t know what to tell you about the logistics of hanging around a hall when you don’t have friends/family near by, and you might be hanging around the hall for up to two weeks waiting for a job, possibly more. I’ve watched two 3 a/e jobs come and go in the last 2 weeks, but I’m stuck with uncle sam right now.

Glad to see some engineers on here!

New Engineer- I guess I will chime in for the OSV’s. With a 3rd A/E most any OSV company would love to have you. The Benefit of a 3rd A/E is you are not limited to tonnage or horsepower, which is an issue with most of the Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessels operating in the GOM. Even though you can not sail as Chief it doesn’t matter. On the vessel I work on we have 4 to 5 licensed engineers on all the time. There is a lot of equipment. Hydraulics, refrigeration, electronics, MAK’s 6M43, CAT’s3512’s, 600 ton winches, all kinds of neat stuff that breaks and has to be fixed. So for a 3rd A/E an AHTS would be a great place to learn and work. We try to accommodate officers and I have been here on this vessel for almost five years and have never seen an officer bunked up. This is not an industry standard for OSV’s (SImply because of the availability of rooms), but it is understood that some dues have been paid. The pay would be near the Chief level with the OSV’s. There is not much of a separation in pay. With my company “Chouest” the pay would be between 540 to 570 per day. Health, Dental, Optical, Pharmacy is competetive for this industry, but not spectacular. 401K with company match of 50cents per dollar up to 6 %. I would love to see that improved to dollar for dollar up to the maximum allowed by the IRS. I have heard rumors that a Company on the Bayou is paying 675 per day for engineers, Gulf Offshore Logistics GOL. I can not verify that. Then you have the mud boats. There is not much to them. Your main function is preventive Maintanance and product loading and discharge. You will be responsible of bulk discharge, Liquid mud, fuel, water, chemicals. That is the main function. Product delivery to rigs. Depends on what you want. Right now the OSV industry is strong and deepwater doesn’t seem to have and end in sight. The rotations are normally 28 days on 14 days off. Your are normally assigned to a particular vessel and return to that vessel each time. You can work as much as you like though. Some companies are 14 and 14. Some 28 and 28. Good Luck!

NewEngr; There are a bunch of new postings for engineer jobs on the gCaptain job mashup link today.

<font color="#000000]Thanks to everyone with your responses so far. I’ve been in touch with several companies over the past few months and I’ve been leaning towards MEBA, but I wanted to hear from a few members first. Anyone have an idea what the typical jobs/companies/rotations the applicants usually get stuck with? Good thing I’m relocating as I was unaware that it could be two weeks or longer for a job through the hall!


<font color="#000000]The offshore/OSV sector would be interesting, and I thank those who offer input. The AHTS jobs would be great, those Chouest icebreakers are nice as well (yes, I know all about working an icebreaker job), but I can’t help feeling I would get stuck on a small crewboat. Capt Lee, you mentioned the single-room issue is not standard on OSVs, or did I read that wrong? Again, not the end of the world, but with insurance premiums coming out of my check, and sub-standard 401K offerings, there would need to be a few perks to entice me away from what I’m used to. Yes, the pay is nice. Your figures are higher than the C/E’s wages on my last ship (an 800’ merchant). The non-rotary shipping is a big perk too.</font>

<font color="#000000]I’m learning more about the offshore every day. Is my license valid on the drillships, or does that get into the whole MODU issue? </font>

<font color="#000000]Thanks again for all your comments. It’s nice to hear from a wide range of people and their employers.</font>

<font color="#000000]Steve</font>


New Engineer,

Having worked with MEBA and before that with the offshore supply industry I can say either offers a decent pay check. However, as someone else said, you have to consider total compensation such as percent paid time off, the quality of benefits and pension. On the OSVs life can be simpler, you will not often find heat recovery water makers or evaporators or RO units. There is often times no MSD and the regulations are much more lax. On the OSVs you don’t even have to take a fuel sample and hold for the USCG in event of a spill. Also, OSVs don’t carry survival suits for their crew as they are specifically exempt from having to carry them at any latitude so no more survival suit drills. It’s a different world. While the OSVs have their advantages for engineers and allow you to work with a limited license most companies know that the OSV guys don’t have the variety of experience that the ocean going vessels provide. So if you stay on an OSV too long you will find it hard to make a direct crossover-though not impossible. Companies naturally prefer people with experience similar to that of the vessel they are being hired for. I imagine the same would hold true for those crossing from ships to supply boats.

Guest Engineer


“Also, OSVs don’t carry survival suits for their crew as they are specifically exempt from having to carry them at <strong>any</strong> latitude so no more survival suit drills” <strong>Wrong </strong>

Immersion Suits are not required when vessel is operating between 32 degrees north and 32 degrees south latitude <strong>only</strong>.

Something that you might not know about OSVs ( because regs. are nearly the same as merchant ships in todays industry)

  1. Larger OSVs are dual classed under sub-chapter L and sub-chapter I. By the USCG “vessel must conform at all times to the most stringent design and equipment standards of the applicable rules and regulations including SOLAS regardless of which service the vessel is in at any given time.”

  2. Bridge officers on some of these OSVs must take yearly physicals to comply with the same federal law as bar pilots becuase they are considered to “serves as pilots” when they bring in their OSVs to the dock if the vessel is over 1,600 ton domestic.


Correct. Now, immersion suits are not required on OSVs in the Gulf or Mexico OR 32N&32S on other routes. They are the only vessels I am aware of with that specific exemption.

Guest Engineer

Guest Engineer,

The exemption for survial suits is for any cargo vessel that meet the requirements of SOLAS. Ref ChapterIII 3.3 “constantly engaged on voyages in warm climates where, in the opinion of the administration, immersion suits are unnecessary”

Just have to read. And yes, that’s in regard to the July 01,2006 carriage requirements…for any cargo vessel, container ship, or Ro Ro.

OSVs just exercise the exemption more often because they generally work within a geographical area for the most part of their service life (usually less than 200nm from the port)


MMP has some Engineering jobs, too, but also has a pass-through agreement with MEBA, which often results in MEBA applicants getting the jobs MMP can’t fill on their own ships.

A 3AE unlimited can make a LOT of dough on some of the better MEBA ships- more than AMO ships, anyhow. Although I’m not a big fan of some of MEBA’s practices (they stole a lot of ships 20 years back, (and started the unscrupulous practices of undercutting that go on today), MEBA’s million-dollar retirement payoff is still the best pension in the industry, and, as far as I know, the most secure.


Last comment on immersion suits. I understood that all vessels over 500 tons were to have them except OSVs, perhaps I’m mistaken. None the less, I have not been on vessel without a survival suit for a few years now and most of these ships traveled well within the 32N and 32S latitudes exclusively. We drill with those hot suits on a regular basis. There are waters within those latitudes in the winter months that can kill you in short order without a survival suit. Though the OSV companies may not be legally required to carry them for their crew it would be a good idea and it would indicate the value they placed on their crew. Not everything legal is a good idea.

Good Luck,

Guest Engineer


Good to hear a lot of this information. I just got my 3rd A/E License in June and worked for a salvage company in GOM. The pay was better than most of my classmates except for the ones that went for 6 months with MSC. I am trying to stick to a fairly short rotation, about 2 months max and still make decent money. I am having the same conflict of which union to join if any. I would like to be on a deep sea vessel for the quality of life but most of them require 4 month rotations. Which union has the most companies who offer short rotation jobs? I have heard that the MEBA hall in San Juan is lacking engineers for the inport day/night watches, but it would be hard to show at the hall in PR everyday. And if i remember correctly, they pay about 50/hr? I do have family close enough to the Boston and New York hall to try those consistently, any recommendations on which halls have more opportunities coming in? Any input from you more seasoned engineers from either union would help with my decision. I plan on joining one of them this week. Thanks.



WHY WHY WHY do some unions still require you to go to a stupid union hall. I know the answer is the grayed hair A book crowed but come on.

If you have an A book and you vote against moving the Job call to the internet YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!

If you have an A book you’re still getting the job in the port you register for and if you’re not great with computers you could still go to the hall daily and get help from the people there.

The amount of man hours wasted sitting around hall is an absolute waste!!!