MEBA or Tugs

I will be graduating later this month with my 3rd A/E; I will be signing up for MEBA upon graduating but being that I will probably be sitting in the hall for a few months, I was wondering if I should sail on tugs for a bit to save some money and then sit at the hall till a job comes up or just sit at the NY hall till something comes up. What are your thoughts?
Side note: I do have a High Voltage Safety cert. from Calhoon and will be going for my Gov. certs in July, any thoughts on how that would hold up against everyone else?

Unless you end up on a ATB, a tug engineer usually does a lot of deck work and is the sole engineer on board. If that doesn’t sound like something you would like, don’t bother.

In a lot of cases you can make wages on tugs competitive with what you would make sailing MEBA, and work shorter hitches/rotations though.

The quality of life can be hit and miss on tugs, especially compared to ships. May have to share a room/head, smaller quarters, no designated cook, etc…

But then again, if working on tugs is only temporary until you ship out i guess everything i said are moot points!

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MEBA has some contracts with tug companies on the west coast. For example FOSS engineers on ship assist tugs in Los Angeles are covered under MEBA contract.

Being a group 3 applicant there would be no issues with you sailing on tugs till you gain traction in the union.

I wouldn’t be overly open with your plan, but you would not be the first or last to do this.

Use the cadet traing program to it’s full potential and get each and every certificate the school offers.

As a MEBA third group 3, something will eventually get to you. You will just need to learn how to survive till that happens.

Hope this helps.

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That means that you are the de facto Chief of that vessel, and if your the vessel that is subject to STCW, you need an STCW endorsement for Chief Engineer, not OICEW.

Chief Engineer on a harbor tug I worked on didn’t even have an MMC at all. Another was a AB.

Most tugs aren’t subject to STCW though.

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If there are something approaching 10,000 “tugs” in the US (counting small and inland vessels), my guess would be that more than half are either under 100 GRT (not that tonnage matters on inland boats) and do not require any MMC, except for the Master and Mate (the operators).

As a wild guess, I’d say that 98% of US tugs are under 200 GRT (or inland), thus not subject to STCW.

My guess would be that less than 100 “tugs” (mostly AHTS and ATBs) in the US are subject to STCW.

The gross registered tonnage of US vessels has been so badly manipulated by owners over the past 50 years with tonnage doors, ballast tanks, deep frames, and so on, that it has become virtually meaningless as an indicator of actual vessel size or complexity.

The result is that in the US, people with very limited certifications can operate fairly large and complex vessels, handling tows of unlimited size, without any STCW.


Tug life, like ship life, can be pretty good, or it can really suck.

If you get on a tug over 4000hp and put in some time, you will soon be a 2AE (and some type of limited Chief) with much better job opportunities.

Thank you all the solid advice, I’ll more than likely sit at the hall till something comes up. It’s a good thing I have patience on my side, I don’t mind the wait.

If you’re in NY there should be some nightwork. So you can make some money while you wait.

If you have the high voltage contact MEBA contracted ATC. They don’t put jobs on the board but the high voltage is a requirement for them. They should also have info at any hall