MSC Pool

Hey, I’ve been retired from MSC for about 5 and 1/2 years now, but I still live within a half hour of the Norfolk pool.

I visited the pool about 2 years ago, didn’t see anybody that I used to know. I’ve been wondering, with the Rona going on, what are the new pool procedures?

Just curious.

Check into the hotel, then do the MSC check-in paperwork via e-mail.

Wow. My hat’s off to ya… I don’t know how people can stand to work there just for an upgrade, let alone a career.

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Those are what the old procedures were, too. I was just wondering if things were different now, because of the pandemic. I thought maybe people wouldn’t be allowed to congregate in the pool, or something like that.

There was a time long ago when they had decided that people could stay in the hotel instead of coming into the pool daily. They just had to make sure they stayed at the hotel, to be available. To be on call. That didn’t work out, because people would go traipsing off all over the place, and people from the pool couldn’t get a hold of them. I thought maybe they would’ve reinstituted something like this.

Uhh have you ever worked for msc as a CIVMAR? MSC is one of the slowest and easiest places to work for the money probably in the country

I guess you’ve never been on a high op-tempo ship before, then. Ammo ship, for example. Just throwing it out there.

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Oh but I have. Have you ever sailed commercial?

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If you have sailed on high op-tempo vessels in MSC, then you know that it is not ‘easy.’

Yes. In the '80s, when it was very tough to break into a union job, I sailed on offshore supply vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, and also on ocean going tugs. These were the tugs that toted jack up drilling rigs around the Gulf of Mexico, and across the Caribbean to places like Pedro Bank off of Jamaica. These were not union jobs.

Always seemed like a coastwise tanker job was more work but that’s all I ever knew…


Son worked ammo ships and tanker replenishment vessels for MSC. Lot of work when they weren’t anchored in Diego Garcia. I did mostly coastwise oil, the shorter runs were very hard on the hours for rest with minimal manning.

Coastwise tanker is way more work than msc. Msc is a bottom feeder job, for everyone up to captain.

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I worked for MSCLANT from 1978-1980. MSCPAC from 1981-1988. I left the MFOW because of the PFEL-States Line bankruptcies and ended up at the “Stripes of Shame”. In 1981 I joined MEBA and shipped out twice before they “absorbed” the BMO. That effectively cut all of us Group 2’s out of meaningful shipping without a shipping card that was at least 9 months old. Back to MSC.

I was first struck at how bad the conditions aboard their ships were- back then 2-3-4 unlicensed to a room. This was normal, especially on the USN conversions. Later, the BS aboard the USNS Mercy and the 68 man community berthing “arrangement” (they were way short on LB tickets and had to hoard extra LB tickets- they needed 68 by USCG regs and only had about a max of 20 in the regular crew)

Getting a relief has ALWAYS been a major problem working for MSC. Getting promoted unless you had a “godfather” was ALWAYS a problem at MSC. Getting time off was ALWAYS a major problem with MSC- on at least four occasions I had the “pleasure” of being on a ship for more than 10 months and was “Demanded” to return after 2-3 weeks off; the Vacation has ALWAYS sucked.

In MSCPAC they had “professional pool rats” that spent a major portion of their career sitting in the pool… These were mostly “connected” unlicensed crew- we 3rd A/E’s had to work aboard ships in Oakland when in the pool- but this wasn’t very often because of the personnel shortages we were shipped out nearly immediately after vacation…

Don’t get me wrong, I met some fantastic people in MSC, people that I still remain friends with today- but then again some of the ex-USN “lifers” were real ballbusters. Also on the positive side- I sailed extensively and was a C/E before age 31- went back to the commercial fleet as a 1st A/E…the advancement by sea time is probably the best in the industry… Do yourself a favor- get in, upgrade, get a license and get out…Probably the best advice I can give… Good Luck.

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I know what period of time you’re talking about, and yes, MSC had all of the problems you talked about. Since this really impacted manning, eventually they decided to see what they could do about it. It’s not perfect now, but it got better. I myself have been retired for about five and a half years now. When I first started, I was in the pool in Oakland. Never managed to get on a ship there. And, as soon as I met a girl there and started living in the Bay Area, of course they closed that pool down.

Unfortunately- I don’t think that they have changed enough. Without mentioning any names, one of their stalwart Captains- was with them over 30 years- a progressive, extremely intelligent gent- amongst the smartest individuals I have ever met- and an excellent Master-

He retired and RAN away from MSC because of their “new” edicts regarding manning, berthing and other decisions- whereby the USN Gold Braiders refused to listen to anything… stuff like doubling up 3rd A/E’s and 3rd Mates in the same room (a practice that left commercial industry in 1969 or so) the brass wanted him as an SME in these areas and they completely ignored his logical input.

And these hybrid USN/Civil Service mixed crews- complete insanity in my mind. No, they wouldn’t listen when they were told that the certain vessels which carried over 50 short tons of ammo wouldn’t be allowed to load at oil terminals, and would have to go to explosive anchorages and lighter… Or the latest edict about restricting even Contract Mariner ROS Crews to their vessels all the while when USN personnel and Contractors freely came and went… No, I don’t believe that have gotten much better.

Their retention rates are living proof of this. They are advertising across the board- all ratings, just like back in the late 70’s and early 90’s during commercial shipping booms…The amount of entry ratings they are attempting to bring in and then train is troubling at best…

I realize what you’re saying Brother- and well appreciate it- even would hope that there’s widespread change for the better, but as long as the MSC hierarchy views organized maritime labor as a problem they have to deal with… nothing will fully change. I advocate transferring every non-unrep ship to commercial operation and bring these professional US Mariners back where they belong…

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Ok, maybe in retrospect I am being a bit harsh… There’s a lot of exceptionally professional MSC Civil Service Mariners (notice I dislike that acronym!) who have long been pioneers in the NFAF world, probably some of the best in the world at underway replenishment…

But the cost savings alone, not too mention the betterment of personnel conditions and assignments would be better served by transferring all of the Sealift, Prepo and “expeditionary” vessels from MSC to MARAD. Also a top to bottom congressional review of the personnel practices and costs of the remaining vessels…

I hold no ill will or disdain toward my former employer- just a clear understanding that commercial shipping, shipbuilding and policy set of practices would serve us all better…

Man, msc is so polarizing. As fun as it has been to read the shoehorned narratives that have been interjected into this conversation. I am also curious about the current pool protocols, which is what this topic was supposed to be about.

Agreed- back to the original thread- I wonder how they are “administrating” the pool in these days of covid dilemma… But then again, given the shortages they’re experiencing- might be that not many are in the pool!
Best of Luck, Happy New Year.

this doesnt exist other than in the EPF fleet where its necessary because of the design and lack of space.

The afloat staffing is something else these days. They’re sending oilers on deployment with three station manning and overdue crew. They’re pulling crew off stateside ships to send them to deployed ships. The office has a goal of keeping the active ships at 85% manning but are unable to meet even that. Bunches of people are being promoted into all sorts of ranks and ratings without even a breath of experience, knowledge or skills for the position.

If China wants to invade Taiwan or Russia wants to try for Ukraine then now would be a great time. MSC couldn’t even muster enough crew to man enough ships to support our Navy. Never mind that the ships are rusting away.

Scuttlebutt is that the “leadership” in the offices see the whole manning problem as an unfortunate Pandemic effect. They don’t see it as the natural result of years of inculcating distrust, disgust and disappointment with the mariners. No, the office “leadership” see themselves as victims. Poor things!

Thank God I don’t ship with MSC anymore.


Oilers on deployment don’t use more than 3 stations at a time usually. Last time I looked at the spreadsheets, most of the active ships were at 90%+. The thing about people getting promoted is true I guess, but I haven’t had much first hand experience with that.