MSC Questions


Hello All,

     I'm about to make the leap from the Aviation sector to the Maritime sector.  I've wanted to get a Mates license for some time, and see MSC as a clear cut avenue to make AB, then accrue the sea time and train/test at PMI or MITAGS for the AB to Mate program.   To me this was the only abvious way to become a 3M unlimited within about 5 years or so, given my situation.  

    That's the plan, just getting a sanity check from those with alot more experience.  

    Thanks in advance for replies,



SMART MOVE!! The rust buckets in the commerical fleet are undermanned and mostly falling to pieces. With MSC we have just the right number of people to do the job PROPERLY and we attract the best and the brightest mariners. The rust bucket mates sit around compaling about missing their friends with MSC your with your friends! Plus you get to do cool stuff the other guys never dreamed of doing.

My Suggestion** Go Rub Your Balls In Grease and sign up.



Seaman Lawrence is the exact reason you want to avoid MSC.


Rub balls in grease? Hmmm…

ChMate; I could use more info, and anyone else out there, I’m looking for useful information that might help me for future decisions. Any help is greatly appreciated. It’s very safe to say that you know more than me, so please share any useful info, I may not be the only one interested in this.




There are plenty of positions available in the GOM Oil Patch. A lot of the vessels qualify under unlimited tonnage as well. I am not sure if you have considered this option, but you could get a AB OSV in as little as 6 months. Starting pay ranges from 155 per day for an OS to 270 per day and higher for an AB working a 28 days on 14 days off schedule. Most of them have ravel allowances. Edison CHouest Offshore, Otto Candies, Guidry Brothers, Seacor Marine and a ton of other smaller companies. All non union work and probably easier going bridge crews who most all of which started from the deck and worked their way up. You coud be in the wheel house in maybe three years if you worked hard. I do not work on ships, but there seems to be some disdain for some one uneducated trying to elevate themselves to the same level of a Ringknocker, but hey what do I know. One of these Captains (SHIPS) said I am not even qualified to run as an AB. And I have ten years of experience running as a Captain. Guess I am just not smart enough to sit at the cool kids table. Just don’t let anyone say you can’t do this or you can’t do that. A lot of guys in this industry try to put themselves on a pedestal and make everyone believe that pushing a piece of steel through the water safely is equivalent to the launching of Atlantis into space.



I don’t know too many Kings Pointers in the oil patch.

“Cool kid’s patch”

The problem is that people take it as “us vs them” which is BS.
The fact is that every group of people has it’s nice guys and jerks. I know a
guy who changed his magazine subscriptions from “John Doe” to
"Captain John Doe" once he got his master’s license, then another guy
who was captain on a drillship say that John Doe couldn’t call himself captain
then a third prick working tankers who said the drillship captain hadn’t earned
the title till he made 3 voyages overseas. I’m sure Capt. Smith of a the
titanic thought tanker guys were hacks.

But this isn’t an “Unlimited” thing it’s a people thing. As second
mate I took a class with two workboat captains who were jr captains (ie they
weren’t even in command of the boat). They called me “mate” all week
but insisted I call them captain. F that! I had a 1600 ton master’s license and
stood a watch just like them. Another work boat captain told me I’ve never
"worked" for a living. He’s obviously never been chief mate on a valve
turner or went to college for a degree only to spent the first two years in
bilges behind a needle gun.

The river flows both ways.

The best captain I ever worked for had two quotes: “My name is Jim. <span> </span>Captain is what they call you in
court." and <span> </span>“Being
a Captain is like being a pretty girl, if you have to tell people you are, your

<p class="MsoNormal]
Anyway Aero-Nautical had
a question and my answer is if you want an easy assignment with good port time
but don’t mind working more than your home or dealing with guys in uniform then
go MSC. If you want to really learn the profession then join a union and sail
as many different ships as you can. If your only interest is in building
seatime then do something offshore where you get time-and-a-half seatime and
better pay. The only reason you advance faster in MSC is that you work more
months on then you’re off. There is nothing stopping you from working extra
hitches offshore or for a union and accomplishing the same goal.


“ringknocker” funny you should mention that. The best and worst captains I ever worked for were Kings Pointers. One wore his ring everywhere and yelled at jr mates when they didn’t address him as captain. The other only talked about the school when making fun of himself or his classmates like the time when the KP cadet showed up for work in his school issued white boiler suit! He gave him hell for that. You can guess which one I thought was better.


<p class="MsoNormal]
“ringknocker” funny you should mention that. The
best and worst captains I ever worked for were Kings Pointers. One wore his
ring everywhere and yelled at jr mates when they didn’t address him as captain.
The other only talked about the school when making fun of himself or his
classmates like the time when the KP cadet showed up for work in his school
issued white boiler suit! He gave him hell for that. You can guess which one I
thought was better.

<p class="MsoNormal]
Areo- I might be wrong but I don’t think MSC is willing to
pay everyone for the license training classes. You should find out since they
are not cheap and many company’s and all the unions will send you to them for


To ds:

 I totally agree with your comments about individuals. FYI, I know a few King Pointers in the oil patch. One was &lt;font size="2]validictorian of his senior class. &lt;/font&gt;


DS, Cpt Lee, Celest, anchor,

Good info, there are some things here I didn't really know.  I'm interested in learning this profession the right way, and thought MSC would have some top notch training--the Coast Guard thinks so, right?  I'd like to be comfortable as a Mate, with solid training behind me.   The advice to join a union and ship out with alot of different companies is interesting, but I'd like a little stability (used to it from the military).  Wouldn't you be worried about a paycheck if you did that?  

Can anyone expound upon some of the training programs you've seen at different companies?  I'd appreciate it, and  coming from this group, there's a whole lot of insight that's not found eslewhere on the web. 

Schedules, pay, and anything else you consider important is welcome.

Keep the info coming, I'm processing all of it, and it's appreciated greatly!  



If you like military routine then MSC is a good option.

“Wouldn’t you be worried about a paycheck if you did that?” Depends. I’ve never heard of anyone too hard up for work with AMO. Plus they have a lot of military contracts (just avoid the TAGOS ships if you can). MM&P often has alot of out-of-work mates sitting in union halls.

“Can anyone expound upon some of the training programs you’ve seen at different companies?” The unions pay for all your tuition&book fees and give you free lodging & meals if you go to their school.

“Schedules, pay, and anything else you consider important is welcome.” check out this post:

Hi all,

Thanks for all your input Gentlemen! Several of you mentioned some things I wasn’t aware of, and I appreciate that you took the time to write them down.

I’m glad there’s a place to go on the net, where one can go to find out how this industry works, and the people who frequent this website seem to have the pulse of the industry. I’ll keep an eye out.

Many Thanks,



Here is an interesting post I found on Fred Fry’s Maritime Monday 66:

[Officer reviews of MSC on Job Vent Website](" title="job vents Military sealift command)


<strong></strong>Hello --AN

Here’s my advice for your career advancement. First you should be aware that if you join MSC with anything less then than Able Seaman’s /oilers document in your pocket you will be washing dishes or serving food with just the hopes of maybe being recognized and promoted to the deck or engineering departments. Remember, your sea time for either the deck or engineering departments will not start until you have secured a position in one of these respective departments. I’ve seen many good men and women, brighter and more ambitious than I, fail and leave MSC. So here’s what I suggest. Go to the Gulf of Mexico, do a little bitter research into what company is using the latest and greatest equipment, and ask them for a job as a deckhand. If you really want to work for them, just keep asking, don’t give up. The Gulf of Mexico is a wonderful place to break-in to the maritime field. You will advance A/B before you know it. If you like it , you may stay five or 10 years becoming an expert boat handler. If after you get your able Seaman’s license you still want to work aboard a ship, MSC is a great place. They have more equipment (toys) financing(US government) and training available than in the private sector. You hear a lot about ships versus boats or boats versus ships and all that. The thing is that on boats in the private sector there is only a handful of people to do all the work aboard so you learned everything. On ships it’s like a giant city where you do your part but you don’t necessarily see the whole picture. Anyway, like he was told to me" it’s all good".

Good luck


Thanks John and Scott,

Good posts above.  Common thread is that time off is a problem.  Roger that.  

MSC has a program called ordinary seaman advancement program (osap), which pretty much requires you to become an AB within 2 years. You start as an OS, and work in the deck department, not as a cook (you get hired into the deck department--they hire chef's seperately).   After making AB, you ship out until you have 3 years total sea time (approx), one year must be sailing as an AB.  From the start of the program, and with MSC's schedule (sailing 8 months a year), it would take 4.5 years total to accrue the sea time (my best guess--worst case).   After that, it's off to PMI or MITAGS for 6 months and 25-30,000 dollars worth of training, then sit for the exam to become a 3rd Mate.  MSC will pay for the license, but requires a commitment on your part after that (not sure of the required time).  It seems a solid way to get a 3rd Mate unlimited license, albiet with some pain.  

  I printed off the posts on that jobvent forum John, for reference.  Good info.



Good info! Do you happen to have a link to a webpage with info on the program? It would be a good reference for future forum viewers!

 Yessir John,

  The link is at: [](

   That link will tell you about the OSAP program for MSC, but not about PMI/MITAGS, the cost, the required time for 3rd mate and how long you must sail as an AB, nor the MSC schedule and amount of time it would take to get all this accomplished.  I'm not even close to being a know it all about this stuff though.  

    I still have questions about: 

How sea time is logged on MSC ships (1 vs 1.5 days credit)?

The no kidding actual amount of time most people get off between 4 month trips?

Time you owe if you allow MSC to pay for your license?

The above are pretty basic things, but I still don’t know them.





The no kidding actual amount of time most people get off between 4 month trips?”

The no bull answer: the basic rule of thumb for new hires is 1 weekday of leave for every 10 days out. This is combined Shore and Annual leave for weekdays off. That is, you work the minimum 120 days on, you’re guaranteed 12 weekdays off. So depending on what day of the week you get off, about 2 1/2 weeks. Thats all you are guaranteed.

How that works: The official policy is that you will accrue 1 day of Annual leave per month (whether on a ship or not), and 1 day of Shore leave per 15 days on a ship, it works out to about 1:10 when you’re onboard. You also accrue 13 days of sick leave a year that you could technically use as well. They won’t call you before your leave ends. But when it does, unless you’ve requested Leave Without Pay (LWOP) before then, they’ll send you orders to report somewhere, either to a ship, or to the waiting pool (affectionately referred to as “The Pool”) in Norfolk or San Diego, and you’ve gotta go. (it really is just a big waiting room, and its not really fun) Because you see, you get paid for 365 days a year, so you’re on their time when you’re leave runs out. You can request unpaid leave, or use your sick leave if an emergency comes up. Unpaid leave is discretionary to the manning situation at the time and you have to request it prior to your regular leave running out, or else they might assign you somewhere. I’ve heard of guys taking up to 2 months unpaid leave, but an MSC detailer told me they tend to discourage anything over 30 days. Theres a lot of little things that can get ya if you’re not careful, it is the gov’t after all. So all in all, plan for 2.5 weeks, dont expect to get more than 1.5 months.

MSC seatime is 1 for 1, nothin fancy. Unless you’re like me, on a fleet ocean tug at the pier, ill be getting 1 day of seatime for every 3 starting next month, yay.

I dont know much about the OS-mate program, but during orientation they did hark on the fact that you must get all training approved prior to actually doing it, or else they might stick you with the bill, so be careful. It also sounded like they would reimburse you for the costs, not pay upfront, not too sure tho.



I can’t compound much about the mates, but as a third a/e with MSC, it’s tolerable. guest above me mentiones a lot, but just remember that they will only advance you when they NEED you. Just because you want to become ab or third mate, doesn’t mean that you will get it. If you have a third mate’s license, they won’t automatically sail you as a third mate.



i was the first guest… i actually have a story about that… i was once confronted by a few recent MSC hawsepipers demanding how i got my job as a 3/m straight out of school… they were obviously mad that they had gone through all the effort of getting their license and msc wouldnt hire them as a permenant officers, i would be too. MSC needs ABs and officers , but they have a fairly straight forward and easy job grabbing new grads to fill in the jr officer ranks (like they did this year and a few years back, just pump up the recruitment and whamo, tons of new officers), ABs are a little harder to come by and just as important to getting the job done, the guest above is right, they might want to keep you as an AB anyhow, theres no guarantee on promotions. And again, as the other guest mentioned… its what THEY need, you usually dont have much say.