Need help choosing path OS path (just got TWIC card)

I Need help choosing a OS path (just got TWIC card)

Ive recently gotten my TWIC card and applying for MMC soon. Quick backstory, I’m 22 yo and currently make 25$hr. I’m looking into being a merchant mariner (starting as OS deckhand) but am worried about if the job is for me, and because of that, which path I should start with. I’m interested primarily because of the time off as I travel a lot and am in a long distance relationship, the pay is less so of a worry as long as I’m not paid peanuts. I have enough money to wait out for a job but would want one ASAP. Because I’m not sure if I’ll even like the job I don’t want a huge commitment straight off the bat and as a result am not considering military sealift command and college, and probably the SIU apprenticeship (though I can be convinced). I’m based out of SF and these are the options I’ve thought of.

A. Get my VPDSD and STCW courses done and join SUP and wait out in the job hall (but I’ve heard it’s difficult to find a job as an OS with no sea time)

B. Get my first job on the Great Lakes to see if I enjoy working on a ship. And if I do continue working there until I can get enough sea time to get on a ship.

C. Apply to random companies and hope for the best

It’s also important to note I’m doubtful I will stay in the industry past 30yo. Even if I do enjoy the job. So which path seems best and how long do you think it will take to find my first job?

I can’t speak for ships as that isn’t my sector.

Tugs on the other hand are short handed across the board right now and do hire OS with little to no experience. The schedules vary pretty greatly depending on what you do in the tug world.

Ship assist is typically 1-2 weeks on / off.
Bunker boats are 2-3 weeks on / off.
Dredge support and coastal towing is usually 28/28, 45/45.
Long haul and ocean towing tends to be trip work.

Dredging, ship assist, bunker boats are busy enough that you will get good experience quickly. Long haul not so much.

Training seems to be the name of the game currently as the number of applicants with experience can pick the company and job they want. Most have a path from entry level to wherever you might want to end up (wheelhouse or engine)

In your area there are a few options.

Lind Marine (dredging / construction)
Marine Express (General Towing),
Westar (General Towing), Leo (Bunker)
AmNav (ship assist)
Bay Delta (ship assist)
Starlight (ship assist)
Foss (ship assist)
Dutra (dredging / construction),
Brusco (dredging / construction)

Start applying and see what happens. You won’t know what or if you like it until you go to work.

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Different type of vessel has it’s own pros and cons
If you want travel a lot - good option might be going deep sea
I don’t know how long you should wait to get a job in SUP
Maybe a good option might be - try anything to get experience and upgrade to an AB and then go to SUP

But you’ll never know before you try

SUP has a few OS positions on the LMSR’s. Those ships are huge, government owned, military vehicle carriers. Basically, they are floating parking garages. However, if they lose the contract you will be SOL. Great Lakes, bulk cargo carriers is probably your best bet. Everyone talks bad about Grand River Navigation, but you can work a 28/28 schedule (or longer). They are also affiliated with MMP with all the benefits that entails.