Need info from graybeards

Evening fellas,

I’ve got a few questions to ask but ill start with a little background.

Currently working in a dead-end factory job for the last 5yrs where I’m technically unskilled labor. The company where I work trained me to do a job that only they, and their competitors need and forced me into a non-compete contract. AKA I’m only worth money to them. They have me by the shorthairs, and if they want, they can take my pay and I’m back at entry level in another factory, in a different industry. Not two months ago, I heard it through the grapevine that the management is buying Astroglide by the gallon and eyeing me in a less than friendly way in an effort to cut labor costs. Naturally, I’ve been looking for a change in career which led me to the Maritime industry and in turn, gCaptain’s forum.

I started googleing information about maritime jobs. See all this marketing spin about the SIU and other similar establishments. Learn a little about the academies and how Me being 28 is too old for some of them, and how other schools charging $30k annually is a tad too expensive and I’d have to take money out of my personal milk and knitting yarn fund for me to consider jumping back into college. Academies are out of the question or at least a last resort as far as I’m concerned. But these “unions” may be an option, I’m 28, smarter than the average bear, debt free, in reasonable physical condition, accustomed to working 12hr shifts regularly, don’t mind being away from my family for extended periods, handsome, rugged, courteous, well-mannered, the list goes on. I could probably sail through one of these programs with relative ease, but I have reservations about it and a nagging BS alert on my radar.

More googleing and the funny thing is, you cant find any recent info or opinions about them. Sure, they have websites and make claims like “Guaranteed job after completion” “such and such rank in union upon completing course” “I swear I’m a virgin” “Graduates will receive an AB rating” “I’ve only been with two guys” “Free of charge, applicant only pays for uniform” These quotes also seem like the type of things companies would use to entice gullible people. Which leads me to my first series of questions. Of all the BS they’re spouting what is the truth in their claims. Am I going to be able to go through one of the schools and walk out with an AB or QMED rating on my MMC and a rank in a union where I can bid on jobs. What kind of jobs and for what companies? I don’t care if they’re short or long rotations, or if they’re hard or easy jobs. They don’t list the companies they staff for, where I’m looking. I’m hoping the diversity of people in the industry on gCap can shed some light on this for me. I’m not trying to piss off or disrespect the unions and their members, there is just not a lot of information on their websites available to me it seems like everything is hidden behind closed doors.

Say I go another way and I get my MMC and want to get work as an OS working my way up as high as i am able. I researched for hours, hitting up all the big “job sites”, and “careers” sections of shipping companies looking for jobs. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but there aren’t many posted. Are all of these staffed by the unions or is there no demand? Whats going on here? Even if I look for jobs that need an AB unlimited or limited jobs very few jobs are posted. Are they only through unions? Am I asking the wrong questions? There are plenty of random guys on the internet trying to sell E-books on how to join maritime for like $10 or so but I would bet my bottom dollar they’re a scam. Any help is appreciated here.

Another option I looked into was drilling work, found out that drilling rigs are sea vessels. Can you claim sea-time on drilling rigs on your MMC? I’m still in the early stages of looking into this job. Sorry if I’m a moron.

I see a lot apprentice programs for maritime jobs in England but I don’t think foreigners are allowed to apply. Is there anything like that in the U.S. of A? Any foreign schools that do that sort of thing that accept Americans?

Is maritime all its cracked up to be? I don’t think im romanticizing this career and trying to sell it to myself I understand that it is hard work and that is what I’m after, work. It is just work that I think would be “better” than where I’m at currently. Additionally companies cant take away sea-time and training you’ve completed so you can’t work. Any myths you want to dispel for a greenhorn? Please, show me where I’m thinking wrong or correctly. You don’t have to hold my hand just point me in the right direction. Provide me any resource you see fit to help learn about the industry.

Final question, How long in the industry before seamen stops being funny.

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there are no openings a this time…not today, not tomorrow, not ever again

and please don’t hang around here expecting things to change for the better because they ain’t about to

Not trying to sound like a dick, but the information is here at your fingertips already. I’d say at least weekly, the same answers are given to the same questions. Over, and over, and over.

If your question about how to break into the maritime industry was a song, it would be the equivalent of pink floyd’s wish you were here. Played out.


Fair enough.

there is this one place hiring which I found for you to apply with


You’re not sounding like a dick. Just like you’re tired of replying to these kinds of post and I understand why. I searched most of my questions on here and didn’t find much but that was about a week ago. I got a wild hair tonight and typed this out without searching again. I’ve found Snakenbush’s post after your reply.

Some of the questions I ask haven’t been answered on forum though. Some have, but I was wanting an opinion from someone who has went through one of the union training Schools

Essentially they were
Is SIU legit?
Forum search shows most recent relevant post answers some of my questions but not “what companies do they staff?”

Why can’t I find maritime jobs through the traditional methods? Is it because the unions do all the staffing for entry level or is it because no entry level jobs exist?
No relevant posts within a few years.

Can you claim time on drill rigs as sea time?
No relevant posts within a few years.

Are there any USA based apprenticeships similar to the kind you find in England?
No relevant posts.

What are some gripes about the job?
Gonna be honest didnt search this before hand to make sure it hadn’t been asked. Sure I could look for em though.

Any myths you want to dispel for a greenhorn?
Not been asked.

How long in the industry before seamen stops being funny?
Never been asked before.

I’ll look into that thanks.

Get your mmc and twic. Start applying at tug companies as an entry level deckhand. If you can get a evening or weekend job on a larger tour boat while you are still working you will get some knowledge of terminology and line handling. Read about the part of the industry you are interested in getting into. Work a couple of years on some crappy old tugs that shouldn’t even be legal then move on to bigger and better things.

Total investment @$500.

STCW costs more and could help you get hired depending on where you apply. Not needed for some areas and jobs so research before you pay for schools.

Enlist in the navy or CG?

Or Army.

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Ive been lurking this forum for a little over two years now - created an account a while ago to ask my own questions - but my piece of advice to offer you is that the vast majority of the users here “greybeards” are not going to help you or offer anything constructive. They did it ALL ON THEIR OWN back in the day, so thats how they choose to lens your inquiries. Ive taken to reading memoirs of mariners past and from the 1800s to now the oldt timers have been saying the same thing “pick a different career - its not like what it used to be”. The same bitching and bemoaning ad infinitum.

Now Im not offering any sort of expertise in the industry only my sordid understanding so far. As im going into the SIU unlicensed apprentice program soon, ive spent quite a bit of time perusing information and reading others experiences on gaining entry into this hidden industry. So ill extend what little ive gathered for your questions.

Is SIU legit?
Yes it is legit - as ive been told a hundred times so far “its what you put into it” if you go through their apprenticeship youll get the B book for your seniority and from a couple guys who *graduated within the last few years that ive talked to they stated they havent had trouble getting work from the halls. Granted the program is more expensive than just the uniforms. All the prereqs (medical/dental/certifiations and licenses) add up, and what they dont tell you on their webpage is in addition to the uniforms there is a shopping list of items you must obtain prior to going which for me was just over 400$ on top of all the other costs. Training time at sea counts for 3x the normal seatime and SIU’s program counts as training time at sea so the upgrade to AB or QMED will be within reach at the end of the program. From there you can continue your schooling for upgrades and certs through SIU’s school for free, but on your free time between contracts at sea.

(*: “Graduation” really isnt the word as once you complete all phases you just become an official member and depending on the bust or boom as it is getting through all phases has no real time limit except that you have 1 year from phase three or something to complete phase 5. Read their program info for more info.)

Why can’t I find maritime jobs through the traditional methods?
A lot of tug companies have online applications but arent hiring and if they are they want an AB to work as an OS. A few that i found that are willing to hire an OS “greenhorn” want you to have your STCW95(Basic safety training) which can be done for anywhere between 800-1200 dollars from the different places that offer the program across the country. Theres an alaskan shipping company “Coastal Shipping” based out of seattle - their websites hiring requirments are a funny and enjoying read (seems like a company id love to work for personally) - but they only hire close to summer and its only seasonal work unless they really like you. They do have an apprenticeship program each summer aimed at college kids but make exceptions. Otherwise they do claim to hire a few greenhorns each season.

your other questions i cant confidently answer.
Hope that helps in any little way possible for you.

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Show up to the companies in person or stop by the union halls. They will tell you what they want and what you need. You may have to apply on their websites as a formality, but searching for jobs online is a waste of time if you ask me. That is unless you are applying for govt jobs. Then go to Maybe others That require internet only applications, but I have no experience with them.

There is more than enough information here that has accumulated over the years that can steer any prospective mariner in the myriad of directions to take in regards to pursuing a career on the water.
I will admit that info regarding sailing deep sea is on the lean side if we compare it to the workboat jobs that involve limited licenses.

I’m not one of the greybeards that’s going to say don’t waste your time. However I will suggest to avoid hawsepiping. If I could turn back the clock I would have taken advice given to me in regards to going to an academy. Many companies favor academy grads over hawsepipers regardless of merit and/or experience and it will end up being expensive either way whichever route you decide.
No matter what your choice is, you need to make sure this is what you want to do 110% because you have to invest an awful lot over a lot of time to get anywhere these days, and have a lot of patience handy.


Your reply is one of the better replies I have seen here on this forum for a new guy.
We all forget that unless you are born into it or know someone getting a job in any endeavor is tough. Not having knowledge is tougher. Sharing one’s knowledge takes patience which is a trait most of us on this forum lack, not because we are gray beards, some of us are just assholes. Explaining search features on a web page is not easy if you are doing so to someone who not been exposed to much internet or they were too busy working, we forget that sometimes. A few of the best workers I have ever seen came from bumfuck USA where I doubt they have internet today and some that had internet were too busy busting their ass working to have time to sit and go thru 5+ years of forum BS.


Thanks for the advice.

This is exactly what I wanted. Thanks, I appreciate the time you took to write it out for me and understanding that I am limited in my availability of places find information.

Thanks, this is some solid advice in gerneral and was my next plan if I continued to run into obstacles in my search.

Thanks. You’re exactly right about the wealth of information on here. I was searching for the wrong things and not reading deep enough into the posts and replies. I have learned a little more and I think I’m on the right track but I still have more to read.

I appreciate the honesty about hawsepiping. I had been mulling that over because I am somewhat educated and don’t mind learning things on my own.

Right now, I am doing exactly what you’re suggesting. I am making exactly sure this is something I want to jump into 100%. As far as graybeards like C.cap telling me to not waste my time. I know they’re saying it out of kindness or pity or warning. I poured through c.caps posts last night and you can tell he is very passionate about the industry and he has seen it at its highest and lowest points. He might be forgetting that if he wants a man to take up his cause after he ends up in the “cardboard box” he needs to be a few young men in the industry with a spine, a dick, and a brain to carry on.

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Thanks. I understand, I’m an asshole too. A very patient and careful asshole.

Sussing information from graybeards is difficult work but worth every ounce of effort and more. I’ve been doing it for a while and they all hate my guts at first but can’t keep it up if I am undeniable by the amount of effort I show and in the use of what few secrets they let loose.

I am too busy working to be digging through 5yrs of forum BS but I won’t let something that minor stop me, some of you guys are pretty funny and interesting to read. Even the Norwegian guy that everyone hates shares some great pictures and stories. He still manages to sound like a prick 90% of the time though.

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Thanks. I am currently looking into Navy and USCG. I hadn’t considered the Army until Chief suggested it. Gonna do some studying and take the practice ASVAB and weigh my options after. I do know that I like working in and around huge hunks of metal and free education and training.