Newbie to commercial side

Thanks for all the previous info I have read. I would consider myself a newbie to “commercial” boat work. I just got my AB unlimited, RFPNW, BST, PSC, TWIC all finalized after a year of paper and NMC dramma. I have been running inspected passenger/fishing boats 100 ton master, near coastal. I live up in Alaska. Short stint in Army watercraft field. Anyhow, now I am coming to this side of the field from small boat operation. I am considering doing my Adv. Fire, Med. Care Provider, Radar, BRM and then testing for 500. I am 34 bachelor degree yadayadayada. So, is work fairly scarce or good to get??? Should I join a union? Just start knocking on doors. I would prefer a 14/14 or 28/14 schedule. I have no problem flying/travel to were I need to work.

Glad to have found this site while searching the net.

Anyone feel free to give their 2cents on what they would do. Up for suggestions.


I’m glad that you’ve found this site. It’s been a great help to me and I’m an old guy in the buisness.

You have excellent credentials. Scan through the earlier forum pages and many questions you might have will be answered.

Do not worry about unions. If the company wants to hire you, and their employees are represented by unions, you will have an chance to join. Many companies avoid having to deal with health insurance, pensions, 401k etc, by allowing the unions to handle this. Some unions have great training programs and some, well… Sometimes unions can be helpful because of the portability of benefits if you change employers who use the same union. This can allow you to have continuity of benefits and pension as you transition between employers. Some union expenses are deductible, check with a good bean counter tax guy. Some are mentioned on this forum

If you don’t find work this week or next week or the following week, do not despair. My experience has been, after starving to death and considering asking congress for a bailout, the companies all seem to call within hours of each other and “they” need you, “immediatly.” Don’t get freaked out by geographical distances, jump on a plane. They have bars in airports for guys flying home on their time off.

Every company wants you to think that if you leave them, you will never find another job, screw 'em. If they treat you badly, move on. Just like hookers and taxi cabs, there will always be another on the next block.
Good luck

There’s wisdom in them thar words.

I have been patiently waiting for my ducks to line up. Business is business and I will give 100%, but won’t play many stupid games. Lots of good info on here…i have made it to page 4… lots of reading and many questions answered, but I will still take all opinions.

So far I have come to the conclusion I will drive on over to Louisiana mid Jan after visiting family in Houston area and see what transpires.

Question: If I took a job before doing my Radar, Adv. Fire, MCProvider, BRM and study/test for 500 would I have time after I started work? I would not think so and then would be at the mercy of the company for getting time for the courses.

I have the finances and time to take the 4 classes, study class (4weeks) and test starting Feb 09. Would you do it now or wait?


If you plan to test anytime in the next 3 to 4 months, you need to get your application in ASAP, because you’re going to be sitting on your thumbs waiting for approval. One of the most frustrating aspects of getting yourself up to speed with your license, STCW, and document is the NMC. It doesn’t matter a bit if you’re ready to roll, you’re going to be wating on them to get your application approved and back to you. The approval process can literally take months. It makes a huge difference if you have everything in order when you apply, so they can’t kick anything back.

I would try to get on with a company that would pay for courses or offers reimbersement as part of a training program. Why pay out of your pocket? Most companies realize that courses do not fall exactly on the dates most accomodating for the mariner and tend to be flexible for getting training done. I would ask this question when talking to HR of any potential employer.


I came down to the GOM with a 100 ton license two months ago. Found things to be tight, but got a berth on a crewboat during the second week of knocking on doors. Had my bags with me, and shipped out the next day.

There is some hiring going on, due to normal employee turn over. However, a lot of mariners are hanging tight with their current job, especially with the current condition of the economy. Since then, I did meet another captain that had been hired by the same company the day before I was, and know of another one that was hired since I was.

The company I am with is good to work for, but does not have the best pay rate, and limited benefits. Their flexible crew scheduling is what keeps a lot of people here - you are generally able to work on the rotation schedule of your choice. I’m working 28/14, but others on the boat are 14/14 and 14/7. One guy has been here 5 weeks. So I don’t think getting off for classes would be a problem. I’m plannnig on going for my STCW and radar in 2009. For now I’m going for time aboard, and will take some classes if things slow down and our time is cut back.

The bottom line is that I’m delighted to have a job in the GOM and building experience in the oil patch. I’ll evaluate any other opportunities as they come along.

Before you drive to lousiana you may want to give crowley a call in Valdez there turnover is high and I know people have jumped ship this winter. Ask for Luther Bartholomew and ask if there is anything with someone with your credentials. BTW I’m out in peters creek do you live in anchorage

I live in Seward. I talked with Crowley at the Anchorage office before I came to Houston area for the holidays and it went better than expected. Someone actually talked with me for awhile. I am not expecting the 100ton to get me anything. I have come to the realization that AB/unl. and having STCW is the way in. I will call them before heading over to Louisiana. It would be nice to work anywhere up in AK ocean or PWS. I was going to take my Tankship but backed out at the last minute b/c that was not really what I wanted to do, but seems to be very desirable for companies.

Thanks for the heads up and I will give your contact a call.

It is true that Crowley is experiencing high turnover in Valdez. Opportunities are there, but one wonders why the high turnover in what is for the most part a very stable company?

Well the reason I suspect is twofold, first thier pay is not competitive with GOM operators. Second spend a winter on prince william sound it truely sucks.

OK, I have basically read through the entire site. Good, bad and funny arguments. I don’t think I need to watch Whale Wars b/c I am up to date on that one now also. I guess I am thoroughly confused now from brain overload. I have AB unlimited w/ STCW and 100 NC, TWIC. As far as I can tell I need 4 classes and pass test for 500 mate according to Houston Marine in Houston, TX.

Am I correct in thinking I should not pursue anything with my 100ton if I want to continue moving up. Should I just pursue the AB route for now? I don’t really care what type of vessel I start out on as long as it qualifies 200ton. Maybe someone will give me a career path to start on and I will follow that for now, or maybe my path will be what erver job I can get. Financially I can wait, but I would rather keep busy…geting bored.


Great advice from EbbTide. John, why isn’t he on the Top Contributer list?

Probably because you didn’t nominate him :wink:

Maersk has an add on Rigzone for Unlimited AB’s on their new GOM semi-submersibles. I don’t have any experience with them but deepwater drilling should provide you with some good advancement opportunity and paid training… as well as competitive salaries.

Hey John, at least you have one person reading the ads… Still on Rigzone but it’s a step in the right direction;)

I know a couple ex-Crowley sailors and they have recently cut wages for their unlicensed sailors. This could be part of the reason for their current high turnover, but they do have an AB to Mate program. May I also suggest [Alaska Marine Highway. They currently are having some contractual issues between the State and the [URL=" target="_blank]InlandBoatmen’s Union](" target="_blank) but are worth a look since you live in Alaska. One note on minimum qualifications for an AB with them, they do require Fast Rescue Boat and Advanced Firefighting.


Crowley has cut wages exactly where? I spend half my life on a Crowley tug and I haven’t heard a word of this. Besides, Crowley is a union company and can’t just “cut wages for unlicensed sailors”. If you have specific info I’d love to hear it but my AB and Engineer seem to disagree.

The deckhand that I talked to came from Crowley (PWS) and said that unlicenced wadges we lowered and licenceed members recieved a raise after contract negoatations.

Crowley Alaska unlicensed IBU contract term: 2006 - 2010. Per the contract, they got a raise 10/2007, 10/2008, and will again 10/2009. Apparently your ex-Crowley sailor friend is feeding you a line of bull.
Licensed are represented by MM&P. Harbor Chief Mates got a 10% bump in September.