NYT article on mariner shortage

NYT has an interesting article about the mariner shortage with a slight ‘male malaise’ slant (their words). Nothing groundbreaking, but good to see it get the coverage.

It is behind a paywall, but this link may work

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I dont doubt it. Im 38, so im hardly some old boomer, but there has been a remarkable loss of work ethic in the generations behind me. The hard workers are still out there they are just harder to find.

I worked on tugs for 15 years, now im on a day boat and get to come home every night while still working an equal time schedule. That has done wonders for my outlook on life.

Living on an old, nasty, tugboat with the most spartan of living conditions got old. I know many companies are looking to improve living conditions on their tugs and that is a good thing. Its hard enough to be gone for however many days one’s hitch may be. The least the companies can do is make their boats as comfortable as possible.


CEO wants to make it clear that wages are not the problem


I hear you, but I also think that some portion of “kids these days” complaining is just perspective. Our parents and their parents before them have made the same complaint for generations, yet the world seems to keep on turning.

Totally concur on making vessels more comfortable. I have been in meetings recently and some of older managers complain, “why do you need that, we never had that before,” or “We already have X, why do we need Y too?” And then in the next meeting everyone is wondering why retention is a problem and why they can’t attract more diverse applicants.

The addition of internet access has been huge for our crew. This has enabled people to accomplish a lot of BS chores while off watch so that time at home isn’t eaten up going to bank and running other mundane errands.


Good article, but I have to say centerline has other reasons that they can only blame on themselves on why they are short handed.


Good article, but almost every time I see a tug in the NYT, it’s almost always a centerline tug/quote. Like the PR wing of the company…

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For me, the most telling part of the article is the demographic issue. The writer correctly notes that labor force participation by men has been declining more or less steadily since at least 1970. He goes to say that female participation in the work force has been increasing since then.

But that is only partly right. The chart doesn’t correct for another demographic fact: as the population is increasingly filled with people aged 80+ you would expect labor participation of both sexes to drop.

Moreover, labor force participation by both men and women have mostly followed the same curve since 2000. It drops sharply for both sexes in 2010, when the oldest Boomers reached 65 years of age, exactly when you would expect them to begin to retire and age-out of the workforce. Hence the sharp drop in the curve.

Then in 2020 it dropped precipitously–lots of Boomers not working during the first Pandemic year. In 2021/2022 participation bounces back, but only to a fraction of what it was before, indicating a big wave of retirements, triggered by the Pandemic.

What the curve doesn’t show is the retirements/deaths of Boomers is outpacing the number of younger workers entering the system. Demand is outpacing supply.

[Chart from Article]


“The company also offers low-cost health, vision and dental care for employees, and a 401(k) plan with a company match. So the chief executive, Matt Godden, said in an interview that he didn’t feel that wages or benefits were a central reason that his company and competitors with similar offerings had struggled to hire.”

Then how come everyone comes running to the oil patch when the pay gets stupid?

This is one of the main reasons I stayed on OSVs even when things are rough in the oil patch. I’ve gotten quite used to my private head in my room and a head on the bridge, among other amenities. Thanks to the last downturn A LOT of the old iron was taken to the breakers, so the rusted old stuff is getting less and less.


Well, in centerline’s case, they do have a great benefits package. That’s their saving grace that they’ve maintained since the Harley days. The turnover is high because of the management and most the equipment is junk…some guys put up with it because of the benefits, some don’t.

Even before the gulf wages went up this last time there was a revolving door there.

I hear about 'management" being a problem with different companies often. It would helpful if everyone would explain what is involved in a company management problem that affects the crew. Maybe management could learn

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I could be wrong but I bet one reason it doesn’t get talked about more specifically very often is because we’ve all heard the same horror stories over and over again about lots of different companies and no one wants to re-hash it all even further.

Some of this band’s greatest hits include, but are not limited to:

Screw change
Getting nickel and dime’d
Getting shorted on important supplies
Lack of decision-making support
Questioning the necessity of important requests
Not taking the crew’s side in issues involving 3rd parties like vendors, terminals, etc…
Being unhelpful with licensing issues (including but not limited to things like seatime letters for renewals and upgrades.)

And many more!


Paddy’s description sums it up. I’ve went on the record on this forum more than enough times with specifics on their shortcomings. Only reason I chimed in now, is this article would have more weight to it in my eyes if a different company and CEO would have been the focus of it.


Getting nickel and dime’d
Getting shorted on important supplies
Lack of decision-making support
Questioning the necessity of important requests
Not taking the crew’s side in issues involving 3rd parties like vendors, terminals, etc…
Being unhelpful with licensing issues (including but not limited to things like seatime letters for renewals and upgrades.).

Short term thinking from management while crew thinks long term benefit for the company. Backwards thinking.

That sounds about the size of it

Whether it’s deserved or not, as far as oil transport tug and barge companies go, only Bouchard has (had) a worse reputation as a place to work.

Bouchard paid top money, but what is Centerline offering?


I feel this more than I’d care to admit

Good friend of mine was making high 600s as a chief. I’d say that’s damn good money for a wire boat chief.

However, he had to threaten to leave a couple of times to get up to that over the last couple years…and he has decided to move on, take a 100 dollar a day pay cut as an assistant to have less of a headache. He got fed up with the constant battle of getting bare minimum supplies to do his job…also wanted to transfer to a different division and kept getting strung along…

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Bouchard knew that it was an asshole company and that it had to pay extra to get anyone to work there.

My impression is that Centerline has some similarities to Bouchard, but that their pay is near the low end of the range.

I occasionally hear good things about Centerline in Seattle. Some people like it there. I’ve never heard anything good about the East Coast, and mixed reviews on California.

Centerline has it’s own unique problems attracting and keeping crew. It would need to pay top money and improve its work atmosphere to overcome that.


I need that job

I need this job, too. If you can’t share the company name, can you at least say what industry this utopian boat operates in?

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