Offshore O&G to ATBs?

I’m in a bit of a dilemma and need some advice. I work on a drillship and with current layoffs going on and rigs getting stacked, I set for a plan B. I was offered an ATB gig as assistant engineer and pay is more and feel that there is more stability, but not quite sure I really want to leave. Any advice on what working on an ATB is like and if it is truly worth it to leave where I’m at now? Pros and cons? I know money is what most of us are after, but can one make a career on ATBs? Not sure the pace but feel it is slower paced with less equipment as well. I’m just not as familiar.

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Depends on the company. I transitioned from OSVs to ATBs and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Yes the pay is a little lower than oil field wages(when they are good) but I’ve never really seen layoffs during slow times. In fact, my company has consistently given out raises every year with our union contracts. Benefits are good too. Again, this can vary Company to company but in general it’s very stable.

PS the industry really has t ever experienced anything like the COVID pandemic so I can’t speak for what will happen if this continues the way it does but so far so good.


Some atbs can be a headache for the engineers, some aren’t. Some are big and roomy, and some are not. As an assistant engineer expect sharing a room and smaller quarters unless you will be on one of the big atbs.

Don’t be one of those guys that thinks its not in your job description to help out on the barge too. Between the tug and barge you can end up pretty busy. Some tankerman have mechanical aptitude and some don’t, so you may spend a lot of time helping them depending on the company and crew you are with.

I would ask some questions…does the company have a big fleet? Are all the boats working? Does the boat they are putting you on have steady work?

Chances are it will be a safer bet than offshore O & G regardless, and if i was going to compare all the places i’ve been, the quality of life is pretty good on an atb.


From my limited experience on ATbs assistant engineer is a sweet gig. On my particular boat the AE had his own room, stood the back watch (12-6) and besides rounds when lit off did whatever the chief laid out.
Any AE with acumen for the job was easily considered for chief.

On the bad side my next company did not have assistants on their ATbs which tells me that the position is subject to being abolished at the whim of the next union contract.

My present wire boat has an unlicensed engineer and the deckhand makes rounds when the engineer is sleeping. I really, really miss having a competent engineer aboard.

My atb has a manning document…we require an assistant who needs to hold an OICEW.
Few years ago i was working on one as the sole engineer, no assistant required. Everything is manageable as long as nothing breaks!

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Thanks for the reply. It is nice knowing you went through the same situation. It is good to hear that you enjoy it and came out on the better end of the deal. I agree though, with COVID, nothing is certain and I feel everyone is holding onto the bitter end…

Thanks for the reply! It’s a relief to hear all of that…I believe the ATB has Manning docs that require unlimited OCIEW? Not sure though. A lot of unknowns for me as I haven’t stepped foot in this field of work, but intrigued nonetheless…

I agree, chances are probably better outside of O&G although it is what I love doing. It’s a hard decision to leave your passion due to the industry decline as COVID gets worse. Stability is key right now, not only for me, but for all of us. I believe fleetwide, the company is working and doing very well in that case. Not sure how big the quarters are or if I share a room but I do know the ATB is quite large. If you or anyone else knows anything about Vane Bros.? Thanks for sharing info and what you know! Helps a lot!

Not sure what company has offered you, but ATB is not bad work overall. Some better than others, as in all things. As one poster said, having a dedicated AE is a good thing, and seems to show they are interested in keeping the equipment up without overworking the Chief. If it is union, so much the better. Steady work is key as opposed to oilfield ups and downs. Good luck sir.

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I will send you a PM

I appreciate that. Vane bros. Is the company and feel they have quite the reputation for keeping their equipment in good condition and is relatively new. It is not union, but I believe the feeling of uncertainty will decrease on the ATB; am I right?

Kudos to you Ctony.


Helping that fellow out with his questions about ATB’s.

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Ya all the help I’m getting is great…I really did need to hear a couple voices to help get an idea of what I’m gettin into and what to expect if I jump.

Vane is a decent company and stay fairly busy. I worked early ATB’s, I’ve been retired for quite some time. They are quite advanced from early 2000’s nowadays. Ctony may be able to explain the newer units better than me. I enjoyed them as opposed to wire work, and rode quite well. Company used both Intercon and Bludworth systems. Both systems are good, Intercon in one mans opinion was the better of the two. The AE was a welcome crewmember.

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Maybe unlimited HP OICEW but not an unlimited license. Chief Engineer Limited and Assistant Engineer Limited will suffice.