President Trump Takes Bold Step to Transition Veterans into US Merchant Marine


Yeeeaaahhhh… if this story was accompanied by another executive order saying that PL480 was going back to full funding, exported oil and LNG was going to be shipped on American bottoms exclusively, and the long awaited US maritime strategy was ready for release and implementation, I’d be really excited.

The US Merchant Marine doesn’t need more bodies. It needs more ships.


President Trump’s latest executive order will help sea veterans, in services ranging from the Coast Guard and Marines to the Army and Navy, transition into the civilian workforce as mariners in several ways. First, the United States government will help pay various fees associated with merchant mariner credentialing and licensing, which can exceed a thousand dollars.

Second, and of even greater value, ­­President Trump’s executive order helps enable veterans apply their education and experience on military ships toward the mariner credentialing curriculum, thereby removing other costly barriers to entry. For example, mid-career seamen, 1st mates, and engineers will no longer be forced to re-enroll in basic maritime classes, the costs of which are estimated anecdotally by veterans to be as high as $25,000. As part of this effort, the United States government will further develop online resources to help veterans navigate the process of becoming a merchant mariner.

On the economic security front, the executive order will help American veterans more quickly find high-paying jobs worthy of their skill sets. On average, water transportation workers earn $65,720 every year, well above the national occupational average of $50,620. Workers in the merchant mariner categories routinely earn even more.

On the national security front**, this executive order will help address a significant merchant mariner shortfall. In the past several decades, the number of United States merchant mariners with unlimited oceangoing credentials who have sailed in the last 18 months has dropped below 12,000**. According to estimates from the Department of Transportation, if the United States entered into a large-scale conflict that required the military’s full mobilization, we could fall short of the number of mariners needed to sustain contingency operations**. In other words, after six months the most powerful country in the world could find itself challenged to supply its overseas military personnel.
, this executive order will help address a significant merchant mariner shortfall. In the past several decades, the number of United States merchant mariners with unlimited oceangoing credentials who have sailed in the last 18 months has dropped below 12,000.
On the chessboard of Trump administration workforce strategy, this executive order is part of a broader effort to assist our veterans and their spouses in their transition to the civilian workforce. For example, on May 5, 2017, President Trump signed into law the “Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017.” It requires the Secretary of Labor to establish a program that recognizes, and thereby incentivizes, employer efforts to recruit, employ, and retain veterans.

The Department of Defense, through the Military-to-Mariner Transition Program, has been actively working to remove barriers to employment by aligning Personnel Qualification Standards with requirements for merchant mariner qualifications, through the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program, and funding the attainment of credentials through the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program. This executive order will further develop those online resources.

On May 9, 2018, the president also signed the executive order on “Enhancing Noncompetitive Civil Service Appointment of Military Spouses.” This order directs federal agencies to remove barriers to spouse employment, “actively advertise and promote the military spouse hiring authority and actively solicit applications from military spouses for posted and other agency positions.” The Department of Labor is currently accepting applications until April 30, 2019 for the 2019 award year, and more information can be found at

With the signing of Monday’s executive order, President Donald J. Trump both salutes our sea veterans and celebrates our merchant mariners. The message should be clear: this administration will always have the backs of veterans, from their days in uniform to their years in the civilian workforce.

Yes, it miss-characterizes the nature of the shortage.


It smacks of “re-training” coal miners to be computer programmers.

If they really wanted to help the USMM they would provide existing mariners with all the training benefits they are willing to give some grunt or mess cook and build ships for them to sail in.

This is another feel good piece of pork rind.


Wow. What are all these people going to sail in. The maritime schools will be overjoyed and the employers will be beaming at another opportunity to slid salaries down with more and more looking for a berth.
As a Kiwi I usually refrain from commenting about US politics but this is not a piece of pork rind but rather the whole pig.


I’m no fan of Trump but it seems like if he found a cure for cancer he’d be accused of putting doctors out of business.


You’re looking in the wrong place. As I’ve said on these pages before, MSC is usually short on mariners (with unusual exceptions).

Last year there was a huge stink in the master and chief engineer promotion boards. The criteria was changed (and then in-changed) to look for things not normally associated with masters/CHENGs like knowledge of military tactics, foreign languages and masters/doctorate degrees and service to the community. However, past experience as master or CHENG didn’t seem to count as much.

Of course the people who felt they should have been promoted thought that it gave someone with a prior military background a helping hand. There is gossip that this was the intent from the stars and bars that run MSC.

Then there is an evolving focus at MSC, at least in the deck officer side, to expand the deck officers’ responsibilities to include things other than navigation and watch. Of course this has been going on for decades with UNREP and ordnance but it now feels like, to me, an MSC deck officer is becoming more like a general officer.

In the USN an officer can be supply officer one deployment, weapons the next, or operations, or CHENG, or NAV, and so forth. MSC isn’t quite like that (we can’t be CHENG or SUPPO) but we can be a rough equivalent of OPS, WEPS, 1st LT, fuel officer, in addition to NAV or XO. A minority of MSC second mates work in a navigation/watch capacity. The rest do other things that realistically don’t need a license to do. About a third of out first officers don’t do anything a chief mate usually does on the commercial side (again not a job that should require a deck license).

So, from MSC leadership it would be much nicer to have former USN officers and enlisted man the ships. No bitching about shaving, no fat and out of shape. But most importantly they would come pre-trained for the job that MSC sees as important. They would bring the unquestioning ‘Can Do / Must Do’ attitude with them.

The shortage of ABs, and the recent requirement to be an AB unlimited to before someone can apply for permanent promotion to AB. That’ll be a nightmare. We’re already awfully short on ABs. This will cause it to get worse. But, it’s a great opportunity to hire BMs, or QMs, or whoever else from the USN.

Look, I could expand this for several pages but I won’t bore you. I’ll say that from my side of the industry that announcement makes perfect sense.

Call me a tin-hat conspiracy theorist, (and maybe I am) but from their perspective having a bunch of ex-USN manning ships in a time of conflict is preferred to what they see as a bunch of flabby, whiny, cry-baby civilians.


The number they are using came specifically from the number of mariners needed to man the reserve fleet. There was a thread about it here:

A recent report to Congress identified the need for 13,607 qualified mariners for sustaining the mobilization and commercial operations concurrently under highly optimistic assumptions of no loss of life or property. The identified pool of mariners will therefore provide three to four months of force projection support at best, taking into account the necessary crew rotations.

This is from the OP:

In the past several decades, the number of United States merchant mariners with unlimited oceangoing credentials who have sailed in the last 18 months has dropped below 12,000**. According to estimates from the Department of Transportation, if the United States entered into a large-scale conflict that required the military’s full mobilization, we could fall short of the number of mariners needed to sustain contingency operations**

Here’s the actual executive order. Probably better to read it instead of that “press release” that directs you to a private site for details (Really? They are including a link to a private source in an official release instead of just putting it in the release…?)


The guy that wrote the Fox New editorial is Peter Navarro - Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Industrial Policy,

Hard to tell where one begins and the other ends

In any case giving vets credit for training received while in the service seems fair to the extent it’s comparable.

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That’s not new. A similar directive was in the Howard Coble Coast Guard
and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014
(see Sec. 305), and that effort has been underway for several years (“Military to Mariner” or M2M). You can see the results to date by scrolling to “U.S. Army” “U.S. Navy” or “USCG” here.

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Does seam rather strange having just read all sorts of investigations describing just how poor SWOS training actually is and how it needs to be improved.

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My guess is this is mostly about enlisted to unlicensed, that’s the majority on both sides. Lots of mariners working brown water and coastwise.

Might as well actually support the USMM by just waiving all fees for everyone. What we really need is more jobs, not more workers.


Yes. We need more jobs, not more mariners.

We have invested $30,000 or more each in STCW courses. We more need jobs that require STCW. We rising wages to recover our investment in these STCW courses.

We do NOT need more competition from Vets for the small number of jobs available, or a flood of Vets with free government funded training suppressing wages.

About half the Vets I see are good employees that can be trained to be good commercial mariners fairly quickly. The other half do not appear to have any relevant experience. The ex-USCG guys that I see tend to have much more relevant training and skills than the ex-Navy guys.

If the MSC is having trouble hiring people, that’s a just problem with their cumbersome and absurd hiring process, and how poorly they treat applicants. If the MSC did 4 months on / four months off, with overtime for anyone that has to work beyond four months, and full pay for anyone stuck ashore more than four months, they would have a flood of job applicants.

The security clearance process also needs to be more realistic. After the recession, massive oil patch layoffs, and a lot less jobs, it’s hard to find mariners with perfect credit. They put a lot of patriotic Americans, including Vets, through hell over unnecessary trivia.

MSC has no one to blame but itself for its crewing problems.


Security process doesn’t care about that. In their eyes stuff like that makes you vulnerable to pressure and that means you’re out. On their off time they’re regretful that it puts you in a bad position, no doubt.

Could you translate that to English?

In the security view, being homosexual (maybe not any more) or having financial troubles etc make you vulnerable to baddies putting pressure on you to tell them things you shouldn’t.

This is more about having a large pool of qualified mariners that can quickly crew MARAD ships in a crisis. Right now there aren’t enough bodies, even though the long pole in the tent is national shortage of steam engineers.

Incedentally, it’ll also make MSC RET recruitment a lot easier for the agency.