Quit MSC and return years later?

Greetings All,

I will be graduating SUNY after this summer as a 3rd mate and have been seriously thinking of joining MSC. Reason #1 is to upgrade the license as quickly as possible. However, after two years, that amount of sea time will become a real grind, I’m certain. Is it possible to work for MSC for a couple of years, quit and come back at a later date? This of course assumes you leave in good standing.

Thanks for the input.

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Back when it was harder to ship out as a mate with the unions and private employers, this is what new graduates did. However, there’s no shortage of work right now. You could easily ship out union or nonunion to gain seatime and upgrade. This can be done just as fast as or faster than sailing MSC.

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MSC has people who quit years ago being hired now, all the time. Still have to go through all the same paperwork, training, etc. as the 1st time.


Understood, but my real motivation also includes federal retirement. I am former military (7 years) and would like to build towards a federal retirement, I just don’t want to do 13 years straight at MSC.

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It’s been a while since I left, but if I remember correctly, when you leave (hopefully on good terms) you can roll over your TSP into a rollover IRA with no issue, but if you want to keep your qualifying time towards federal retirement then you can’t touch your FERS account.

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You can take loans from your TSP account. Withdrawals are subject to Federal taxes.

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You can only take loans from TSP while employed. Any unpaid balance at the time you leave employment is considered a distribution. It goes into your taxable income for that year and depending on circumstances (mainly if you are younger than 59 1/2) it may be subject to a 10% penalty.

The TSP and your federal retirement are two different things. When you join federal service as a civilian you have an opportunity to “buy-in” your military time by making a deposit of funds equal to what would have been paid if you had been a civilian. For me, it was 1% of my base pay. I think it may be higher now. There is no interest charged if you pay it off within the first 2-3 years of being hired. It is a pretty small interest rate after that. You have until you retire to pay the deposit. I received credit for 14 years of mixed military service for a deposit of something just under $10K. Well worth it. Once you make that deposit, it stays with you as long as you don’t withdraw it when leaving civilian service. The MSC personnel office should be able to help you out with this when you get ired.


TSP will hold back 20% for taxes after retirement unless the withdrawals are drawn as an annuity. See https://www.tsp.gov/

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Just to clarify, the 20% withholding is separate from the 10% penalty. They will withhold 20% of a distribution you take, however, that is separate from the 10% penalty they will impose if you take a distribution that is not authorized.

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If you’re looking for federal government employment for retirement purposes, lots of other government agencies have vessels large enough to upgrade your license. With regards to MSC, they purge their employee records every five years so you can get fired with cause or quit and tell the captain to f**k off on your way down the gangway and they’ll still take your back.

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In shipped with “The Stripes of Shame” from 1978 to 1988. I took the first available route back to sailing on commercial vessels- and even stayed far away from any MSC controlled vessels.

I was CSRS for that period of time. I accumulated over 10 years service BEFORE the Fed Retirement rules changed in 1989 and 1995. After 32 years I returned to Fed Employment- and they automatically put me on FERS and didn’t apply my previous fed service because I didn’t have the SF-50’s.

It took about 4 months of back and forth between HR and the National Civilian Personnel Records Center- and now all my back time and medical time is credited and I am on CSRS once again. The Personnel Records Center maintains all SF-50’s and Med forms going way way back- MSC (I called them first for the records) doesn’t maintain any records past THREE years. The WEP (Windfall Elimination Procedure) doesn’t apply to me because I have over 34 years high wage SS contributions OUTSIDE of federal service. If you read all of the OPM handbooks very carefully- you can dig up all of the in’s and outs…