Sail AB after graduation?

Consider this:

  • Two years in the SIU would mean earning far less money than the license you earned through rigorous examinations and qualifications would get you. It would also be time lost towards advancing to 2nd Mate. The only people I ever knew who sailed AB were folks with MSC waiting for licensed positions to become available or those wanting to get a PIC for tankers.

  • Ask yourself: Would two more years of doing the same exact work you did on deck on summer sea terms make much of a difference? Is chipping rust, powerwashing and swabbing decks, mucking roseboxes, painting and taking trash out going to make you a more confident and competent watchstander at sea or in port? You’ll find yourself right back on MUG cruise as a watchstanding AB - standing there looking at open ocean and calling things in… and making coffee/keeping the refreshments area clean and orderly.

Trust me, you’d hop on a ship as AB and see some green 3rd Mate stumbling once or twice but rapidly getting the hang of things, which will just make you angry and bitter as was mentioned above. Sounds like whoever this person is either had no choice but to take that road to advance or they are trying to deter would-be competition from taking jobs they want. I don’t know, I am not a member of that group and cannot see the post.

If you worked hard like you say and feel ready to roll - I’d dive right in. Two years unlicensed shipping in SIU after school would be a colossal waste of your time and education.


Don’t be ashamed to do it if it’s that vs living in a cardboard box, but otherwise don’t do it, as an engineer it seems like the mates have the most to learn that only experience in the actual position can teach.


Thank you all for the advice. It sounded like they were recommending we move to Houston after graduation and join SIU because that was the best way to get experience as an officer, but now I’m not too sure it sounds like a great idea, or even possible with what little money I’d have after graduating. I feel ready to sail on my license but hearing that kind of advice made me stop dead in my tracks and rethink things for a second.

Thanks again for the help!

The only way to get experience as an officer is to sail as an officer. You can learn seamanship on deck, but as mentioned by @ShooterMcGavin, you should have as much or more seamanship training then your typical Piney Point grad.

It almost sounds like they are trying to coax you over to the SIU’s licensed ranks which I believe work limited tonnage tug and barge work for companies like Crowley. I believe there are a few members of this forum that are part of that organization and they say they like it. I’d stay away myself.

Now if you want to go down to the Gulf and chase some oil money, then yeah, head down and find a gig and work from the bottom up to the wheelhouse. At least you will be making some money. Look for a thread called “knockin on doors in Louisiana.” There seems to be a nice lady down near Fourchon who runs a bed and breakfast and helps guys get work.

Good luck.

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When I graduated moving into the empty guest bedroom in my house was out of my price range, let alone a different city and state altogether.

Worth noting is that Piney Point grads are sent into the union hall with a higher book than you would as a new member off the street, regardless of your license. You may find that the better paying jobs they have can be out of your reach if more senior members or former apprentices are there. You may find yourself on some really bad contracts wishing you were back home looking for a licensed job instead.

Bottom line is, if you have the license, sail on the license. Many forget that this qualifies you as “any unlicensed deck rate, including AB,” as the old documents used to say. You have the minimum required knowledge and experience to sail as an AB but more importantly a license to sail as an officer in the deck department. Why sell yourself short? Does a medical doctor graduate and decide to work as a nurse’s aid for a few years before practicing medicine?

Whoever gave you guys that advice sounds like a complete moron.


I wouldn’t sign up for the SIU for two years but a little time on deck would gain you a lot more respect and knowledge, especially if you can get your PIC, but this is coming from a hawse-piper. Best of luck!

Someone who is in the group tells me this person who posted the advice is a limited license graduate who later went on to mock and insult those to went 7 for 7 on their exams and/or held a rate on their first class cruise. Just a run of the mill jackass…

Ignore what he says and keep going as planned. You’ll be fine.

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I would wonder about a guy getting a license still be working as an AB a year later.

No it wouldn’t. AB time while holding 3rd mate counts towards 2nd mate on a 2 for 1 basis.

You should hopefully be capable of stand a safe navigation watch offshore but you need to realize that as a new grad you know sightly more than nothing. Be humble and don’t be cocky. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and call the Master if you’re ever in doubt, the captain will sleep better knowing that you’re not embarrassed to call him.


I’m aware of the seatime counting, but in this case I still call that lost time. The advice given to the cadets was that they should sail AB for two years in the SIU before seeking a job anywhere on their license. If there are job openings for licensed positions elsewhere, why on earth would you sit in an unlicensed union hall and sail beneath your qualifications?

Couldn’t agree more.

Oh how my heart bleeds for you. Most, if not all of us have worked hard to get where we are at and it sure as hell didn’t happen overnight.

I’ve been sailing more than half my life, and currently I am filling a spot less than my license, and there’s no telling when I will be able to fully sail under my ticket again because there isn’t much turnover at my company. There are LOTS of folks sailing in lesser capacities these days. I can’t speak for deep sea shipping but in the tug and OSV world you can barely turn around without bumping into an ab that doesn’t have a mates license and is waiting for their shot.

Try to lose the sense of entitlement. For the sake of the argument lets assume you are in your 20s. You are young and have lots of time. Try being a 40 yr old breaking into this industry and tell me who has it worse?

You definately want to try to sail on your license out the gate if you can…but don’t count on it. In case you have been living underneath a rock there is NOT a severe shortage of third mates, or mariners in general these days.

If you need to make some money and get some experience, you do what it takes. No employer can expect an officer to sail unlicensed forever. Best time to look for a better job is when you already have one.


I agree that they couldn’t do that by default and isn’t as useful experience as already sailing as 3rd make. I was just pointing out that it’s still usable for upgrade.

You shouldn’t unless you are using it as a way in to a specific company.

I don’t know about now a days but 10-15 years ago the ATB company that I worked for in NY Harbor hired as many newly graduates from SUNY as possible to work as AB/Tankerman until a mates position became available. It was based on seniority & it took 6 months to 2 years to gets a mates spot. I don’t recall too much complaining about working as AB/Tankerman nor did I ever hear of anyone passing up the promotion claiming they weren’t ready to be mate.

If you are anything like the SUNY predecessors that I worked with I say shoot for the mates position but take anything you can get if the job market you are looking into is tight. But don’t aim for AB unless it’s your last choice.


I worked for Crowley under an SIU contract a long time ago. I wasn’t overly fond of it, but joining the SIU was one of the stipulations for employment. That said, I DID like the work. Most of the time, anyway. . .

2 years? No. A couple months, or however long it takes to get your sector-specific endorsement (DP, MOT, PIC)? Sure. But has been said before, swabbing decks and chipping won’t do much for you as an officer except garner some respect from the hands.


I’ll say this also — given that the individual making the recommendation appears to be a limited license graduate who had a change of heart after leaving the school, their advice would better serve those who completed the same program and wish to upgrade and should therefore be directed at them.

The person has more in common with them than those who completed the full program and is obviously bitter about it.

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14 posts were split to a new topic: Obtaining Tankerman PIC / Tankerman Assistant

That advice was some jackass with an axe to grind trying to screw people over. Work deck if you have to, but don’t pursue it. Sail on your license.

Also, never trust anyone who advises you to lower your aspirations.

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Also, I don’t know what it is but limited license graduates as a whole always seem bitter and cranky. They wanted to go the easy route and always seem angry they didn’t put in the time and effort to do the whole deal. All the ones I’ve worked with were found sweating it out on deck trying to make 3rd Mate, and bitching about academy mates the whole damn time! Makes no sense.


The person who gave the advice apparently has a pretty dim reputation both at the school and at sea so… it seems like an effort to screw new grads over so he can get jobs easier without competition or a way to make him feel better about washing out of the tugboat side of the fence and needing to get back aboard ships as an AB to upgrade, covering any sense of shame by suggesting “everyone should do it this way.”

Just my opinion, I don’t know the guy and can’t see the post, but I sincerely hope the graduating cadets steer well clear of that kind of advice.