SIU or stay with current employer?

I recently registered to join SIU. I currently work 28/14 at a non-Union Gulf Coast company. I’ve been here for about 9 months, I currently make $347/day. I don’t really like it here, I want more adventure and to see different places. I also think working on a ship would suit me better.

We’re shorthanded and if I leave that will make things more complicated (not my problem). I enjoy the money I make, I will miss it, but I also want to go to different ports and see different places. I’ve been told that I wouldn’t make nearly as much with SIU, but the money does add up.

Any input from anyone in SIU would be greatly appreciated. Thoughts, opinions, comments, suggestions? Please and Thank you.

You arent going to see much with SIU. The old days of getting to explore foreign ports is long over with.

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Interesting, thank you for the post.

You arent going to see much with SIU. The old days of getting to explore foreign ports is long over with.

This isn’t true. A lot of people just rather stay onboard than sacrifice rest and relaxation. I was shocked too when I first started sailing, most people are doing this for the money, not the adventure. For them it may not be worth it, but for you, at least for a certain period in your life it may be.

Most ports you will have time to go ashore and see the place, don’t let the old salts get to you. Even the ships with quick turn around time. You will make sacrifices though, and there will be drawbacks. Most ports aren’t where you want to be, and taxi mafias exist every where. Be prepared to spend $50 or more each way to get from the port to wherever you want to go when it should be half that. Be prepared for the 45 minute each way commute. This isn’t the case everywhere, some ports are actually smack dab in the center. And then, be prepared to have to come back to watch as the most time off you’ll get in one go before having to be on watch again is 8 hours, even if you haven’t left port yet. Some ships, if you get on a heavy lift, or a bulk carrier that stays in port for an extended period of time will switch to ‘port watches’ where you work 8 hours straight and then have 16 hours off. It’s in the contract, though you’ll find out the contract is often broken and SIU is definitely there to protect the companies, not you.

The only place you definitely probably won’t able to get off and see is Dubai. That has indeed changed. Their government has made it extremely difficult for seafarers to enjoy the city, they have built a disgusting port town that you can get off and shop at a duty free store, but as for going into town, your company has to pay a bunch of fees, and the agent has to escort you or something like that, it’s really a pain in the ass that most Captain’s and companies aren’t willing to go through the effort.

I’d say if you go SIU, don’t let yourself get institutionalized. It’s really easy to do there, to get set in your ways but just remember you can always go anywhere else, including right back where you came from. You’re making a pretty damn good wage now for your position. You’ll only make more with SIU’s best contracts. But you can make a whole lot less with their various sub standard contracts. Last tip of advice, don’t get on a tanker if you’re doing this for adventure.


Yeah, I am 24 due to be 25 in July. I started this job a year ago. I currently work inland, we make trips across the Gulf via the same route. About nine months in and I’m already bored. I am single and have no children, no boy/girlfriend, so it’s just myself.

Ah what a bummer. I’m half in/half out when it comes to the SIU or any union. Just get what I can out of it while I’m there. Sad what us little people/laborers have to put up with. I suppose contracts are made to be broken.

I won’t let that happen. In fact, throughout my working history, I’ve never gotten comfortable. I could go back to where I am at, but I wouldn’t want to.

Yeah, this is as an AB Special (OSV). I’ll have enough sea time for an AB Limited if I stay around or past July. As for SIU’s best contracts, they probably don’t give those jobs out to C-books. I think a sub-standard SIU contract would be me pretty much taking a pay cut. :confused:

Okay, I figured there was more money in tankers or maybe it would have been a better experience. Sounds like it’s strictly business as usual. :frowning_face:

Thank you very much for posting @Jnx I really do appreciate it! I’ll probably PM you and further pick your brain about SIU.

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My inbox is open for any questions you may have. I spent over 10 years in that union, it served it’s purpose. While I love to knock it, it did afford me the ability to get where I am. You can’t discount that.

Don’t forget, you will need STCW endorsements to get on these ships. I’m not an OSV expert, but only national endorsements won’t cut it. RFPNW and Able Seafarer-Deck (ASD), for example, are more important (essential) than say being AB-Special vs AB-Limited.

You will get good SIU contracts as a C book right now. It’s a weird time period, every one needs you. Of course they will try to sell you their hardest to fill jobs (usually lowest paying), but don’t write these all off, as these might be just the ones you’re looking for adventure. Heavy lifts don’t pay the most, but tramp and go to the most unique places, at least in the US flag fleet.

You are right, there is usually more money on tankers (at least as unlicensed), but they are strict strict. It’s more a grind to pad your bank account than seeing new places. Might as well stay OSVs if you want to do this. Most of them are also running coastwise US with the exception of the Tanker Security Program tankers, in which case they are lower pay, and a lot more work (tank cleaning after every load).


I have an RFPNW, I’ll have to take a look at it when I get back home (CG sent it off a day after I got back to the boat). I have VPDSD and STCW (Basic Training) endorsements as well. For the division of the company I work for, STCW is required out here (I guess because we transit the Gulf).

Well I ought to jump on it while I can. If I wait a few more years it may not be a good time.

Ah, I see. Well I’ll probably limit the number of tankers I work on.

While at the end of the year you may make less with SIU, you have to factor in the free healthcare. That counts for a lot. I would be really surprised if you would make less. Assuming you get OT regularly and factoring in vacation, may be a wash.

If you intend to do SIU long term, there’s the pension to consider too.

Another thing to consider, do you intend to be a career AB? SIU is predominately an unlicensed deep sea union. I know there are some tug companies that are SIU top to bottom, but not sure how that transition would work for someone getting a license and then switching ‘inland.’


If you’re looking for adventure and not money look into research vessels, but you’ll need an unlimited typically

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Hmm, that is true, at my current job the healthcare comes out of employee checks, if elected(I’m uninsured though).

No, I would eventually like to become licensed.

Once I leave inland, I don’t want to come back.

Thank you for your response, I really do appreciate it!

I’ve definitely considered research vessels. I should have enough sea service for an unlimited (national) by the end of this year or beginning of next year. Thank you for your response, I really do appreciate it!

Just to make sure we are on the same page, for example, some of crowley’s ATBs are SIU top to bottom…they are not with the SIUs deep sea members.

Kirby is another large tug/ATB company that has some SIU contracts. I’m assuming they are in the ‘inland’ division too.

In other words, being ‘siu inland’ doesn’t necessarily mean you are working on a tug that never goes outside the sea buoy. It’s their way of separating the ships (deep sea) from everything else they have their hands on. If i recall from my brief time with SIU, the ‘inland’ guys get a different pension credit than the ‘deep sea’ guys and have different rules to follow here and there.

Im sure someone will chime in/correct me on the above if im mistaken.

Yeah, I’m with Kirby at the moment. The division I’m in hasn’t been union since they voted themselves out in the early 2000’s. They have a division on the East Coast that is union and that’s how it plans on staying. Other than that, Kirby isn’t a union-based company.

Ah, I see, I will have to look into that when I get off in a week. I’ll have some decisions to make, that’s for sure. Thank you for your input, I really do appreciate it.