So How Bad Is The Maritime Job Outlook?

Hi All,

I’ve recently been laid off from a technical job and, believe it or not, I’m happy to get a severance package and start a path to another career. Unfortunately though, I’m realizing that the comfortable living I made in the tech industry kept me occupied long enough that I didn’t put time into finding work that I found engaging (at least 75% of the time). So now, having hit my early 40’s, I’m considering riding out the recession in a maritime academy, getting some new skills, and starting a maritime career (yeah I know, I’m getting a late start). I’m drawn to water and the ocean, always have been, and a maritime career makes sense to me. I’m just wondering if I go through the time and money involved with a maritime academy if there’s a decent job outlook for me? From what I’ve read in career studies blurbs, the maritime industry is supposed to be growing, but the outlook from these forums doesn’t seem to jibe with that. I’d be grateful for any perspective. Thanks.

mariner mo,

I am a 1600 tn master currently seeking employment…from my perspective I have never seen it this bad…even in past slower times always had my choice of 2-3 jobs…recently spent 2 hours with an “agent”…never had to deal wth these people in the past…his phone was not exactly ringing off the hook…his fee is now 16 days pay, 6 months ago it was only “10 days of my life”…at that price he should have some pretty good offerings…he doesn’t…I understand that “entry level” positions are even more difficult…if this is what you want to do hang in there and don’t be discouraged…it will turn arround and when it does they will be hiring anyone who is warm and has a pulse…many segiments of this industry is cyclical by nature.

You can’t go wrong with a degree from the maritime schools. If you go the engineering route you can work in shoreside or shipboard power plants with your training. Even when times are tough they boast a high 90% placement rate for grads.

Another route to consider is the offshore drilling industry. I’m not sure what your technical background is but electrical and mechanical guys are often in demand.

Mariner Mo,

I hear you. I am in a similar situation. I am now on a week off without pay per month. I work on CNC machines for a Japanese company. Manufacturing is very slow now. It would not be too bad but I don’t get the overtime I did last year. I expect that the pink slips will soon be coming. I was a nuclear machinist mate in the Navy for twenty years. I loved the sea but did not care for the Navy all that much. I am trying to get back out there. I am waiting on the USCG.

[quote=seadawg;15992]mariner mo,

his fee is now 16 days pay, 6 months ago it was only “10 days of my life”…[/quote]

Have you talked with Kelley Sweeney at

His fees are much, much less and I believe he does have jobs for mariners,

Give him a call or drop him an email

Good luck

If you have an electrical/electronics background, there is a shortage of techs for radar gauging systems, inert gas generators, packaged boilers/heaters and remote operated valves. Good luck!

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Thanks for all the great replies. Unfortunately, my background is in software and programming. I don’t have much experience with hardware and electronics. I don’t have any experience working on ships, arghh. I definitely know that I want to study for a deck position (3rd mate out of the academy), but I’m going to minor in engineering so I can pick up the QMED. My problem now is just finding a job on a ship or boat here in the SF Bay/Delta area. I’ll clean toilets or kitchen work or whatever, I just want to make sure I’m suited to the work before I throw all my eggs in one basket. Ideally, I’d like to work on a ferry as a deckhand, but I don’t see much demand for deckhands. Anyway, I’m waiting on my TWIC and I’ll be taking a BST course shortly so I’ll have to take it from there.

The way things are heading I’m considering going work overseas!!

Merchant Mariners have in the past sailed for other flags… a lot of us did.
I think you need all the certs in your bag that you can bring to the table. One thing for a 100 ton skipper to say the jobs outlook is bad, and another for a man / woman that has an unlimited lic, STCW, DP, and tons of other training… How bad the industry is may well be reflected best by those best quailified to get jobs.
I have gone through one bad resession and another. Never did I look for work for very long. Always something out there to tide you over.

If you are looking solid cradle to grave employment the marine industry may not be the best place to look. In years past it has always been hit and miss… such is the life for many mariners throughout the ages.

I concur with captmrb. Engineers are in high demand even in this recession and its something that can cross over to the beach when you desire to.
Best to you.

well i’m a second mate unlimited loaded with all types of training certs courtesy of MSC and i can’t leave MSC because i simply can’t find anything else. This away time is really kicking my ass and i can’t find anything to fall back on that will pay my bills. I keep telling myself at least i’m employed but that not doing much good if i’m spending 9 to 10 month out of the year on ships.

While I am often thought of here as being an eternal pessimist regarding the maritime industry, I have to say that I actually believe that the future is bright for people entering the business provided that they make a long term commitment to it and are willing to do what it takes to get certified because it is those damn certs that will make a man valuable in this profession.

I really feel that offshore is where the greatest number of future opportunties lie although towing is also going to remain strong. Both however require getting special certs and unless you are just starting out in the industry it means having to accept a position lower than one is qualified for to get the time needed to qualify to obtain the certifications. Some companies don’t want to be bothered so it means an extra intensive search to find a company willing to hire a master as a mate or even AB. In my case, I had to endure a year of being a second mate for a bubba master even though I had twenty years of sailing as a master myself but it got me the time I needed to get my unlimited DPO. Now I am a master again and feel pretty secure because I have that DPO certificate which is the key to working offshore nowdays. Having a PIC/MOTV is likewise a valuable combination but I have found it hard to get the PIC part and while I still want to add it to my book, I most likely never will now because I don’t see leaving where I am to go to petroleum barges or a tanker as a junior officer or on deck.

In the end it is that one needs to set a goal to where you want to go in the industry, come up with a viable plan as to how to get there and follow through with it. It may take two or three years but in the end, there will be a payoff.

As the man said…“no pain, no gain”

Very good post ccaptain.

I am only an intern and I work for a steamship container line. [OOCL]

We are seeing huge losses on all fronts in terms of volumes and revenues. Larger steamship lines like Hapag LLoyd, Maersk, and NYK are suffering greatly at this time. The larger steamship lines purchased so many vessels since capacity was full at all times. Now, since the global economic downfall, all these companies are getting new vessels which have to be either scrapped/salvaged or parked for the time being. We can’t fill our vessels. No one can.

I have a feeling that only the strong shipping lines will survive this recession. Those who prevail [the lucky few] will dominate global container shipping.

That being said, shoreside jobs are getting cut left and right at bigger companies. And imagine shutting down half of your fleet - where do those sailors go? They go home without paychecks because there is no work.