Tattoos in the Merchant Marine

Are having visible tattoos a problem at all in the Merchant Marine? Are the standards different for unlicensed / licensed mariners? How does it work in the Cruise ship field or MSC or NOAA? Thanks!

Seafarers have for centuries been the proud bearers of tattoos. Most places don’t blink and eye, unless you’ve got some majorly offensive ink. Cruise ship companies, on the other hand, will probably make you cover 'em up. Wouldn’t want to give Mr. and Mrs. Howell a bad impression of sailors now, would we?

Not 100% related to your questions but…

We get statistics from google on what search terms drive traffic to which articles on the blog. In the top ten, every month, is an old article: Nautical Star Tattoos

I never got one myself but if you’re ever in Santa Cruz, I do know a great artist!

Thanks for the info John, I am always interested to learn anything about traditional nautical / maritime tattoos.

I think Gilligan and the Skipper probably wrecked Mr. & Mrs. Howell’s opinion of sailors long ago…

The cruise lines will make you cover up your tattoo/s. Outside of the cruise lines, no one really cares.

expand on cruise lines to anything involving paying passangers(as in yachts etc).

outside of that, unless you’ve got heil hitler inked on ya, you’ll probably be ok.

Have a dragon on one butt cheek and a lightning bolt (“Sparks”) on the other.

Only time they are commented upon is when I advise someone to kiss my a** and they say, “Nare It!”

Outboard turning propeller with one bent and nicked blade on butt check, haven’t got around to the other…it’ll have a line fouled in it.

I have an airline pilot/harley rider buddy who has tatooes galore. He’s one of the best pilots and navigators I’ve ever shared a cockpit with… the guy you want next to you when the shit hits the fan.

His skin art doesn’t affect his performance in the least. It does, however, affect the travelling public’s perception of him when they see his arms.

I don’t want a tatoo, but if they’re tastefully done (subjective) I think they’re generally accepted…certainly in the Merchant Marine. And I’ve seen some skin art on the fairer sex that was…well, very pleasant to see. Just an observation, literally.

Having a “tasteful” tatoo won’t matter in any facet of the maritime industry.


Was it the “art” or the gallery?

:Dalways wanted “pull to inflate” inked on my “johnson”!!:cool:

Yes, it was.


My understanding is the tradition of tats and sailors goes back to the first white man sailing to Fiji. The Fijians used tats as a status symble and also to beautify themselves. Some still do.

Add in a white boy, drunk on rum, and far from home and now you have a new tradition.

The status symble theory carried over into the military, convicts, and bikers.

Nowadays everybody has a tat. What really gets me is people that have not “earned their ink”.

I know one kid that was about the size of a popcorn fart. He got sleeved out thinking this would make him look tough. To me he just looked like a sleeved out popcorn fart.

When I was growing up the only people that had tats were ex or current military, ex or current convicts, and bikers.

Now it is in fashion to get visible and offensive in your fu…in face ink. Worse part is it is just a bunch of crap with no meaning. My 3 year old could do better with her marker set. WTF?

I have seen one or two white kids get Arian tats. Sure hope they never get sent to the Pen. Those boys in there will skin that ink right off of them for not “earning it”.

I ran into a kid in Navy bootcamp that was sleeved out. He had “Airborne” tattooed on his forearm with some other military tats mixed in. I asked him if he had just cross rated. He said no he just liked the look. What a dumb ass.

Yes, unless you are dealing with the “paying public” tats are a right off passage in the merchant marine in my opinion. Just earn your ink first or you will look like a dumbass to anyone else that has earned their ink.

hey I’m new to all of this so I have lots of questions
First things first I wanna know if tattoos on the top of the hand are alright ? all the tattoos I have are nautical and not any that would offend anyone. Just a bunch of ocean stuff… the only ones I have that do mean anything are the pig and chicken in my arm pits. The one that I wanna put on my hand would be a rose. and maybe on the other a girl wearing a sailor hate . and yes I do have a full sleeve and the feet done and stomach, legs " I have a lot" but right now they all can be covered
My other question
I’m going to school at a community college getting all my pre- req done “I have to go for 2 years” and then going to California Maritime Ac for 4 years. all together 6 years of school and I just started " Im 23" I wanna go for transportation, cus I think it might pay the best… do you think this might be the best way to go ? And yeas I am 100% sure this is what I wanna do. I love the ocean, I surf every day and a lot of my family did fish in Alaska back in the day.

I hope someone can help
Thank you
and I hope no one gets made for me bumping this post that was started in 2009

Hopefully no one with ink will throw anything at me, but.

In the officer corps, at least where I have worked, the office almost never promotes people who have, dreads, padlocks on nipples, mohawks, wild colored hair, and VISIBLE INK.

Unless you work at an unusual place, the companies usually want whomever is representing them to the customer, public, and the competition, to be clean shaven, or neatly shaved (no johnny depp) , good English diction, and no visible ink.

It is pretty pathetic I will agree. I have known many great seamen, officers etc who have ink. But if they have a lot they usually sit there wondering why the junior guy got promoted.

Personally I would wait before you go get your hands done untill you have a steady job. I have full sleeves and can wear a long sleeve shirt to cover it up. SOME people tend to get a little squeamish when they see the neck or hand tattoos just my 2cents.

Thank you! I hope I get more feed back on all this, but this is a good start.
And just putting this out there, I am supper normal looking and clean cut, and don’t fall under the “typical stereotype” that people associate with tattoos.
I do believe that it is discrimination in a whole new way. You can think of it as instead of having Black, Brown or white skin, you have all the colors.
And I do understand that a lot of people are not ready for it but I think a bill should be pushed through to protect our rights.
With that being said I probable wont get the hand tattoo, and if anyone can answer my second question to my personal email swug69@gmail
Thank you everyone

Whether or not you decide to have tattoos is entirely up to you. Same as you can decide to shave your head, wear your hair in a ponytail, dress in jeans hanging below your underwear, or wear a 3 piece suit. However, do not ever expect to have people disregard the way you present yourself. Getting “ink” is a choice - therefore you are choosing to present yourself in a certain way.

As for your 2nd question, why are you spending 2 years at a community college? The normal curriculum at one of the state maritime colleges/academies is doable in the 4 years necessary. The two years you spend waiting to get into the workforce is going to cost you between $100000 and $150000 in additional tuition and lost wages. So, the question to you is, “Why?”

[QUOTE=Jr. Captain;57522]…the pig and chicken in my arm pits. [/QUOTE]

Armpits? They’re supposed to be on your feet…