I didn’t see anything of this sort posted, so I guess I’ll open a topic – my first on gCaptain – to ask what I’d call “Stupid Pre-OS questions”. I’m in the process of a career change and have been trying to figure it all out.
I’m sure if your family’s in the trade you’re raised to understand the steps and paperwork, but I’m coming at it sidewise with no experience other than my father having worked a bit of time on a fishing boat in Alaska. I’m 27, living in Seattle and looking to go to sea.
====Stupid Newbie Question One: Certification====
Now, operating without a mentor, I’ve done my own research, and from what I can gather, here’s how I think it goes:
[B]TWIC[/B] --> ([I]CG-719k/e[/I]+[I]CG-719P[/I]+[I]CG-719B[/I] and associated drug tests, physicals, etc.) --> [B]MMC[/B] --> [B]STCW-95[/B]
Now, it’s at this point that my understanding of the process starts to fall apart. I’ve gathered that the course for the STCW-95 involves… well, I get from Don Pedro’s Advice for Newcomers to Ship Work 6-9 months of a seaman’s vocational school, whereas every actual school I’ve looked up, especially in the area, says they do it in 5-7 days. Something doesn’t add up here. What am I missing?
Extra Credit: Seaman’s Book/Seaman’s Medical Certificate. What are they, do I need them, where do I get them? Is the latter different from the CG-719k?
====Stupid Newbie Question Two: Unions====
I’ll freely admit I’ve never worked in a skilled trade before. Until now, I’ve trained people to use computers, something I’m quite good at. What I have gathered is that in the Trades, one should be a member of a union if one wishes to actually work. All right, I’m game. I went out and did some research. Starting from zero, I found:
• SIU - The Big One, handles the east coast, gulf coast, (some) inland waters and (all of?) international shipping.
• IBU - Seems to be in charge of the west coast and (some) inland waters.
• Various officer/specialist unions that are at the current moment of little application to the aforementioned Stupid Newbie™, unless there’s one with a mop and bucket in its logo.
Now, I know unions tend to be a sensitive topic, but I honestly don’t know stuff, and would rather know stuff before going into this. Sorry if I’m stepping on anyone’s toes. Speaking of which…
====Stupid Newbie Question Three: Boots====
A bit of a sidetrack here, but an entertaining one. I know I’m not going out on deck in flip-flops, nor do I want to show up wearing better boots than the Bosun. What do I need to know about footwear at sea? Steel toes, I assume, but what else do I need to know and what’re your recommendations as per brand? I don’t give a damn about flashy, just functional.
====Stupid Newbie Question Four: Positions====
From what I understand from my reading, one starts as an Ordinary Seaman in either Deck, Engine or Steward’s department, but nothing I read seems to hold a sensible line as to what’s what. Some sites say there’s no OS position anymore, just AB/jr. and AB/sr. Then if you’re in Engine, you’re something called a wiper? Gah!
====Stupid Newbie Question Four: Jumping Right In====
I get that this is a recession and thus a stupid time to change jobs. I don’t plan to quit my day job right away – not until the economy improves and there’s a need for workers. That said, when I start, where do I start? Do I walk the docks? Do I go to a corporate website? Can one jump right into international container shipping, or should I expect to spend a decade or so near-coastal before I earn the right to go further? Realistically speaking, what do I plan for?
Many thanks to all of you for answering these questions. I really appreciate it.