Union advice for Chief (limited) oceans

Good morning, Im looking for some advice about unions. I hold a Chief Engineer (limited) and looking for a way to get my foot in the door on tugs. I started my career on ship assist tugs and moved to O&G years ago. Im currently employed and im doing alright but im getting to the point to where i want to make a move soon. Ive applied to about 9 different companies in the last couple of weeks and ive only heard back from a couple of them and it was to let me know my app was in review. I heard that some tug companies are hesitant to hire OSV guys for several reasons. So my question is should i talk to a union about employment? Can a union offer me anything with me having a smaller license? Or better yet do i have anything to offer a union? Which unions are going to take guys like me? Ive never been in a union so i dont know much about pros vs cons. Thank you to every one who replies.

You won’t know unless you apply, research,and sell yourself… Check out AMO and SIU on their websites. Can’t comment on the other unions, have not been associated with them. There are quite a few.MMP,IBU, MEBA to name a few… There are more anti-union opinions on this site than pro-union. That is your choce or non choice. Pro union is my stance.

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Thank you SeaEagle! Being on the OSV’s there isnt much people that i meet that are union as you can probably can imagine. Back in 2012 to 2013 there seemed to be alot of unlimited Engineers coming out here to work on the OSV’s i would talk to them about unions and long story short i cant remember any one of them being anti-union. I think they were just soaking up that $800+ per day at the time. My nearest SIU is in Mobile AL and i think there is a MEBA in New Orleans . Just looking for a idea of what to expect before i take a 4 hour drive. I plan on taking a road trip to visit them once i get back in the U.S.

I don’t have any information that can help you but my two cents here is union / non-union is not the way I ever looked for a job.

The first question is does the company have tugs?
Second is are they hiring?
Third is how is the pay and benefits?
What’s the location as so forth.

That might not be the right order but I’d put union / nonunion at the bottom of the list below how’s the food.

Once you have your foot in the door it’s another ball game.

I’ve been in three different unions and I was always treated OK.

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Thank you Kennebec_Captain! Its not really weather the company is union or non. Its if joining a union in order to have a better chance at being put to work on a tug is a better option. That was my fault i should have been more clear about my intentions in my post. The way i see it is if i feel like im being treated and paid well then im happy union or nonunion. Ive only worked for 2 different companies in the last 22 years so im kinda rusty when it comes to job hunting. A few of the companies i applied to are union and some are not.

Typically the way it works with the union tug companies is the company hires direct and then you join. However there are other members that know more about this then I do.

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Ok i see, That must be the way Sause Bros and some of the other companies do. That makes more sense now.

Like others, I am a bit curious. Currently you are working for an OSV company, could we know which one? What is your schedule like? I am assuming you had a pay cut over the years, any way to say percentage wise? Price of oil is back over pre pandemic numbers, are you not seeing a slight pick up in work?

Kennebec is correct. Contact the tug companies as best you can, they do mostly vett their future employees thru their port captains/engineers and H.R. Then forward you to the union if they like what they see… Put your best foot forward and be persistent. I can only speak for myself, but always welcomed a good troubleshooter that knows their engine room, regardless of how high their license was or where it came from. I have repeated a story on here a few times about a very talented AB that wanted engine room. He is now a well paid Chief Engineer. Don’t sell yourself short.

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As an older non-union mariner, I have not kept up on the unions in recent years, so I may be out of date.

Generally, various West Coast tug companies with IBU contracts have been able to hire whomever they want, but the guys hired must join IBU within a certain time. MMP Inland is similar.

I use to do some occasional trip work for IBU and MMP companies without joining the union, but I’ve only done that once in recent years.

At some companies with IBU contracts, the company must hire the deck and engineroom crew out of the IBU hall.

It’s has been common for some companies to have a MMP Inland wheelhouse, but an IBU deck and engineroom crew. There have been companies with a management/non-union wheelhouse, but an IBU deck and engine crew.

Some companies are vertical IBU. Some companies are vertical MMP Inland. Many of the California tug companies tend to have one vertical union, either IBU or MMP.

The only West Coast company with SIU tugboat contracts that I can think of is Crowley. To my knowledge, Crowley’s Western Alaska Fuel Division is the only company outside of the Great Lakes represented by Local 5000 of the United Steelworkers Union.

For 40 years there have been more and more union tug companies, that have acquired or started semi-union (non-union wheelhouse) subsidiaries, and entirely non-union subsidiaries. Then, tugboats and tug and barge work, tends to get shifted from the parent union companies to the subsidiary non-union companies. Growth takes place at the non-union subsidiaries, while the union parent companies tend to shrink. Most ship assist work tends to remain union, but not all of it.

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These Crowley jobs were recently posted on gcaptain…
Crowley is seeking assistant engineers (Oceans, Any HP, Limited) for our Ocean Class fleet. This is contract based work operating in the GOM and EC. You must be a member of SIU or willing to join.

I just saw a Hornbeck ad seeking: ABs, QMEDs, “training mates,” and “training engineers.”

Chief limited-oceans is a plenty big enough license to suffice most, if not all tug companies. Since you have been on OSVs i will assume you have all your stcw bs that goes along with it, which should be a huge plus because there are still some tug engineers out there without their gap closures and such.

Like others have mentioned, the companies usually can hire you directly and then you join the union within a certain time frame. The way it is supposed to work is, if the company has an opening, the union is supposed to provide someone to fill the billet. If they can’t do it, then the company can hire directly.

I am completely neutral on unions or non. There are some scandalous outfits out there that have chewed people up and spit them out, in and out of the maritime industry. Thats why there are unions. However, there are plenty of non-union companies that treat their people fairly too. Pros and cons to both sides.

One thing you want to watch out for is some companies may be union, but you don’t get to take part in their pension plan or other benefits. You are basically just paying your dues and initiation fees to have a contract/bargaining agreement. No more or less.

One of the perks of being in a union is the comprehensive benefits package (free schooling, family benefits, etc…) that come with being a dues paying member. If you aren’t getting that, whats the point?

Sause is going thru lay-offs i’ve heard, so that would probably be a dead end.

Crowley just put that posting up for assistants on their ocean class fleet. That would be a great place to transition in to.

Just keep in mind, tug engineers usually are expected to chip in on deck…and most boats only have one engineer (you) unless you end up on an ATB.

I hear (for whatever it’s worth) that Dale Sauce (the last remaking Sauce brother) is looking toward retirement and downsizing to focus on the fuel transport business. His daughters are apparently not interested in the business.

The Hawaii trade was Sauce’s bread and butter for many years. Last year they sold two big, relatively new, very nice Hawaii trade freight barges to Lynden/Alaska Marine Lines for its Hawaii trade. Sauce has also sold a bunch of older equipment.

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Ctony is correct. I had the luxury of an AE and Chief. Not perhaps in the job description at the time, but both were valuable volunteering for loading grub,etc and tow winch duties while doing the occasional wire work. Bet your ass I took notice of who did or didn’t pitch in when they (The bean counters) reduced my crew. Not just engineers. My cooks (lucky to have them) got an eyeball as well to help in a pinch.Going from 12 to 8 men over time was a challenge. Was out there with them. Never told anyone to do something I hadn’t done myself. I got the right guys to pull it off.


Thanks again SeaEagle! Those are good words of encouragement!

Thanks for the info tugsailor! That helps put things in prospective. I worked on ship docking tugs years ago and i think we where the only branch that was not union. Best job i ever had i just didnt realize it at the time. I got a phone interview with Crowley this Monday afternoon and im still waiting for Vane Bros to finish my app evaluation so im excited about that. Im using things i learn from this forum to ask questions in interviews. Im kinda rusty when it comes to interviews.

Thanks Ctony! I was reading online about ATB’s and it seems like a big portion of them are running unlimited engine rooms so thats what i meant by my lic might not be big enough. Im hoping to get my foot in the door on tugs and mabey work my way into one of those ATB’s or mabey even ships. Im almost 41 so i got a few years to go.

Im the same when it comes to Unions (neutral). I have mostly heard good about them tho.

I didnt know Sause was doing layoffs and i just recently found out about Bouchard’s situation

I have to say that the OSV’s have been fairly good to me. I have took some pay cuts (as everyone eles has) but i have never been laid off. But i stay off the radar and keep a low profile. I found that helps out in this industry but the down side to keeping a low profile is you sometimes get passed over for spots that you wanted. Im not leaving the oilfield on bad terms i just feel its time to pursue somthing ive been wanting to do for years.

As far as the GAP closers i got all those classes back in 2016. I have a valid Passport with Yellow fever VAX, Med Cert, TWIC, Commercial DL and a squeaky clean record. Im about as L7 as it gets haha

I applied to Crowely and set up a phone interview for this Monday and im still waiting for Vane Bros to finish my app eval. The future is looking good

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Generally speaking, your license will be more than sufficient. I’m not privy to every single tug/atb operator out there, so there may be a company out there with equipment requiring an unlimited license. Most tugs are less than 200 grt and most atbs are less than 1600 grt if not 500 grt.

I used to work on OSVs too (90s era). OSVs are usually more comfortable to live on than tugs. Some of the bigger atbs are similar. Just depends on where you land. Best of luck, let us know how you make out.

Thanks for the heads up Chief_Seadog! I applied for that job yesterday. Im supposed to have a phone interview with them this Monday.