Union advice for Chief (limited) oceans

I sailed both union and non-union. I didn’t find a big difference between union and the better non-union companies. The pay, benefits and schedule were close enough that for me it came down to personal preference in the equipment and locations over anything else. I worked for some not-so-better non union companies too and there was definitely a huge difference in all of the above. I think it largely comes down to personal preferences and the overall package.

I got hired by the company and joined SIU later, never could get anyone to take my initiation money though. The company said to pay the union directly and the union said the company would deduct it from my check. Nobody did either and I never paid. Still get my union newspaper though.

I’ve been on hawser boats, wire boats and ATBs. I was over an over 40 engineer doing as much deck work as engineer, pulling in the hawser at 2am off Sandy Hook in January with 6ft side-to seas … not fun at the time but worth it for the sea stories. The Captain asked me once if it bothered me doing deck work, cooking and cleaning as an Academy grad and a licensed CE. I shrugged my shoulders and said I’m just a promoted deckhand. He laughed and said “me too”.


I can’t speak for ATBs such as Crowley, but at Foss you have the inside boats and the outside boats. The inside boats are typically two-week on/off schedule, but you need seniority to get those spots. These are the ship assist tugs with a 4 or maybe 5-man crew.

Some of the outside boats do set runs up to Alaska in the summer or work various contracts around Alaska. These might have some sort of schedule too but usually only require DDE or even less, so there are plenty of engineers available.

The biggest ocean-going tugs now require CE-limited, and that’s where you might see more job openings. There is one on the Foss website now. Those boats can go anywhere in the world, towing whatever needs to be towed - barges, decommissioned ships, new-builds, etc. Each job is different so the schedule is variable, but usually long hitches. Many other west coast tug companies have these types of hitches too, from Bay area or Portland to Hawaii and other runs.

BrownWaterGuy, I can seriously relate to that. SIU, non union, and then AMO, Well said “Me too”. I got my hands dirty with the rest of the crew, no regrets. You would have been welcome on my rig and paid quite well perhaps. My engineers that kicked in were worth their weight in gold. Made sure the bean counters were aware of that. I started from the bottom, have a good grasp on the challenges you faced. Sounds like you worked for a darn good captain.

BrownWaterGuy/SeaEagle Im the same when it comes to working on deck. It doesn’t bother me one bit to get my ass out there. On the mud boats i like to joke that im a high payed Tankerman. It doesnt bother me to help on deck because when its time to get a heavy pump motor down to the bulk room the deck hands are usually the first to step up and help me while my oiler is hiding somewhere taking selfies and updating his Instagram.

I have a few different union halls within 4 to 5 hours of my town so im planning on taking a road trip to visit them when i get home in late March (hopefully).

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Thanks for the info Capt_Phoenix ! I have applied to both those job postings and have a second interview with the Ocean Class this Wednesday. So im keeping my fingers crossed

As far as the Western Alaska Job that sounds interesting. They may think im crazy because im from the Gulf Coast. The way i see it is it would help me get my foot in the door so if i have to go to Alaska for 8 or 9 months to do so then so be it.

Thanks TxsCaptian ! I will check out the FOSS website tonight. I would be all over that Hawaii run or anything on the west coast. Im willing to go virtually anywhere in the world they need me to go.

Harpoon 454 , that is a kickass Chevy engine (454), These cats have given you some good clues. Jump on it.

Yes sir! the first engine i overhauled for a high school auto shop project . The help everyone has giving me on this thread has been awesome and i greatly appreciate it!

Your license is for unlimited horsepower so it’s big enough for any tug.

Keep in mind that those boats don’t have a schedule. If being able to plan things at home in advance is important to you then you might not like it.

The only thing i got in the near future is my daughter’s high school grad in 2022 other then that im free.

None at all? I’ve been curious, do they have any steady work?

No. They do spot work like platform installs & decommissions, salvage, contract tows, etc.

I liked it too. I had a knack for line throwing so I would practice with the new guys to help them out. Also found out I was the only one who knew how to splice to I had a class with the deckhands one day and we all sat around and did a bunch of eye splices. Not much a fan of needle gunning and painting but it was what it was.

Thought about going for the wheelhouse but I figured it was just my blood sugar dropping. I made a sandwich and laid down for a bit and the feeling passed.


That’s funny.
Way less competitive going the engine route too.
Most folks don’t want to bilge dive.

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In the end I loved being a department of one too much. Chief on an ATB is about as good as you can get in the US fleet I think. I only had myself to worry about, I had pretty much solo control of my stuff, basically set my own hours as long as everything was done. Not a bad gig at all


BrownWaterGuy , was not bad at catching lines in my earlier days. The single screw wheel guys depended on it. Also flipping them off on sailing. It is an art. My bride always said “Your arms are bigger than your body”, well, no shit.


That is what im trying to work myself back into. I have lost touch with that over the years. The “newer school” OSV world has kinda slowly beat that out of me with piles of JSEA’s , COW’s, MOC’s haha but its my fault for letting them do that so im to blame. Dont mean to sound like a downer to those trying to get started or are on OSV’s im just thinking out loud. Im a greaser with a half-ass edumacation that makes 150K per year so OSV’s have been pretty good to me its just time to get back to where i belong and i was happier .

Didn’t get the A/E spot on the Ocean Class tug. Cant make it home by the time the tug goes on charter. And i dont want to leave my current company on bad terms by not finishing my hitch that feel very obligated to finish even tho i know they will have me replaced before i hang up the phone haha. The guy who interviewed me sounds like a great guy and advised me to go join SIU and get my name in the hat so im going to do that when i get home in April. I was thinking i might be of more value if i had a Tankerman’s ticket so im going to get my massive stack of DOI’s together and look into that as a Engineer/Tankerman and mabey have more to offer?

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You have a great attitude sir. I only wish the best for you. Get all the endorsements you can. A few decades ago, I stole a man from an oil barge under cover of darkness upriver from New Orleans. New hire as a tankerman, but knew his work history on the local assist boats,. He studied hard and ended up being the last Chief Engineer I sailed with. Still making bank. I knew that Texas boy was gonna work out just fine. Hardheaded, you bet your ass. Backed him up for years. Smiling to this day at his success.