I am considering making a move from the oil field lifestyle to the merchant fleet shipping with the union. I am an engineer currently sailing on a drill ship. I have had some talks with shipmates that made the opposite switch but would like some diverse input and information. I am considering the switch for a few reasons. From what I understand the union gives you the freedom to ship whenever you want. Is this a fact? Is there any obligation I am not aware of that would require me to ship more than 3 or 4 months out of the year? How is the Union lifestyle? How does it all work? Any information will be helpful and I would appreciate it.
You can sail with MEBA when you want as 2nd and 3rd engineer as those jobs come off the job board. The 1st and chief jobs are permanent (70/70, or 90/90) and a few reliefs are called for 1st engineers when both 1st’s have commitments (graduations, marriages, family deaths, etc. Usually the 1st relief jobs are short ones ( one round trip).
You can sail as much or as little as you want in the MEBA. You would need so many days for pension credit and medical. Medical is 60 days for 6 months coverage. 240 days for pension but that also includes vacation so you can convert OT to get more vacation days if needed. 2nd and 3rd mostly but lately there has been a lot of relief 1st available. Your best bet would be to head down to a hall local to you and speak with an agent or rep
I am from New Hampshire and have a MEBA union hall in Boston. Is it worth trying to sail out of Boston or would I be better off going down to New York where there is more ships? Also does the 60 days required for medical also take vacation days into consideration like the pension days? I am trying to find out if one 90 day trip per year with MEBA would satisfy all requirements, as well as get me medical for the next nine months while im working my other job. Sounds like pension days would be out of the question because even with vacation days I don’t see 1, 90 day hitch gathering me the 240 required.
One 90 day rotary job would probably be 105 days on the west coast (each trip was 35 days). You can get jobs from Boston but they are open board jobs no one wants from other ports. Here’s how you can get more time off. Convert all your overtime to vacation (formula is 5 hours of OT= 1 day off) Lets say you get 100 hour a month OT, that’s 20 days paid vacation for each month worked (60 days for a 90 day relief) You get varying vacation days but most container companies used to give 26/30 days paid vacation. That’s 78 days paid vacation. 90 shipping days +60 converted OT+ 78 vacation days= 228 days covered employment (work 12 port relief/ Maint engineer jobs and you have all your pension year in. My data is old as I retired from MEBA 7 years ago. Go down to 12 channel st, 6th floor, in Boston and talk to the rep there. He can fill you in with the more current information. Maybe you will leave with a job as there are lots of ready reserve jobs which don’t go to sea much.