West Coast Aspiring OS Deckhand

First some background on myself. I’m 26 and in desperate need of a different path in life, 9-5 with 2 days off a week just isn’t for me. I plan to delve into the maritime industry the minute my lease is up, but unfortunately that’s a while off.

I’ve watched at least a dozen hours of videos pertaining to the industry, including tons about the SIU apprenticeship. I’ve also been in contact with SUP about joining them. I will be taking my STCW BST and VPSD classes and applying for my TWIC and MMC this fall. There is a 0% chance of me NOT sailing next year, so take that as a testament of my determination.

NOW for the question…

To preface, I know that nothing will beat calling/showing up to the hiring halls, but I’m roughly a year off from being ready to join so I don’t want to bug them too much.

How much waiting could an OS Deckhand expect to do at an SUP hall before finding work? I’m really not picky for my first few hitches, but I’ve read conflicting reports about AB’s taking up OS positions or ships requiring STOS. SUP said they would cover costs for RFPNW and any additional training, so I do know that a possibility.

By the time I’m ready to join the union I will have bags packed and waiting and I don’t mind bumming it at the hiring hall, I’m just trying to get an idea of what the process will entail. Seattle will be my local hall, so I’d love it if anyone has some direct experience with them lately that they could share.

I know Piney Point could get me to AB unlimited quicker, but I need to start working real contracts if I can. That being said, if I can’t find work by the time I need it I’m not above going to PP.

Thanks for any and all advice. I’m sure these posts can get annoying, but I promise I’ve been digging through forums for recent info… a bit too much so :face_with_spiral_eyes:

Back when I worked for Patriot the SUP gang was telling me grabbing the gray hulls as an OS was pretty easy. Not sure if it still is, but if so it seems like a great way to get your foot in the door and build time for AB and a union book rapidly. If you’re able to get the certs for them that might be worth a look. As far as their better contracts, like Matson — I’d say you have a better shot at being the first man on Mars.

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Private message me and I will give you some advice that usually does the trick.


When times are tight there might be instances of ABs taking OS billets because that’s the only work available but right now, at least with SIU, the are so many AB jobs on the board the union can’t fill them all.

There are a lot of RRF activations going on right now and a lot of those ships have OS positions with SIU so it’s a good time to be starting out. They’re also some of the best paying contracts, though for OS that still isn’t saying a lot.


You also might want to consider going to supply boats as an OS. The pay is probably better, the work schedule is almost definitely better, you can advance to AB faster because AB OSV only requires 180 days (if that’s still an option with the new rules), and you get 1.5 sea days for every day onboard.

Also, if you get on with the right company, there’s a chance you could simply work straight through hitches and not need to go home for a while.


There’s a lot of that going on these days. ABs are in high demand.


That’s definitely an alluring idea. By supply ships are you talking about non-union gulf work?

He is

Harvy gulf
Hornbeck offshore

Or basically any boat company in Louisiana and there is a lot and you’ll probably have a job in 24 hours of putting in a résumé to any of them


You don’t need the union to advance with current labor shortages. Look at OSV work, inland companies until you get your MMC and tugs. Have you looked into MSC?



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Or in general, and I should have mentioned that but was pressed for time when replying.

The CE’s and Masters of several vessels I’ve sailed over the years got their starts as seamen on fishing trawlers. Once you get a gig somewhere and get your feet wet you’ll know what you want and where/how to get it.

Overall any of the advice posted here won’t steer you wrong. Best of luck to you!


I’ve glanced at MSC, but I should probably give them a more earnest look. Thanks for the info

Much appreciated! I’m going to see what SUP has to offer me when I’m ready to ship out next May.

Good luck!

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Most every company is hiring. I know my boss is seriously looking for Seattle-based deckhands

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You might want to reconsider your time frame. Is the lease worth more than the potential for a career in a field in which you have no experience and might even find abhorrent?

This is a loud boom and dull thud business that might well be a whole different world in less than a year. Today, June 6th, might be the best it will be for who knows how many more years. Read the posts from a few years ago then factor history and reality in your planning.

If you are serious, move now. Your target may be out of range by this Fall.


Thanks for that perspective. I wish I could drop everything I’m doing now and get onboard tomorrow, but I have some stuff to get in order first. I’ll definitely reconsider my timeframe and see what I can manage.

Feel free to send me a note. I can help.

What does your lease have to do with it anyway?

Who wants to pay rent for a house that nobody lives in? Ideally I’d like to go work 90+ days at a time and just buy a travel trailer to stay in for a while.

In all reality the major thing holding me back from shipping out immediately is just needing to save up some cash for STCW basic training and finding time to do it. I’ve already contacted my nearest provider and will be doing their next available course. Realistically the soonest I could expect to have that and my credentials in order would be October.