Where will I work? License in process, question about the industry

Hello! I am a cadet in the United States working on my license as a Marine Engineer. A professor said something interesting during one of his lectures yesterday, that there were not as many blue water vessels as us cadets think, my question is with my license where/what type of vessels am I statistically going to work on, I am not aware of engineers being needed on tugs, and other vessels other then really large vessels. (excuse my ignorance still new to this industry) So basically I guess my question is, it realistic to get on a deep water vessel, and if not, will my career options in the sailing industry be significantly affected negatively (ie job opportunity, salary, work experience) Can anyone touch on those factors, thanks for all the help!


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tons of opportunity in the OSV world. Great way to get experience in the real world… I would think blue water sailing would be a bit boring after awhile… But i guess most jobs get that way after awhile. In the OSV buisness engineers make about the same money as bridge officers…
Best of luck…


First of all, do yourself a favor and don’t expect to make 6 figures…that way if you happen to be an exception and not the rule, you will be pleasantly surprised.

In general, there are usually more opportunities for engine personnel than deck.

I can’t speak for deep sea shipping, but i have read threads on here and the common theme is its a tough nut to crack.
The OSV industry is hiring, and would be a great place to get your feet wet. Tugs/ATBs too, but there is a bit more pressure on openings in that sector because the pay is better and steadier usually. Lots of tug companies have a preference to run a licensed engineer on board even if it isn’t a manning requirement. So, you could in theory sail as a chief with your 3rd license on a tug under 200 grt.
Because of the last downturn, myself and a lot of other mariners are staying clear of OSVs…but if i got laid off tomorrow, i wouldn’t hesitate going back if the opportunity was there.


Thanks so much, I appreciate the comment on salary, although I am not really concerned on how much I will make, just what the tug pay would be in comparison to say a OSV or deep sea shipping job?

Additionally, when you talk about mariners staying clear of OSVs could you explain why?
Could you also touch on what kind of tugs WOULD need a licensed engineer in comparison to tugs that do not?

Sorry for so many questions, just trying to diversify my knowledge of the field?

Don’t let anyone scare you off OSV’s. Tug pay may be marginally better, but you can still make upwards of 90k as an engineer working even time. And, just like on tugs you are credited a day and a half for every 12 hour day you work.

It’s a great way to upgrade faster than all your buddies on the big ships. Then you can join a union and be in charge of your own classmates!

Few years ago OSVs were booming and the wages were way high. Lots of folks chased money to only get laid off when the bottom fell out.
I am by no means trying to discourage anyone from osvs. Like i said if i had to, i’d go back in a second. I prefer life on an OSV. Much more comfortable, generally speaking.
There is no recession proof job. A few years ago a well known oil spill response company had some lay offs…after that I would say no one is completely safe, ever.
Anything over 200 grt is required to carry a licensed engineer, so therefore most ATBs will require at least one licensed engineer. Most wire tugs are under 200 grt. Most tractor tugs too. However, most companies have a preference of having a licensed engineer even if it isn’t required. Crowley, for example.

From what i have heard engineer pay on the osvs is getting close if not matching what tugs are paying. A big difference is most of the osv companies benefits package are lacking compared to most tug companies.

I don’t doubt that

How much do OSV engineers make and how much do tug engineer make? Trying to educate myself.

I’d say anywhere from 70-90k on OSVs depending on the company and how much you are willing to work. I can’t attest to the pay on tugs.

for how many months of work?

Look, you’re still in school. Just worry about getting your first job, paying off any student debt ASAP, and learning everything you can wherever you end up. Once you’re in the hiring manager’s officer at a boat company (or union hall), you can worry about the dollars and schedule. Best of luck.


you are 100% right, thanks for the insight

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Safe to say most OSV companies in the gulf of mexico do 28/14. There are some that do even time, but some don’t. Doing a ‘2 for 1’ rotation it comes out to working roughly 8 months a year.

The other side of the coin, most tug companies do an even time rotation, be it 28/28, 14/14, etc…working roughly 6 months a year.
There are also lots of variations, but my above description covers the jist of it.

Take the excellent advice above from nhdomer and keep in mind what you make per day isn’t the bottom line. Paid travel, good crew changes, the benefits package…these are all important things to consider when finding employment.


What’s a “good crew change?” I’ve never heard of such a thing, at least on OSV’s.

To the OP, try the drill ship companies too, I’ve seen some openings there pop up lately. Might be worth a try.

To me, getting off within a 2-3 day window of a predetermined and agreed upon date is a good crew change.

Bad crew change: signing on for a 4 week hitch that turns into 7 weeks.

But i shouldn’t bitch. The deep sea guys especially MSC have it way worse.