Working Foreign?

I’m a newly minted 3/M, fresh out of the Academy, and like everyone else I ran headfirst into the wall of the downturned economy. I did join a union, but it will likely be months before I can get a job because of my low seniority. I know literally every other American-flag outfit is full up with the exact same situation.

So, with all that in mind, what do I need to do to look into sailing foreign? Should I in the first place or is this an extremely bad idea?

You should pick some companies that you like and apply to them. Its a good idea because you need the sea time. How complicated is that? Am I not understanding the question?

Hi Harry. I predict you are about to recieve a reply from the gCaptain welcome wagon president and host/hostess which may leave you a little creeped out but pay it no mind.

I have been sailing most of the last half of this career on foreign flag ships because I ended up in drilling industry. Came for the equal time on/off and decent pay, stayed for excellent laundry service and decent food, not to mention they make my bed and give me a new towel every other day.

Unfortunately the drilling sector is down as well. I had my chiefs and my first chiefs job before leaving US flag but your US license should be endorsed by just about any FOC type nation out there. That time has always counted for renewals for me as well.

Outside of drilling I have to think the pay would be less if you could convince someone to hire you but that’s not the only thing huh?

I can’t think of a downside for a young person who wants to sail in this market. Good luck on the job hunt.

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I worked foreign flag cruiseships for a couple years to get seatime. Good people, long hours, no money, great ports and weather. You better be having a great day, with a big smile on…every single day. I don’t regret it, got my time and moved up to a waaaaaay better gig. Good luck.

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Thanks for all the kind words! I’m just wondering how do I go about it. As in, do I need to go get an equivalent license from a FOC nation? How would I do that? Will my American license hamper me in overseas employment?

I just don’t really know how to go about it; I didn’t learn anything about this at the academy. The only reason I knew anything about the unions was because I was “lucky” to sail on the Empire State one summer and got to sit in on their presentation on MM&P.

edit: Oh, and taxes, too. I don’t know anything about the tax situation working foreign other than it’s extremely complicated.

This might help with your tax questions? Click around on the site below Uncle Sam has plenty of information up there. I strongly recommend you do consult with a CPA although. I have been self-employed since 1993 with my own corporation since 1999 and would not have been able to do it myself. I also receive compensation for services, from foreign countries and vendor pay multiple contractors that reside in foreign countries. Your bank will automatically apply the current foreign exchange rates to your deposits.

There are plenty of Ship Management Companies that crew ships (incl. rigs and OSVs) for “absentee Owners”. They operate internationally, many with offices in USA.
You may Google V-Ships, Denholm, Wallems, Thome & Co, Wilhelmsen, Anglo Eastern to mention but a few.

If you are specially interested in Offshore Vessels, try OSM:

The taxes don’t have to be complicated. I’ve worked on Bahamian, Vincentian, Singaporean and American flagged ships. I’ve been paid out of England, Spain, Emirates, and India. In my experience they don’t want to deal with your national tax law, so they just direct deposit your funds to your account. Then its on you to self-report your income when you file your taxes. You just add up your stubs and write the number in the box. Don’t cheat though, I worked with a guy from Louisiana who hadn’t bothered to report his income, and when the federales found out about it they started garnishing him big time. Poor guy could never go out with us, always skinned.

Good question…I am also curious as to how one would obtain employment on a FOC ship? I’ve heard something about having to walkin to a Panamanian consulate and submitting the paper work to receive a credential by their government. I’ve heard that most foreign companies won’t deal with American officers on account of the Jones Act. Good luck brother.

Not Wilhelmsen Line, Wilhelmsen Shipmanagement:

V-Ships are among the bigliest in the business, with offices in many countries:

Anglo-Eastern is also among the larger Shipmanagement companies. They are crewing all types of ships, incl. semi-submersible HLV and other special vessel types:

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The problem with that is the same as with tankers, how do you get experience on there in order to get qualified to sail on there?

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Solution; start at entry level. (I.e. 3rd Mate for deck officers)


You need PIC to be a mate of any level so entry level is AB, but (at least on tankers) you need Tankerman Assistant to be hired as an AB. In this economy it’s nearly impossible to even get an AB job (while holding a license) to get the necessary experience because they don’t want to hire you to only have you leave after a few hitches after getting your PIC.

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Are you sure this applies to foreign flag ships??
Are these STCW requirements? If not they may not apply on foreign Tankers/LNG Carriers.
(I’m asking because I don’t know and have not enough time to check)

BTW: I thought the OP was a “newly minted 3rd Mate”??

STCW has a rating of basic tanker operations (equivalent to our Tankerman Assistant) and they have advanced tanker operations type specific to either oil tanker, chemical tanker, or liquefied gas tanker (equivalent to our PIC endorsements).

I really don’t know what personnel onboard are required to have which ratings under STCW and different foreign flag state requirements.

That’s what he said, what’s your point?

It looks like, maybe, a 3rd mate could get away with only having STCW V/1-2.1, basic training for officers on liquefied gas tankers.

What about “American V-Ships?” My first job as a mate after graduation was on a foreign flag cruise ship working for them back in 2001. Granted, that ship was an unmitigated disaster for all involved (and was as far as I know, AMO’s only foray into foreign flagged stuff), but overall they seemed like a decent outfit. Not sure if they still exist though.

[quote=“Capt_Phoenix, post:17, topic:44825, full:true”]
It looks like, maybe, a 3rd mate could get away with only having STCW V/1-2.1, basic training for officers on liquefied gas tankers. [/quote]

Probably not. See STCW Convention Regulation V/1-2, paragraph 3:

Masters, chief engineer officers, chief mates, second engineer officers and any person with immediate responsibility for loading, discharging, care in transit, handling of cargo, tank cleaning or other cargo-related operations on liquefied gas tankers shall hold a certificate in advanced training for liquefied gas tanker cargo operations.

The same applies to oil and chemical tankers, see STCW Regulations VI/1-1, paragraphs 3 and 5.

Unless the 3rd Mate is not going to stand a cargo watch and/or not be the person in charge of a cargo operation, they are going to need the advanced STCW endorsement.

James D. Cavo
U.S. Coast Guard
Mariner Credentialing Program
Policy Division (CG-MMC-2)

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They exists:,-75515432,1006646&tbm=lcl&rldimm=2239070647197707826&tbs=lrf:!3sEAE,lf:1,lf_ui:3&rldoc=1

V-Ship Group offers opportunities world wide for any nationalities:

That’s why I said maybe. I could easily see a 3rd mate not being “immediately responsible” for the transfer but instead they have “specific duties and responsibilities related to cargo”.