i am an academy grad, and have done nothing but licensed work since 1997. admittedly, i’ve been very fortunate. as far as SIU vs. MSC goes, depends on what you are in it for.
SIU: if you’re in it purely for vacation, then SIU deep sea is the way to go. i work with SIU crew 75% of the time, and your statement that your brother has never waited more than a day for a ship definitely raises an eyebrow, but he’s your brother so i’ll just take your word for it. but i still find that incredibly hard to believe, unless you and your brother’s last name is Sacco. the SIU will chew you up and spit you out 20-30-40 yrs from now at 7-9 mos shipping per year, and you will get squat for a pension even after 20+ yrs of actual seatime. your shore time on commercial ships will be scant, if any. doesn’t matter whether it’s a tanker or container and certainly not car carrier. we only have 7 or 8 US flag bulkers, and whether you can go ashore or would want to go ashore is a crap shoot from one voyage to the next.
MSC: be prepared to live either near san diego or norfolk, b/c that is where you will have to report to when they put you back in to the labor pool for ship assignment. i honestly don’t know what the wages are like, but i did just meet a c/e who did nearly 10mos straight and they called him to go back after about 2-3 mos off. that part of MSC has never really changed.
your best options for steady employment, chances of advancement, and good pay are the GOM OSV operators. however, if you don’t live near Louisiana you may want to consider moving. working 28/28 or 28/14 for a while can really wear you down if you have to fly home or drive more 6 than hrs every time. online applications are good, but showing in person is a lot more effective.
plenty of threads on here to educate you on “knocking on doors in LA.”
look them up and do your research or the salty masses are going to keelhaul you for failure to show initiative.
oh yeah, US flag commercial fleet is in really bad shape these days (NOTHING NEW ABOUT THAT) with scrapping of 4 ships and gov’t sequestration affecting MARAD monies effective OCT 01. only going to get worse with conclusion of withdrawal of troops/equipment from kuwait/iraq and afghanistan.