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Maritime industry desperately seeks new merchant officers

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council, NLUS
    Oh, to be a recent maritime academy grad - what career opportunites await: Phelps _____________________________________
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 5, 2008
      Oh, to be a recent maritime academy grad - what career opportunites await:
      Maritime industry desperately seeks new merchant officers
      The Bayport Container Terminal, shown here, is just one of many places that needs maritime officers to do business.
      The Bayport Container Terminal, shown here, is just one of many places that needs maritime officers to do business.

      A struggling economy means an uncertain future for many college graduates, but there is at least one industry in Houston that guarantees a job offer – or three.

      The Texas Maritime Academy at Texas A&M Galveston in May produced 35 licensed Merchant Marine officers.

      At the school’s April career fair, 86 marine transportation companies showed up to hire those graduates, said Dr. Bowen Loftin, CEO of the Galveston campus.

      “Think about it – 86 companies are chasing 35 officers,” he said.

      “For those who have licenses as third mates, the beginning category for a man or a woman who’s going to be a deck officer, starting salaries are in excess of $100,000 per year.”

      For officers who are good at their jobs, those salaries could increase to as much as $250,000 per year within a few years, he said.

      In the United States, six state maritime academies and one federal academy produce about 900 licensed officers a year, Loftin said. There are currently 20,000 vacancies worldwide for licensed officers, he said.

      Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine operates the nation's largest fleet of inland tank barges and towing vessels, carrying everything from gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to asphalt, butane and benzene, according to its corporate website.

      “They used to be able to run their tow boats and barges 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Loftin said.

      “They tell me now that they’re operating only two-thirds of the time, and that’s because they don’t have a licensed officer to operate the vessel.

      “Now, think about that. You have millions of dollars of capital, which makes money for you only when it’s moving, and one-third of it’s not moving right now.”

      The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership has formed a committee, to be chaired by Loftin, dedicated to generating awareness on the maritime industry’s many opportunities in Houston and to producing more maritime officers.

      To that end, BAHEP has formed a partnership with Pasadena School District, San Jacinto College, Texas A&M Galveston and the University of Houston-Clear Lake to provide a streamlined way to get students through the appropriate channels.

      “We need to engage with students even in middle and high school, to get them oriented toward these kinds of career pathways,” Loftin said.

      A key factor in recruiting officers, who have the option of joining the military after graduation but are not required to do so, is increasing awareness about what a maritime job really is.

      “People think it’s a dirty job,” BAHEP President Bob Mitchell said at a recent meeting. “Well, it’s not a dirty job. It’s a highly technical job.”

      In addition, many people in the region are unaware of the tremendous number of jobs made available to them by the Port of Houston and the Ship Channel, where trade is growing at a rate of more than 10 percent per year, Loftin said.

      “The Port of Houston is among the very largest ports in the country,” he said. “It’s No. 1 in the country in terms of tonnage coming in, and one of the top five in any other measure you want to make.”

      The region’s huge economic engine is expected to grow even more once the Panama Canal is widened to allow bigger ships to pass through.

      “It’s an extraordinary moment in history right now,” Loftin said. “We’ve never had demand this high for our graduates in history. And we don’t see any fall-off.”


      This is 5 years old but the data is good except for wages and openings. Both are up!

      Visit Michigan.gov, the official portal for the State of Michigan




      Ship's Masters (or Captains) are in command of all departments of their ships and individuals assigned to them while away from port. Masters are in charge of all types of ships.

      Ship's Mates (or Department Officers) directly supervise the crew members assigned to their departments.

      Ship's Pilots assume command of ships to guide them into and out of harbors, or through straits and potential accident areas, using their knowledge of local winds, tides, currents, and hazards to navigation.


      Ship's Masters' may:

      Set the course and give orders to the helmsman (sailor steering the ship)

      Determine the geographical location of the ship

      Inspect the ship to ensure safe and efficient operation

      Coordinate operation of ship's signaling devices

      Calculate landfall (sighting of land)

      Avoid reefs, outlying shoals, and other hazards to shipping

      Use a pilot to guide the ship through hazardous waters, when entering or leaving an unfamiliar port, or passing through waterway locks

      Inspect the different departments daily to ensure that safety and efficiency regulations are followed

      Maintain the ship's log and their own records

      Act as shipowner's agent in dealing with customs officials

      Serve as ship's paymaster

      Masters may be designated according to the waters they are licensed to navigate, as master, great lakes; or by vessel, as fishing vessel captain, tugboat captain, ferryboat captain, or yacht master.

      Ship's Mates' may:

      Inspect holds of ships during cargo loading to ensure that cargo is stowed properly

      Inspect cargo-handling gear and lifesaving equipment and order necessary repairs

      Supervise crew members in the cleaning and maintenance of decks, super-structures, and bridges of ship

      Stand watch during specified periods

      Determine the ship's geographical position and the best course and speed for that vessel

      Ship's Pilots' may:

      Determine the best course and speed for a particular vessel

      Give directions to the sailor at the helm

      Signal to the tugboat captain

      Watch for other ships or hazards

      The tools, equipment, and materials used may include:

      * Sextants

      * Navigation charts

      * Radio, radar, & sonar

      * Area plotting sheets/instruments

      * Buoys, lights, & lighthouses

      * Radio directional finders

      * Whistles, signal lights, flags

      * Cargo loading computer

      * Ship's log

      * Electronic sounding devices

      * Binoculars

      * Compasses (drawing, directional)


      Merchant Marine Officers may specialize in these areas:

      197.167-010 SHIP'S MASTERS are in command of all departments of their ships and individuals assigned to them while they are away from port. They are in charge of all types of ships and are commonly called Captains. Masters may be designated according to the waters they are licensed to navigate, as Master, great lakes; or by vessel, as fishing vessel captain, tugboat captain, ferryboat captain, or yacht master.

      197.133-022 SHIP'S MATES directly supervise crew members assigned to their department. They are also known as Department Officers. When more than one mate is required aboard ship, Mates may be designated as chief mate (usually on vessels, inspected by U.S. Coast Guard); first mate (usually on uninspected vessels); second mate; third mate; fourth mate; or relief mate. They may also be designated according to ship, such as fishing vessel mate.

      197.133-026 SHIP'S PILOTS are port stationed personnel who assume command of ships to guide them into and out of harbors, or through straits and potential accident areas using their knowledge of local winds, tides, currents, and hazards to navigation. Pilots may be designated according to the vessel commanded as Pilot, steam yacht; Pilot, tank vessel.

      197.130-010 MARINE ENGINEERS supervise and coordinate work of crew members who operate and maintain the ship's engines, boilers, deck machinery, and the electrical, refrigeration, and sanitary equipment.

      197.133-010 FISHING VESSEL CAPTAIN

      197.133-030 TUGBOAT CAPTAIN

      197.163-010 FERRYBOAT CAPTAIN

      197.133-014 YACHT MASTER

      197.133-018 FISHING VESSEL MATE

      In addition to learning about these specialties, you may also find it helpful to explore the following MOIScripts:


      Officers work both indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather. They are exposed to possible injury because of such hazards including falls on wet decks or outside stairs. Many accidents can be avoided by following safety rules and regulations.

      Masters, Mates, and Pilots may serve on many types of vessels in the Merchant Marine including ships used in commerce and other types such as yachts. On older ships, the Master and Chief Officers may each have a private compartment, but junior officers may have to share quarters and showers. On modern ships officers have their own private compartment with shower and dining area.

      Masters' and Mates' schedules may vary. Some sail on the same ship for years and others sign on different ships for varying lengths of time.

      The workweek on shore is different from the workweek at sea. At sea most officers work two 4-hour watches (shifts) with 8 hours off between every 24-hour period, 7 days a week. Deck Officers working on shore generally work 40 hours per week. Many officers work overtime, particularly those who serve on ships which enter and leave port frequently.

      Officers on passenger freighters and some cargo ships are encouraged to wear uniforms which they may purchase.

      Officers may belong to labor organizations such as the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots which is a trade union and professional society; or the Brotherhood of Marine Officers. Officers who belong to organizations pay periodic dues.

      You Should Prefer:

      • Activities of a technical nature
      • Activities involving use of machines, processes, or methods
      • Activities resulting in esteem from others
      • Activities involving communication of data to others
      • Activities involving business contact, if a Master or Captain

      You Should Be Able To:

      • Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing
      • Make mathematical calculations quickly and accurately
      • Reason logically
      • Make decisions based on measurable criteria and personal judgment
      • Judge distance accurately between the ship and other objects
      • Work within precise limits or standards of accuracy
      • Direct and plan the activities of others
      • Deal with crew in job duties beyond giving and receiving commands
      • Perform under stress, especially in emergencies
      • See details and recognize errors in numbers or spelling

      Math Problem You Should Be Able to Solve:

      A ship is sailing directly toward city A. City B is 50 miles away from city A in a perpendicular direction from the path of the ship. The angle between the path from the ship to city A and the path from the ship to city B is 45 degrees. How far does the ship have to travel before it reaches city A?

      Reading Example You Should Be Able to Read and Comprehend:

      When the velocities are linear and all have the same reference, relative velocities can be found simply be vector subtraction.

      Writing Example You Should Be Able to Produce:

      You should be able to write a report explaining the problems that may have occurred on your ship during a large storm at sea.

      Thinking Skill You Should Be Able to Demonstrate:

      You should be able to decide the quickest route from point A to point B while avoiding all dangers.

      Merchant Marine Officers serving on ships used for commercial purposes must be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. Masters, Chief Mates, Second Mates, or First class Pilots must be at least 21 and Third Mates must be 19 to apply for an officer's license. They must be U.S. citizens and obtain a U.S. Public Health Service certification that eyesight, color vision, and physical condition are satisfactory. They must also have appropriate sea experience and meet other requirements. Graduates of Coast Guard-approved programs may take the third Mate or First Class Pilot exam. In addition, applicants for particular licenses must pass written and practical tests.


      NOTE: On-The-Job Training provided by the employer may qualify a person for this occupation. Three years beyond high school may be necessary for completion of this training. An Associate Degree is usually earned after this amount of training in the Ship Officer Training Program.

      The following education and preparation opportunities are helpful in preparing for occupations in the MOIScript:


      0700 CAREERS , 0900 COMMUNICATIONS , 2200 MATH , 3300 TECHNOLOGY


      There are no Vocational Education Programs related to this MOIScript



      Ship Officer programs provide opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for positions as Merchant Marine Deck or Engineering Officer. The programs qualify successful students to take the U.S. Coast Guard examination for a first class pilot's license (Great Lakes), or third assistant engineer's license (steam and motor vessels).

      Courses vary with the type of officership but may include the following:

      For Deck Officer:

      For Engineering Officer:

      Maritime Discipline

      Maritime Discipline

      Nautical Rules of the Road

      Auxiliary Equipment

      Ship Construction & Stability

      Marine Electricity

      Marine Electricity

      Steam Engineering


      Engineering Drawing

      Electronic Navigation

      Diesel Engineering

      Maritime Law

      Combination Welding


      Machine Shop

      Sea Projects


      License Preparation

      Engineering Safety

                    Search for a College and/or Instructional Program


      There are no Apprenticeships related to this MOIScript


      Please check the Military website at http://www.myfuture.com


      The military operates many small boats for amphibious troop landings, harbor patrols, and transportation over short distances. Quartermasters and boat operators navigate and pilot many types of small watercraft, including tugboats, PT boats, gunboats, and barges.

      What They Do

      Quartermasters and boat operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:

      • Direct the course and speed of boats
      • Consult maps, charts, weather reports, and navigation equipment
      • Pilot tugboats when towing and docking barges and large ships
      • Operate amphibious craft during troop landings
      • Maintain boats and deck equipment
      • Operate ship-to-shore radios
      • Keep ship logs

      Training Provided

      Job training consists of 6 to 22 weeks of classroom instruction including practice in boat operations. Course content typically includes:

      • Boat handling procedures
      • Log and message-handling procedures
      • Use of compasses, radar, charts, and other navigational aids
      • Navigational mathematics

      Physical Demands

      Quartermasters and boat operators may have to stand for several hours at a time. They must be able to speak clearly. Some specialties require normal depth perception and hearing.

      Helpful Attributes

      Helpful school subjects include mathematics. Helpful attributes include:

      • Ability to work with mathematical formulas
      • Interest in sailing and navigation
      • Ability to follow detailed instructions and read maps

      Work Environment

      Quartermasters and boat operators work aboard all types of boats and in all types of weather conditions. When not piloting boats, they may work on or below deck repairing boats and equipment or seeing cargo storage. When ashore, they may work in offices that make nautical maps or in harbor management offices. Some boats are operated in combat situations.

      Civilian Counterparts

      Civilian quartermasters and boat operators may work for shipping and cruise lines, piloting tugboats, ferries, and other small vessels. They perform duties similar to military quartermasters and boat operators. Depending upon specialty, they may also be called tugboat captains, motorboat operators, navigators, or pilots.


      The services have about 4,000 quartermasters. On average, they need about 100 each year. After job training, new quartermasters and boat operators assist more experienced enlisted operators in maintaining logs, handling passengers, operating navigational equipment, and keeping charts. After gaining experience, they perform more difficult tasks, such as operating navigational equipment and calculating ship position. In time, they pilot boats and help train new quartermasters and boat operators.

       E-Learning Courses and Programs 


      Summer work with a shipping company as well as service in the Coast Guard or Navy offer experience. Postsecondary program study in ship officer training may offer opportunities for experience also.

                      School-to-Work opportunities include:

      informal apprenticeships


      job shadowing experiences

      touring a local Merchant Marine Officer employer


      volunteer work with a Merchant Marine Officer employer

      community service work with an agency

      One of the best methods of becoming a Ship's officer is to complete an established training program at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (New York) or one of the 6 state Merchant Marine academies in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, or Michigan. Potential employers recruit at these academies. In addition, you should access and search the Internet's on-line employment services sites such as:  

      Michigan Talent Bank   

      Classifieds Employment

      Yahoo! Careers


      You should also enter an electronic resume on these on-line services.

      Seaman with 3 years' experience may advance from an unlicensed to licensed rating through individual study. However, formal training is usually needed to pass the Coast Guard's examination for a Third Mate's license. Trade unions, such as the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots; the Seafarers' International Union of North America; and the Brotherhood of Marine Officers, provide officer training. However, because of a crowded job market, they have restricted training programs to the upgrading of licensed officers.  


      Earnings of Merchant Marine Officers vary according to union affiliation, size and type of the ship, individual positions and responsibilities, and number of hours worked.

      Nationally, in 1998, base annual wages of Merchant Marine Officers who worked on ocean going vessels were:





      $77,352 - $114,771

      $91,512 - $122,030

      Chief Officer

      $43,268 - $ 69,286

      $51,783 - $ 95,423

      Second Mate

      $38,507 - $ 58,581

      $45,792 - $ 80,684

      Third mate

      $34,220 - $ 47,876

      - - -

      The base salary ranges for unionized Merchant Marine Officers on the

      Great Lakes were estimated to be (1998):



      Master or Chief Engineer



      Chief Officer or 1st Assistant Engineer



      Second Mate or 2nd Assistant Engineer



      Third Mate or 3rd Assistant Engineer



      Unionized Officers receive additional payments for working overtime, assuming greater responsibility, or working on vessels carrying dangerous cargo. They may also receive transportation allowances and bonuses during war or other emergencies.

      Deck Officers may receive medical and hospitalization insurance, life insurance, 20 days of vacation for every 60 days they work, and retirement after 20 to 30 years. Their pension is based on their past wages. Partial pensions are awarded to permanently disabled officers who must retire prematurely.

      To advance, Deck Officers must meet certain experience, leadership, and licensure requirements. A career ladder may be from Third Mate to Second Mate, Chief Mate, and Master. Maritime academy graduates usually have the best chances of advancing to higher positions and are generally preferred for permanent listing on fleet rosters.


      Nationally, there were about 29,600 Merchant Marine Officers employed in 1996. Employment in this occupation is expected to decline through the year 2006. Some openings will occur as officers transfer to other jobs or occupations. The industry distribution for merchant Marine Officers looked like this:

      SIC CODE


      % EMPLOYED


      Water Transportation



      Federal Government


      In recent years, there has been a steady decline in the number of jobs for licensed Merchant Marine Officers. A worldwide oversupply of cargo capacity has idled a great number of U.S. vessels and their crews. Furthermore, the use of ships and crews from Third World countries has reduced the size of the U.S. Maritime Fleet. These trends will probably continue. Prospects are best for graduates of maritime academies.

      The federal government may pay the difference in wages when American crews, instead of foreign crews, are used by the U.S. ships in coastline waters. This is a measure to ensure that American crews are available to transport essential cargo.

      There were about 250 Merchant Marine Officers in Michigan. They were employed on freighters, tankers, tugboats, dredges, ferryboats, passenger barges, yachts, fishing vessels, and charter boats. The majority worked in the transportation industry.

      Employment of Merchant Marine Officers in Michigan is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. In recent years, there were 63 vessels in the Great Lakes fleet (which consists of freighters and carriers that only operate on the Great Lakes). Utilization of this fleet fluctuates with the ups and downs of the economy. For example, about 52 of these ships were actually used during this period. There were also 13 super carriers of the 1,000- foot class in the fleet. Each super carrier placed into service replaces 3 to 5 of the of the older vessels, thus reducing the need for additional ships and crews.

      Domestic Great Lakes traffic will be most affected by the level of U.S. Steel production which has increased significantly over mid-1980 levels. Continued demand for ore shipments to produce domestic steel is critical to great lakes shipping. Current steps being taken by domestic steel producers to reduce production costs and replace obsolete equipment and facilities are expected to further improve great lakes shipping.










      State Total





      Printed Occupational information is available upon written request from the sources below.

      Coast Guard
      Recruiting Center
      4200 Wilson Blvd. Suite 450
      Arlington, VA 22203-1804

      Harry Lundeberg School
      Route 249
      Piney Point, MD 20674

      Great Lakes Maritime Academy
      Northwestern Michigan College
      1701 East Front Street
      Traverse City, MI 49686-3061

      U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
      Admissions Office
      Kings Point, New York 11024

      U.S. Department of Trans.
      Maritime Administration
      Office of Personnel
      Room 8101, MAR 360
      400 7th St., SW
      Washington, DC 20590

      Marine Engineers' Beneficial
      444 North Capitol, Suite 800
      Washington, DC 20001

      College Placement Offices

      Local Military Recruiters



      The occupation of Merchant Marine Officer can be summarized by the following:

      Growth Outlook:

      Expected to decline

      Salary Potential:

      Above average potential growth

      GOE Cluster:

      Mechanical Interest Group (#05)

      Work Values:

      Outside work, work with hands, adventure

      SDS Code:

      Realistic (enjoys working with machines and objects)

      Relationship to Data:

      Coordinating (investigates different routes to take)

      Relationship to People:

      Speaking-Signaling (relays directions to other workers)

      Relationship to Things:

      Handling (controls activities on the ship)


      Also worth a read...

      Ship Transport
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A well written introduction to the Merchant Marine.

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