Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Careers Afloat

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine.

Full article by Ms. Anne Dougherty, Director of the Office of Maritime Workforce Development, U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, is available at www.uscg.mil/proceedings/fall2008.

“Salaries are up and many seafarers are receiving multiple job offers.
Employment opportunities are particularly robust in the offshore energy industry, the inland river system, and in the coastwise trades. The largest single employer of American mariners, the Military Sealift Command, is also aggressively seeking seafarers.” —U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration

Our nation has a large pool of highly trained licensed and unlicensed mariners, but the demand continues to outpace supply. Why? Sailing is not for everyone.

The physical labor involved in making and breaking an inland tow, or in mooring a 65,000-ton tanker, or tying up to an offshore drill rig is demanding, and the work is done without regard to time of day or weather. If your vessel is out of range of the cell network, calling home is very expensive, if it can be done at all. And “What’s for dinner?” is generally answered by “Dinner is what’s on the menu.”

On the other hand, the opportunities at sea are almost unlimited. A young person starting at sea can be a skilled unlicensed mariner in a year afloat and a captain or chief engineer in not much more than a decade. Additionally, mariners on vacation usually have anywhere from two weeks to a few months off.

You’re Never Too Young to Start
The Maritime Administration and the Propeller Club of the United States run the Adopt-A-Ship program to inform young Americans about the maritime industry and the need for educated merchant marines. Students gain maritime industry learning experience by communicating with ships via e-mail or written correspondence. They learn about the activities of the vessels at sea, which fosters interest in geography, history, transportation, science, math, and English.

Maritime programs are offered in various middle and high schools around the country. These programs provide rigorous academic programs with a focus on maritime studies, science, and technology. They also provide students the opportunity to enter maritime careers upon graduation or to pursue more advanced maritime education at a vocational school, community college, service academy, or maritime academy.

Getting Started
Basic information can be found in “Information Concerning Training and Employment in the U.S. Merchant Marine,” available for free from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

Primary shipboard employment categories include high seas, Great Lakes, inland and coastal waters, and offshore and mineral operations. Other areas include shipbuilding and ship repair, longshoring (cargo handling), port terminal administration, and intermodal logistics. Part-time or summer employment is available in some sectors, such as the passenger vessel industry.

Improving Opportunities
Opportunities in the maritime industry are good—and improving. Rapid growth in global trade has dramatically increased the worldwide demand for seafarers.

Some industry associations estimate that the licensed officer shortage is currently at 10,000 and will grow as more ships enter the marketplace. The demand for skilled mariners is high, and the towing, passenger, and offshore operators are reporting shortages of mariners.

The United States is currently the world’s leading producer of third mates and third assistant engineers. This tremendous responsibility of graduating highly educated and skilled merchant marine officers is being successfully accomplished by, among other institutions, the six state maritime academies and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The state academies and the Merchant Marine Academy graduate between 600 and 700 U.S. Coast Guard-licensed merchant marine officers annually.

About the author:
Ms. Anne Dougherty is the director of the Office of Maritime Workforce Development at the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration. She is a Texas A&M University at Galveston graduate and sailed eight years as a licensed deck officer aboard numerous commercial vessels. She subsequently spent six years working ashore for the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command prior to joining the Maritime Administration.

For more information:

Maritime academies:
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y.

California Maritime Academy, Vallejo, Calif.

Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Traverse City, Mich.

Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, Maine

Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay, Mass.

State University of New York Maritime College, Bronx, N.Y.

Texas Maritime Academy, Galveston, Texas

U.S. Department of Transportation
Maritime Administration
West Building
Southeast Federal Center
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
(800) 996-2723
Office of Workforce Development
(202) 366-5737

Full article and 124-page “Focus on the Mariner” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at www.uscg.mil/proceedings/fall2008. Subscribe online at www.uscg.mil/proceedings.

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil.