Thursday, June 18, 2009

Military Sealift Command—the largest single employer of American mariners

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

Full article by Captain Thomas Finger, U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command, is available at

The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) provides ocean transportation services for the Department of Defense and delivers equipment, fuel, supplies, and ammunition to sustain U.S. forces worldwide. This growing fleet includes:

· ammunition delivery ships;
· combat stores ships that transport food, dry provisions, repair parts, and mail;
· dry cargo/ammunition ships that deliver ammunition, food, fuel, repair parts, and expendable supplies;
· fast combat support ships designed to carry fuel, ammunition, and supplies;
· underway replenishment oilers that deliver fuel to ships and jet fuel for aircraft aboard carriers at sea;
· fleet ocean tugs that provide towing services and operate as platforms for Navy divers;
· hospital ships that serve as emergency onsite trauma centers;
· rescue/salvage ships that assist in rescue and salvage missions;
· cable ships that install ocean cables.

Seafarers aboard this diverse range of ships have careers as civil service mariners (CIVMARs) of the federal government. CIVMARs have excellent job security, opportunities for merchant marine license and document upgrades, promotion potential, and good pay. Benefits include health and life insurance, retirement plans, and annual and sick leave programs commensurate with their civil service counterparts ashore.

Uniquely, CIVMARs also accrue shore leave. Shore leave is accrued at a rate of one day for every 15 calendar days on one or more extended voyages on MSC oceangoing ships. The combination of annual and shore leave provides for vacation periods between assignments.

With an afloat CIVMAR workforce of approximately 5,000, there are a wide variety of positions and promotion opportunities available to the mariner. To apply for employment with the Military Sealift Command, all candidates must be:

· at least 18 years of age;
· a United States citizen with a valid U.S. passport;
· capable of speaking, understanding, reading, and writing English;
· able to obtain a merchant mariner’s document issued by the United States Coast Guard;
· able to obtain a TSA Transportation Worker’s Identification Credential;
· capable of passing a Military Sealift Command-administered physical examination;
· drug-free;
· able to obtain and maintain a security clearance.

How to Apply
Stop by MSC’s recruiting website,, which provides information about job fairs, vacancy announcements, and application assistance.

MSC provides initial training, which is conducted at Military Sealift Command schools in Freehold, N.J., or San Diego, Calif. Additional paid training and upgrade opportunities are based on position held, ship requirements, initiative, and ability to advance to the next higher-rated position through the merit promotion process.

Once Aboard
CIVMARs generally have private or semi-private staterooms and three meals a day. The majority of Military Sealift Command ships also have lounge, library, and weight room facilities. E-mail is also available.

A shipboard tour is a minimum of four months. Civil service mariners are paid a base salary and earned overtime for work performed in excess of eight hours per day or on weekends and holidays.

Military Sealift Command Shipboard Departments
Members of the deck department are responsible for the underway replenishment rigs, dry/liquid cargo handling, forklift operations, and helicopter flight deck operations. They also stand watch while in port or at sea, and perform routine deck maintenance such as cleaning, painting, chipping, and preserving the ship.
Licensed positions (requiring a USCG Merchant Mariner Document):
· second officer
· third officer
Unlicensed positions:
· able seaman
· ordinary seaman

Engine department members are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship’s machinery, including material-handling equipment, elevators, and winches. They also fabricate replacement parts utilizing various types of machinery and stand watch in the engine room.
Licensed positions:
· second assistant engineer
· third assistant engineer
Unlicensed positions:
· unlicensed junior engineer
· refrigeration engineer
· electronics technician
· electrician
· second electrician
· engine utilityman
· pumpman
· deck engineer machinist
· wiper


Members are responsible for the daily provision of food and supplies; for cooking, baking, and food preparation; for performing inventory; and for storekeeping duties such as cargo handling, recordkeeping receipt, and stowage and issuance of all stores. The supply department also cleans and maintains the staterooms and passageways, and is responsible for the ship’s laundry.
· junior supply officer
· yeoman storekeeper
· assistant yeoman storekeeper
· steward cook
· chief cook
· second cook
· cook/baker
· assistant cook
· supply utilityman

Members are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ship’s military communication suites and for communications planning, administration, and watch.
· first radio electronics technician
· second radio electronics technician

Other Shipboard Positions
· medical services officer
· purser

About the author:
Captain Thomas Finger has been a Military Sealift Command civil service mariner for 29 years and a master of 14 ships during his career.

For more information:
Military Sealift Command
CIVMAR Support Center
6353 Center Drive, Building 8
Suite 202
Norfolk, VA 23502
(866) 562-7672

Marine Employment Opportunities:
(877) JOBS-MSC

U.S. Coast Guard
National Maritime Center
100 Forbes Blvd.
Martinsburg, WV 25404
(304) 433-3400
Help Desk (888) 427-5662

Full article and 124-page “Focus on the Mariner” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at Subscribe online at

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: