TAMUG Job Fair

So, I went to the job fair at Texas A&M Galveston (TAMUG) last Friday. I was hoping to meet recruiters from a few maritime companies. I wanted to get my foot in the door with companies that were actually hiring for shipboard crew.

Sad to say, there were very few companies there that fit the bill. There was a total of 39 tables representing different companies. Included in that total were 2 of the maritime unions (MEBA and the AMO), who I had already been in contact with. There were inland (towing) companies like Kirby, ADM-ARTCO, and G&H Towing. I don’t have a towing endorsement, so can’t work for them. πŸ™

There was a large contingent of schools offering graduate studies. Not only TAMUG, but SUNY, Houston Baptist University and UT. The other big group was shoreside: port operations/logistics and engineering. Companies like Ports America, Diversified Port Holdings, GAC, Fracht, Lone Star Maritime, Savage, Orion Group, Sabine Surveyors, Norton Lilly, Oxbow Carbon, Kiewit, Shell, Kinder Morgan, Jaeckel Mund + Brun, Watco, and Biehl. The only one of this group that had any possibility of work for me was the Army Corps of Engineers, but they had much more for engineers than for deckies like me. πŸ™

There were a few outliers. Companies that I was a little surprised to see there, wondering what they had to do with maritime. Then I remembered that TAMUG does have more programs than just license track. The Houston Police Department had a table, so did Sherwin Williams (paint), Moody Gardens and the Peace Corps (those last 2 I would be very interested in IF I didn’t have bills to pay).

So. Out of a total of 41 different companies, I talked to 12, after immediately eliminating the others as completely irrelevant to the kind of work I’m looking for. I want to continue working at sea. I want to get back out there- spending my time watching the ocean instead of a river of traffic. I don’t like working in an office, I never did. I hate wasting hours every day driving back and forth. I really still love working offshore and don’t want to give it up.

I was hoping to talk to Subsea 7. They have some really nice vessels and I really enjoy the kind of work they do. I finally got to talk to their representatives (after waiting in line for the crowds to thin out). They told me they would probably be able to offer me a position in Houston, but they had nothing to do with hiring for offshore. That was all done overseas and mostly for foreign crew. πŸ™

Stolt Tankers pretty much the same thing to say. Nothing to offer for onboard work. πŸ™

I spoke to the reps for both NOAA Officer Corps and NOAA Marine Operations. Sadly, NOAA Officer Corps requires you to pass a military physical. I tried that when I was only 17 and wanted to join the navy. I have’nt been able to lose any weight since then, so surely I won’t pass the physical at 30+ years older.

So, that’s that! The NOAA Marine Operations was really only interested in hiring engineers (tho they held out hope that they may hire a few ABs).

Trident Seafoods had a table. I talked to them since they were hiring for all crew. I have worked on fishing vessels before. I grew up fishing for grouper/snapper in Florida. I was mate on the catcher/processor Ocean Peace in Alaska a few years ago. I was captain on a tuna purse seiner in the South Pacific. But- they were hiring people who were comfortable working out on deck. At this stage in my life, I’m not really up for that any more.

So, my only real possibilities were the 3 shipping companies that were still willing to hire Americans to sail on their ships. Crowley, Keystone Shipping and Ocean Shipholdings. All of them told me the same thing: go online and fill out the application. UGH!

I am so tired of filling out those online applications. No one ever does anything with them. They all ask the same questions. Most of them completely irrelevant to the job you’re applying to. Things like your high school courses and grades. Who cares what you did in high school 30+ years ago? Who cares about your employment history 30+ years ago?

But those online forms won’t let you skip a question. Or answer it with something it doesn’t expect or ‘approve of’. It gets frustrating after filling out dozens of their stupid questions, you’re almost finished and then the whole thing crashes and you have to start all over again. DAMN!

The thing is, all 3 of those companies actually hire through the unions!

I have been an applicant since November 2016 with the AMO. I chose to join that union (over the others) because they have an online job board. You don’t have to sit in the union hall day after day waiting for a job. You can actually do something with yourself while you wait for work. All the other unions still insist that you go and sit in the hall so you can’t do anything useful while you wait.

The AMO has called me twice. Both times with jobs I am not really qualified for. The first time, the job was already gone by the time I saw the notice and called to inquire about it. The second call was on the day I was leaving to go to work.

What I’m finding out about the AMO is that you basically have to find your first job yourself. After that you finally get to use the online job board (and start paying dues). So they’re really not much help until after you’ve already found a job. After that, I guess they’re helpful when you’re looking for work in the future.

So, I am now planning to go to see what I have to do to join either of the other 2 officers unions (MMP, MEBA). I already signed up to the unlicensed union (SIU– they promise they have work). I am would prefer to work as 2nd mate, but don’t know if they really have any work or not.

I am supposed to have 2 days work/week in Houston for the next 3 weeks. It’s not much, but it helps pay the bills. Better than sitting in the union hall and earning $0/day. I guess I’ll wind up sitting there pretty soon if something doesn’t happen with oil.

I keep hoping the price of oil will go up and the offshore oilfield will go back to work. The news looks good one day and then bad again the next.

I really would just like a real job again. At least long enough so I can pay off my bills and then retire the next time this happens! πŸ™‚

Change of Plans

Things are always up in the air with me lately. I was supposed to come out here for 6 weeks as DPO. I came out as DPO and after a few days, I was informed that I was really supposed to be MSL (marine section leader). Basically MSL is the same thing as a chief mate.

Whoo-hooo! I got promoted. But I didn’t want to be. I probably would have refused to take the job in the first place if they had told me the truth about what they wanted.

The company who hired me and the client who hired them both refuse to pay me as MSL tho I have been doing the job now for a couple of weeks (since last crew change). So. I am leaving.

How many people do you think are happy to do the work of one job and get paid a much lower rate for another job? I think only very young people trying to break in, to prove themselves. Or really super desperate people who have given up their pride and principles and have nothing at all to live on. We all do a lot of things we may not like to when it comes down to survival. Thank goodness I have not got to that point yet this time around.

I’ve worked too damn hard, for too damned long in order to earn my license. I don’t like the fact that they seem toΒ think it’s worthless here.

I will go home after only 4 weeks of work. Very disappointed with the whole operation.

Oh well, it’ll be nice to be home for a while. I just hope it’s not such a long while! I need to find another job asap!

I’m hoping hurricane Harvey didn’t do much damage to my property. It would be nice to be able to stash some of this paycheck (just in case).

It’s A Small World

It always surprises me when I come out to work how really connected this community is. The seafaring community that is. The people who spend their lives working far from home, out on the waters of the world.

I almost always know at least one person on every ship I join. If I don’t know someone personally, I know people they know. πŸ™‚

I am working on a rig right now on the semi submersible drilling rig “Sevan Louisiana”, Β where the Captain/OIM is a good friend of a good friend of mine. He used to work on the same boat I used to work on at Oceaneering, just a little while before I started there. We know a lot of the same people there.

One of the other DPOs used to work on a rig I did some temp work on a few years ago. He remembers me from when I was there. The crane operator was also on that rig.

The galley crew used to work with me on the HP-1 a while back. I remember how they spoiled me with little towel animals on my bunk every day. They’re great bunch of guys (and good cooks). πŸ™‚

I’ve been here almost 2 weeks and it looks like just about everybody but me is fixin’ to go home soon. The rig is almost deserted anyway, we’re staffed with the bare minimum manning (warm stacked). We won’t get more crew til we hear if we’re going to get some work.

Thursday is crew change day and I’ll have a whole new crew to work with. I hope they turn out to be as easy to work with as this one. Β I’ve still got another 4 weeks to go!

Working

I did get a job last week! I’m so glad it worked out! Even a few days offshore makes up for a lot. I’m hoping this job will last a while, but I really have no idea. They just said ‘2 weeks, maybe’. Β I left early Friday afternoon. I flew to New Orleans, got picked up by the crew van and was delivered straight to the ship at around midnight thirty.

I didn’t even really meet the other 10 guys in the van with me, since everyone was exhausted and trying to catch a few winks on the ride to Fourchon (tho it was too bumpy for me).

On arrival, I got a quick familiarization with the captain, then assigned my bunk and tried to catch a few hours of sleep. I’ve been on the 0600-1800 watch since then.

That’s a good watch for me. I haven’t ever really worked an anchor boat, so it’s not something I can do by myself. I try to watch the captain as much as possible. He’s been doing it for ages and he’s really good.

The divers all seem to be pretty decent. I don’t really see much of them since I spend most of my time on the bridge and they’re always out on deck. We have about 45 people on here, total. It gets pretty cramped when more than a couple of people are in the same area at the same time. Like the galley at meal times, for instance.

The cooks on here have been doing a great job so far. There are 3 of them (plus an OS who’s helping out as a galley hand). They’re working around the clock to keep us all fat and happy.

We’re working on a project out here with a couple of other boats. One is a tug boat we use to help us pick up and place our anchors. We’re a ‘4-point anchor boat’. I’ve done a lot of diving work, but always either ‘live boat’ or DP (dynamic positioning). This is totally different.

I’m learning a lot here. That’s always a good thing. πŸ™‚

Work?

I went to Houston yesterday. I had a work day scheduled up there. Yep. One whole day of work scheduled for all of July. Wow.

It went well.

I caught up with my friends there. We’re all in the same position. Everyone is doing whatever they can to get by. Spending all our time looking for work and scrambling for whatever part time gigs we can scrounge up.

This morning I got a call. Actually two calls. For real work! Yes, work in my field. On a boat. The pay is less than a third of what I was earning at my last job. It’s only for 2 weeks but could possibly turn into something longer term. I don’t know for sure yet if I’ll get it. But I told them I was definitely interested.

The second call was about a container ship. I’m interested, but a little concerned about that one since I’ve never worked on a container ship before. It shouldn’t be that different, but as captain, I will be held responsible for every single thing that happens on board, and there is a hell of a lot that could happen. I just don’t want to get thrown under the bus.

I’m waiting to hear back from both of them, but making plans to leave early Friday morning just in case. If I do get the job (either of them), I probably won’t have internet access to keep up with the blog so expect that I probably won’t be able to post every day.

Not that I have been posting every day anyway, but at least while I’m home I do try to. πŸ˜‰

I’m Back!

It feels like much longer than it was, the 27 days I was out there without internet. I was so grateful to have even a few days of real work again! I was hoping for more, but things are still very, very slow offshore. Every one of us on board was so thankful to have a job after a long dry spell.

Too bad, but the company finished up all the work they had lined up and so laid me off on Saturday. There was some talk about more projects coming up in the near future, but nothing definite.

I can survive another couple of months off of that job. I have a class lined up to teach the week of June 25th. Maybe by the end of the month something else will come up?

The price of oil is still under $50/bbl. Until that changes, I don’t see much hope of a decent job. But even a few days every now and then will be enough to get by on. I know most people are thrilled at the low price of gas at the pump (tho it should be about $1 less going by price/bbl- all that extra is taxes!).

I would probably be thrilled too if it didn’t wipe out my entire profession. Every sector of the maritime world is tied to the offshore sector and the price of oil. When it’s low and the offshore sector shuts down, people migrate to deep sea, towing, fishing, etc. Shutting off any options to do anything else on the water.

Shoreside jobs are a total waste of any mariners skills and training and don’t come anywhere near offering even the worst pay/benefits we earn on the water (and it’s not all about the money either).

I’ll spend the next couple of weeks catching up on things I’ve been putting off: exterminator, dentist, house cleaning, oil change, car wash, doctor, painting projects, taxes, etc. All kinds of fun stuff like that. πŸ˜‰

Hopefully, I can keep things interesting with some stories from the recent past. πŸ˜‰

Still Out Here

Tomorrow will mark 3 weeks offshore and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will get to stay out here even longer.

Usually by this time, I’ve about had enough and I’m itching to get off the boat and go home. Take a nice, long vacation somewhere. This trip has been the first real work I’ve had in a loooong time, so I am not in quite the same frame of mind.

The only thing I could wish for out here is a little better situation with the internet, but oh well, we all just have to deal with it…

I will stay out here for as long as I possibly can. Especially since there is no telling how many more months I might have to wait until I can find another ship.

I know most people are happy that the price of oil has been so low for so long. I would be too, if my career didn’t depend so much on it. Sadly, the US Merchant Marine is almost totally dependent on the offshore (oil) industry. We have less than 100 deep sea ships left and probably half of those are shipping oil.

When the Gulf of Mexico slows down and lays off crews, it affects the entire US Merchant Marine. Sadly, US mariners are not wanted in most of the rest of the world. Everyone is afraid we are going to sue them I guess. πŸ™