So, I’m writing this no reason other than to help other Navy guys that wish to transfer over to the Merchant Marines. I’m a newbie myself, but this is just some advice and experiences.
So a brief Background. I served 8 1/2 years in the US Navy. The first 18 months in Nuclear Power School, the following 7 years as a mechanic on board Fast Attack submarines. I left the Navy as a Chief and started my transition.
So up to speed, I started this whole process in Febuary 2010, It’s now Dec 2010 I just completed testing and should have my 3 A/E STEAM in about two weeks. Following issuing I still need to get a one month course to add HFO diesels to my license. End result about a year to be fully licensed to sail on all vessels.
Now, Much of this time delay was due to me not knowing how to get things done and nearly all of it was waiting on one thing or another. Hence me writing this to help others avoid the same mistakes I made.
Step 1) If you are even considering this career before you get out of the Navy, get your TWIC card. You need this to even apply to the US Coast guard for evaluation. It takes a few weeks to a month and can save you some time if you start early.
Step 2) Get plenty of character/Professional recommendations while you are in service. As all military members know the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I waited nearly a month to get the Letters of recommendations I wanted. You need at least 3 to apply for a Merchant Mariner Document. If you have them in hand from Chiefs, Div o’s, Department heads, CO’s ect early you have saved some time. These people may have appreciated you when you were there, but are very hard to get to things from when you are out of the service.
Step 3) Get a Sea Service Transcript before you get out….. I don’t know if this is even possible. Mililington writes them once you are out, but will not recieve your record until after you are DISCHARGED… This doesn’t mean terminal leave. I had to wait 3 months after my EAOS to receive mine. So 60 days terminal + 3 months = 5 months waiting on a stupid piece of paper…. My advice. Your Current CO can write a sea service letter for the time served at your current command…. But not previous commands. Get PSD to figure out what a Sea Service Transcript is, Have them write one to date and have the CO sign one when you leave your ship on terminal…. Send BOTH into the coast guard for evaluation.
Step 5) Send your record into the NMC for evaluation. Request the Highest thing you can reasonably imagine you deserve. Then send them as much supporting paperwork as possible, Schools, Evaluations, Letters of Commendation/ NAMS ect. I was approved for 3 assistant Engineer STEAM only… I know others who have slid by and received a Diesel endorsement too. But request anything you can.
Step 6) This is debatable and really depends on your dedication to become a Merchant Mariner at all costs and how rapidly you want. The NMC will take up to 60 days to evaluate your application and determine what you are eligible for. If you recieve an officer endorsement you will need certain classes before you take an exam…. I can’t tell you what these are so you will just have to wait. I needed a one week Fire Fighting course. HOWEVER, if you plan on doing any work outside of the US international law requires a series of courses for a STCW 95 certification. These are basic courses everyone needs so you could spend some money while you are waiting and take these. These requirements are going to change soon (2012 i think) but any for profit maritime school will be able to help you figure out what you need. Mine were as follows
1 week Basic safety training (Personal survival technics, First aid/CPR, personal Safty Social responsibility, and Fire fighting) – Cost $950
Furthermore on training, If you want to ASSUME what the NMC will approve you for, You could take more STCW courses. This may save you some time but could also become a costly mistake if you assume wrong.
In total I had the following classes
Basic Safty training mentioned above $950
Proficency in Life Craft – $995
Medical First aid provider – $650
Basic and Advanced Fire fighting – $750
I also took a non-required 3week Exam Preparation course – $2000
Step 7) After you complete all you classes and are ready to take an exam, Take your exam and get your credentials!!!
Other tips and Advice. Marine schools are expensive but food and lodging can be expensive too. PRICELINE dot com saved me a ton on hotels and such (although I only need them 4 days a week as I lived about 3 hours from the school). But Crew houses are another good option. Search for a crew house with shared accomodations and I would guess about $300 a week with everything included.
once the coast gaurd (NMC) approves your application for some rating QMED, Engineer, Mate, etc call around to a few unions. I found one that offered to pay for all my room, board and schools if I commited to working for them 3 years…. I politely declined, based off my financial situation and the whole being afraid of contracts now…. But it was a great opportunity, schooling paid for and an employer all at the same time.
I know this is a long and drawn out post with mostly personal experiences but maybe it can help someone. If anyone has any further advice or feels I am off basis please comment. Like I said, I’m very new and lack experience in the industry and could be wrong on a few points.