Best way to research the Maritime industry?

Zinc4

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I'm a parent of an applicant to the USMMA. We have a long history of military experience in our family to include air transportation but have less knowledge of movement on the water. What's the best way to research the Maritime industry to learn about the various career options (non-military) that might follow graduation? Is it possible to actually tour civilian ships associated with the Academy and hear first hand what it's really like to work in this industry? I assume it may be next to impossible right now because of the COVID shutdown, but we live in the northeast and thought it might be worth a try (Bayonne/Philly areas). I did ask the Alumni office if they could connect us with such folks, maybe alums themselves, but there doesn't seem to be this type of tool in place for applicants and their families. I have to wonder, how's an applicant supposed to know that he/she wants to work in this industry if they've never had exposure to the vessels/workers and what this sort of career choice may bring?

Appreciate any feedback.
 
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I’m a USMMA applicant myself and I started becoming interested in the maritime industry serveral years ago. One source of information is MARAD, they have a website with plenty of information and statistics about the U.S. Merchant Fleet.
As for touring a merchant vessel...I was actually able to do this a few years ago but it was an extremely difficult process then which I would assume is impossible now with Covid.
I was also able to actually sail across the North Atlantic on a foreign-flagged Con/ro ship-some shipping corporations rent out their spare cabins for paying passengers, but this is another option that is probably not available now due to Covid. Unfortunately, the maritime industry doesn’t seem too eager to get public attention, which is one of the reasons why the Merchant Fleet itself isn’t quite in optimal condition right now, but that’s another matter altogether.
One thing you can do is go on YouTube and find mariner vlogs-there are tons of them. Or just search for videos of “[container ship, tanker, etc.] tours” and you should find plenty.
The fact that USMMA grads have access to the Merchant fleet or Active Duty military is really an unmatched opportunity aside from ROTC at one of the state maritime schools.
 
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Zinc4

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Sep 13, 2020
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I’m a USMMA applicant myself and I started becoming interested in the maritime industry serveral years ago. One source of information is MARAD, they have a website with plenty of information and statistics about the U.S. Merchant Fleet.
As for touring a merchant vessel...I was actually able to do this a few years ago but it was an extremely difficult process then which I would assume is impossible now with Covid.
I was also able to actually sail across the North Atlantic on a foreign-flagged Con/ro ship-some shipping corporations rent out their spare cabins for paying passengers, but this is another option that is probably not available now due to Covid. Unfortunately, the maritime industry doesn’t seem too eager to get public attention, which is one of the reasons why the Merchant Fleet itself isn’t quite in optimal condition right now, but that’s another matter altogether.
One thing you can do is go on YouTube and find mariner vlogs-there are tons of them. Or just search for videos of “[container ship, tanker, etc.] tours” and you should find plenty.
The fact that USMMA grads have access to the Merchant fleet or Active Duty military is really an unmatched opportunity aside from ROTC at one of the state maritime schools.

Many thanks for your thoughts and feedback. We've plundered around on the MARAD website but will circle back for further research. That's very cool you were able to sail on one of these ships. We were hoping to do that as a family pre-COVID but just couldn't connect the dots so doubtful that will now happen. It does seem like the industry likes to fly under the media radar. I assume there are valid reasons for doing so, but the set-up doesn't help young men and women who are trying to get a glimpse in from the outside. Great idea on the YouTube mariner vlogs. It seems as if virtual learning is now the norm of educating our minds, but I guess I'm still a fan of actually getting the hands and feet dirty. It sounds like you are well on your way to a promising maritime future, and I wish you the very best.
 

kpmom2013

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I agree that information is somewhat hard to come by. I assume that you have seen all the videos on the USMMA website, which is recently much improved. I would contact admissions and ask if you can be put into contact with a current 1/C Midshipman. He or she will have already sailed on several different kinds of merchant ships for over 300 days at sea. He or she should be able to share with your DD/DS. If you know whether your interest is to become a deck or engine officer, you might ask to be put in contact with the same. The industry is large and varies a lot depending on the class of ship you are on, its sailing route, what company you are working for, and the particular crew. You can have both awful and terrific experiences in the industry depending on these factors and more. The opportunities ashore are also extremely varied. Keep trying to reach out to alumni in your area.
 

Zinc4

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I agree that information is somewhat hard to come by. I assume that you have seen all the videos on the USMMA website, which is recently much improved. I would contact admissions and ask if you can be put into contact with a current 1/C Midshipman. He or she will have already sailed on several different kinds of merchant ships for over 300 days at sea. He or she should be able to share with your DD/DS. If you know whether your interest is to become a deck or engine officer, you might ask to be put in contact with the same. The industry is large and varies a lot depending on the class of ship you are on, its sailing route, what company you are working for, and the particular crew. You can have both awful and terrific experiences in the industry depending on these factors and more. The opportunities ashore are also extremely varied. Keep trying to reach out to alumni in your area.
Thank you. Yes, we have been trying to make those connections. A family friend is an alum of the USMMA so we've spoken with him at length about his time at the Academy and career path. My son is also an athlete and has made some initial connections with the coach for his sport. When I call the alumni office, I receive a similar message to yours: the industry is vast and they don't really know whom to connect us with. I can appreciate that response, so we landed here:)
 

azmilmom

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Thank you. Yes, we have been trying to make those connections. A family friend is an alum of the USMMA so we've spoken with him at length about his time at the Academy and career path. My son is also an athlete and has made some initial connections with the coach for his sport. When I call the alumni office, I receive a similar message to yours: the industry is vast and they don't really know whom to connect us with. I can appreciate that response, so we landed here:)
The other thing that is available is to connect with your local USMMA parents' association. They would be able to put you together with current or recent graduates/families who should be able to impart their experiences. If you go to www.kpparents.com, which is the USMMA National Parents' Association web site, click on the 'State Chapters' in the blue upper lefthand box, this will take you to the directory. If you're in NJ/PA, your local chapter is the Tri-States.

Hope this helps!
 

Zinc4

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The other thing that is available is to connect with your local USMMA parents' association. They would be able to put you together with current or recent graduates/families who should be able to impart their experiences. If you go to www.kpparents.com, which is the USMMA National Parents' Association web site, click on the 'State Chapters' in the blue upper lefthand box, this will take you to the directory. If you're in NJ/PA, your local chapter is the Tri-States.

Hope this helps!
Love the idea! Thank you for sharing, and we'll reach out to the Association. (yes, Tri-States)
 

tankercaptain

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Jun 28, 2012
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I'm a parent of an applicant to the USMMA. We have a long history of military experience in our family to include air transportation but have less knowledge of movement on the water. What's the best way to research the Maritime industry to learn about the various career options (non-military) that might follow graduation? Is it possible to actually tour civilian ships associated with the Academy and hear first hand what it's really like to work in this industry? I assume it may be next to impossible right now because of the COVID shutdown, but we live in the northeast and thought it might be worth a try (Bayonne/Philly areas). I did ask the Alumni office if they could connect us with such folks, maybe alums themselves, but there doesn't seem to be this type of tool in place for applicants and their families. I have to wonder, how's an applicant supposed to know that he/she wants to work in this industry if they've never had exposure to the vessels/workers and what this sort of career choice may bring?

Appreciate any feedback.
I would also recommend contacting a local alumni chapter. Most chapters have graduates that will mentor high school students through the process of applying to KP.
They are also a great source for information about the industry.

See attached link of a directory of local chapters

 

Zinc4

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I would also recommend contacting a local alumni chapter. Most chapters have graduates that will mentor high school students through the process of applying to KP.
They are also a great source for information about the industry.

See attached link of a directory of local chapters

Thanks for that recommendation. Seems like I glossed over this file in my search but I didn't reach out. Will do so now.
 

cmakin

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The industry is large and also very fluid. The condition of the US Merchant Marine changed considerably from the time I entered the Academy and sailed during Sea Year shortly after graduation. There are manifold opportunities, but many require a very strong commitment, maybe more than most careers. Like many grads that post here, I have had made quite a few career changes, but still do some work around the maritime industry, but US and other flags. It has been quite a ride so far, good and bad, but almost always interesting. . .
 

Zinc4

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The industry is large and also very fluid. The condition of the US Merchant Marine changed considerably from the time I entered the Academy and sailed during Sea Year shortly after graduation. There are manifold opportunities, but many require a very strong commitment, maybe more than most careers. Like many grads that post here, I have had made quite a few career changes, but still do some work around the maritime industry, but US and other flags. It has been quite a ride so far, good and bad, but almost always interesting. . .
Thank you for the response. I'm appreciating why applicants really have to do their own digging about the Academy and the industry since this world is far from stagnant.
 

cmakin

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Thank you for the response. I'm appreciating why applicants really have to do their own digging about the Academy and the industry since this world is far from stagnant.
When I started Plebe year (1977) the US merchant fleet was quite large. Shipping companies like Moore-McCormack, American Export, Delta, Lykes, Waterman, Sea-Land, Prudential, States Lines, Pacific Far East Lines, APL and more all had large fleets. Oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, Arco, Gulf and others also had large tanker fleets. There were also independent tanker fleets like Sabine. Sadly most of these companies and their fleets are gone. Many were gone by the time I graduated. One company, States Lines went under while I was sailing with them during Sea Year. The ship was arrested in Manila, and we sat for two weeks before being released. In recent years, the US fleet was buoyed by a strong offshore (energy) sector, but with low oil prices and now easy to find oil onshore, I don't see that market returning anytime soon. Despite the gloom, I still have had a rewarding and interesting career, but lately, with little maritime involvement.
 

KPEngineer

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Thank you for the response. I'm appreciating why applicants really have to do their own digging about the Academy and the industry since this world is far from stagnant.
It's not just Academy applicants who struggle to learn about the industry. The US Maritime industry can be very segmented and regional. The tanker world can be very different from containers so a tanker mate may not know a ton about container ships. West Coast vs. East Coast, Union vs Non-Union, Drilling rigs vs Ships, etc ... and don't even get me started on deep sea vs. inland. Unless someone really takes the time to learn about the rest of the industry other than their own niche, even the most grizzled and experienced seafarer may not know a lot beyond their own experiences.

I have had "conversations" with people with way way more experience in the industry than I but didn't know diddlysquat about the world I work in even though they thought they did.

This article was written to discuss the problems facing today's US Maritime industry but he mentions the same problem of stovepiping within the industry. Call for Change

There is a fairly wide variety of experiences on this board and a lot can be learned just here. The old timers are very helpful and can always point a youngster in the right direction.
 

Zinc4

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When I started Plebe year (1977) the US merchant fleet was quite large. Shipping companies like Moore-McCormack, American Export, Delta, Lykes, Waterman, Sea-Land, Prudential, States Lines, Pacific Far East Lines, APL and more all had large fleets. Oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, Arco, Gulf and others also had large tanker fleets. There were also independent tanker fleets like Sabine. Sadly most of these companies and their fleets are gone. Many were gone by the time I graduated. One company, States Lines went under while I was sailing with them during Sea Year. The ship was arrested in Manila, and we sat for two weeks before being released. In recent years, the US fleet was buoyed by a strong offshore (energy) sector, but with low oil prices and now easy to find oil onshore, I don't see that market returning anytime soon. Despite the gloom, I still have had a rewarding and interesting career, but lately, with little maritime involvement.
Interesting. So the industry needs to adapt to modern changes (technology, environmental, etc)? Adaptability and flexibility are the keys to anything staying viable but the leadership needs to be able to see what's coming down the pike before it actually does (an outsider speaking here:)
 

Zinc4

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It's not just Academy applicants who struggle to learn about the industry. The US Maritime industry can be very segmented and regional. The tanker world can be very different from containers so a tanker mate may not know a ton about container ships. West Coast vs. East Coast, Union vs Non-Union, Drilling rigs vs Ships, etc ... and don't even get me started on deep sea vs. inland. Unless someone really takes the time to learn about the rest of the industry other than their own niche, even the most grizzled and experienced seafarer may not know a lot beyond their own experiences.

I have had "conversations" with people with way way more experience in the industry than I but didn't know diddlysquat about the world I work in even though they thought they did.

This article was written to discuss the problems facing today's US Maritime industry but he mentions the same problem of stovepiping within the industry. Call for Change

There is a fairly wide variety of experiences on this board and a lot can be learned just here. The old timers are very helpful and can always point a youngster in the right direction.
Overwhelming. Thank you for sharing the article, "Call for Change." It's nice to hear the author highlight quality leadership is in place. Injustices-well, our country has a very long way to go there. Appreciate this forum.
 
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Interesting. So the industry needs to adapt to modern changes (technology, environmental, etc)? Adaptability and flexibility are the keys to anything staying viable but the leadership needs to be able to see what's coming down the pike before it actually does (an outsider speaking here:)
Disclaimer: I’m still just an applicant to USMMA, but this is my understanding. Those who have more experience feel free to correct me.

The main issue is lack of competitiveness, which is, in part, caused by a lack of reciprocity due to foreign competition that is government subsided. China, for example has state-run shipping lines and has the shipyards to produce vessels for their corporations.
One of the terms used in the industry is a vessel’s “flag.” A vessel that is registered in a particular country flies that country’s flag and must abide by that country’s laws. The United States has many regulations which make it unappetizing for companies to register their ships under the American flag. Typically, the only reason an unlimited tonnage merchant vessel is registered in the United States is (1) the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (aka the Jones Act because the bill’s sponsor was Senator Wesley Jones) which requires, among other things, that vessels transporting cargo between two American ports be registered in the United States, (2) the Maritime Security Program which pays corporations to register their vessels under the American flag to provide more sealift for govt. cargo that needs to be transported by American vessels, or (3) the ship is owned by the government under either Military Sealift Command, or, to a lesser extent, MARAD. The Jones Act is typically the subject of controversy when a natural disaster happens and cargo needs to be transported from an American port in the U.S. to the location of the disaster.

Now, I have a more positive view of the maritime industry than many. In addition to +180 privately owned merchant ships the U.S has, MSC and MARAD’s Strategic Sealift Program provide additional tonnage. We already pump tons of money into Naval Shipbuilding, but the equally important Merchant fleet simply doesn’t have enough public attention. You just don’t see recruiting ads from MARAD encouraging young people to go join the Merchant fleet like you do with branches of the DOD. The Merchant Fleet is NOT dying, but it is small, and it needs more public attention. The Jones Act is good, but ideally, it shouldn’t be necessary. Our merchant fleet should be competitive enough to survive without laws banning foreign competition. Making the American flag more competitive to private corporations is the solution. How to do that....well, that’s another matter.
 

KPEngineer

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The United States has many regulations which make it unappetizing for companies to register their ships under the American flag.
There is a huuuuuge "'Merican" bias in the US Maritime industry. It is widely assumed and accepted that the US has the best/most stringent safety rules, oversight and training requirements. This may be true in relation to some foreign flags but not the majority in my opinion and not even the majority of the dreaded and evil "Flags of Convenience".

It is not the number or breadth of regulations which makes the US unappetizing as a Flag State but the difficulty in dealing with the US Government bureaucracy. The major Flags of Convenience provide oversight of vastly larger fleets, with a fraction of the staff and better safety records. The reality is that everyone applies IMO regulations (SOLAS, MARPOL, etc.) fairly similarly but the US insists on rewriting it as CFRs instead of just saying "follow SOLAS".

The US also complicates things by having all the different subchapters that apply to different kinds of vessels which is what invites owners to get creative. The ATB is a tug/barge unit designed specifically to meet a different rule set and manning levels than it would if it were a single vessel. The are built to be tugboats instead of unlimited tonnage vessels with half the manning. SOLAS is pretty much cargo ship or passenger ship with limited variations for vessel type and size

The US is great at Port State functions but Flag State not so much.

Making the American flag more competitive to private corporations is the solution. How to do that....well, that’s another matter.
Some countries have both open (FOC) and closed registries. My view is the US should do the same. Allow foreign owners to register under the US flag in a separate registry managed by a private company similar to the way the major FOCs are managed.
 
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Some countries have both open (FOC) and closed registries. My view is the US should do the same. Allow foreign owners to register under the US flag in a separate registry managed by a private company similar to the way the major FOCs are managed.
That sounds like the way the Liberian shipping registry is run, if I’m not mistaken. It’s ironic that their headquarters are Virginia. I wonder if in a time of emergency, the United States could exert any control over U.S-based foreign flag registries.
 

KPEngineer

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That sounds like the way the Liberian shipping registry is run, if I’m not mistaken. It’s ironic that their headquarters are Virginia. I wonder if in a time of emergency, the United States could exert any control over U.S-based foreign flag registries.
Liberia and Marshall Islands are both in Virginia. Vanuatu is in NYC and I'm pretty sure there is another big one somewhere in the US. I know people who used to work at the Liberian Registry and as I understand it they manage a fleet of around 5,000 vessels with a worldwide staff of around 200 whereas the USCG is closer to the reverse. From what I have heard it is not accomplished by having less rules but a more efficient means of enforcing the same rules.

If the US did its own FOC/Open Registry that could be the price of admission for foreign owners to fly the US flag. US has the right to control your fleet in times of war. Additionally, I am willing to bet some of those US owners who currently flag with Panama/Marshall Islands/Liberia would bring their vessels back under the US flag if they didn't have to deal with USCG HQ.
 
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