Musing about a future in the marine industry

Hey, Harper, here’s my EI job search journal
for your auditing – Source Interwebs

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been seeking out new work opportunities (on two continents, no less) since my venerable tug William J Moore and its product tank barge was repositioned to the Caribbean, due to a “lack of work” in Canada. The Captain and I were the last ones laid off, with most of the crew put out to pasture last summer.

I was Chief Engineer there for four years, so going down in pay to a junior pay is not putting a big smiles on our faces at home. With the West Coast’s standard employer answer being “…its really slow right now” – the norm for the last 15 years – and the East Coast’s requirement for local citizenship, Marine Engineers in Canada are left with Central Canada pool of positions.

There is a large work pool on the Great Lakes, however, the going rates for engineers are negotiated by the unions – principally the Canadian Merchant Service Guild, and hover around $28 to $37 dollars an hour for a Third Engineer. Its hard to compare what a daily rate ends up being, due to variable OT rules, but it hovers around $250-340 per day for 8+1 hr days – equal time on/off. This represent for me, a drop of about 32-45% in earnings, and with being gone at sea, my wife is unable to work while taking care of our family.

BC logging truck – Interwebs

To put those wages in perspective, I just picked up some fencing lumber from a part time saw miller, who is a full time log truck driver, he reports making $28 per hour, as an independent operator; while the forest company’s drivers make in the $31-33 hour range.

So, I am in a bit of conundrum…. what does the work / family future hold? Do I just “stay” home, go back to school / challenge and achieve a trade certification as a plumber, or mechanic for the Red Seal trade wage of upper $30, low $40 per hour.

Then again, I have my Class 1 driver’s license, I could drive a logging truck as well. I would work a normal work week, coming home daily, sharing childcare duties with my wife, so that we may have two incomes coming in. Which is what is required these days for any family living in Canada, especially in British Columbia. It would make the last 16 years as a Marine Engineering professional, a major waste of my time, but at least it may provide for a more stable family life.

Source – interwebs

On the last ship I was on, over Christmas, my watch mate reports he was leaving the marine industry to go back to school, to get “something different” in order to make enough money to afford to buy a home, and start a life for himself. This, despite being a young single guy who’s very recently completed a Marine Engineering cadet program at a well known Canadian institution, and holding a Transport Canada 4th class Certificate of Competency. Pretty sad indicator indeed.

These are the realities of the work environment now, even in reportedly “tight labour market” of the marine industry. As gloomy as it is, I still feel better off than most people, so I am holding out hope that there is decent work, on safe vessels, that can provides a sustainable wage for a young family.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. It's a shame that the industry is not what it used to be, of course being multi-skilled helps to retain a job or find a new one but then what about the new generation looking to get their first job? What are their options if any?

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