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Seafarer + International + Union = Good Times

TSC's very own Richard Lauridsen gives us a lovely tick list of things to know about the Seafarer International Union (SIU). Enjoy!

"The Seafarers International Union, Atlantic, Gulf, Lakes and Inland Waters, AFL-CIO, represents professional United States merchant mariners sailing aboard U.S.-flag vessels in the deep sea, Great Lakes and inland trades.

- Seafarer International Union

So why should you be interested in the SIU as a developing mariner? SIU has a long history of advocating for mariner labor rights and providing high quality training for its members.  Those who apply to SIU and are accepted, receive maritime training at the Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Maryland. When all the necessary certifications are acquired, the union hall will provide assistance in finding work onboard various types of U.S.-flagged vessels, including Great Lakes and inland vessels. Here is a list of the top ten things that Richard learned from the Office of the Communication Director at SIU:

How hard is it to become a Seafarer at SIU? The process requires an application, essay, and interview.  In order to be considered, SIU requires basic reading comprehension and math skills equivalent to a 10th grade high school student or higher.  Consider brushing up on your writing and math skills if you have been out of school for a while. Also keep in mind that the essay topic is based on your interest in becoming a mariner.  Having a basic knowledge and possibly some experience on the water will be helpful if you are interested in applying to SIU.

What credentials should you have before applying to SIU?  There are three documents required before you can apply to SIU:

A valid U.S. Passport.  If you do not have one, keep in mind it can take months to receive your passport. 

A Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC). The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will issue you a TWIC card after completing a background check.  The process is started with an application on the TSA website.

A Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).  The Seafarer Collective will be able to help you to get your MMC through our online courses.  

Can anyone with full MMC qualifications and experience join SIU?  Anyone can join SIU with MMC certifications received at another institute as long as they are USCG approved and have no international restrictions.  After completing the SIU physical and drug screening, an experienced Mariner can be registered as a “C Seniority Member.”    

How diverse are SIU students and members?  SIU strives for diversity among its students and members, but the statistics of international mariners still shows a homogenous workforce. TSC provides financial aid to underrepresented populations on the water, and want to see these numbers shift! If you, or someone you know, wants a chance at becoming a professional mariner, please do not hesitate to reach out to TSC for assistance.

Can anyone become an SIU member even if they are looking for work on tugs or tows?  SIU assists in placing mariners on a wide variety of vessels.  Mariners interested in working on tugs may become SIU members, but must know that jobs on these vessels are competitive.

What is the learning/work environment and culture like at SIU? Like with any career or educational goal, it takes effort and work to succeed.  SIU encourages and helps students and members stay motivated in order for them to succeed in a career in the maritime industry. 

Does SIU offer benefits to members? SIU provides it members with all medical, prescription and pension benefits. Training benefits are provided to all members at no cost.

Do students get paid while training at SIU?  SIU offers paid stipends in their “Phase One” of training, an apprentice wage in “Phase Two,”  a stipend for “Phase Three,” and entry level wages in “Phase Four.”

What are the living expenses if I am accepted into the training program and move to Piney Point, Maryland? Students with SIU are provided dorm rooms and all meals while attending their training programs.  Students are only required to cover the costs of travel, clothing and the medical screening required for acceptance.

What advice would SIU students give those who are considering applying to SIU?  Success is seen in students that are motivated, disciplined, structured and exhibit the ability to conform to the routines of the SIU. It requires a strong self-motivated learner, and one that is ready to prioritize professionalism over recreation.

For more information about the Seafarers International Union, visit  You can find more detailed information about their training programs and membership.  Contact the SIU Admissions at the Paul Hall Center by phone at (310) 994-0010.

Richard Lauridsen

The Seafarer Collective

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