Tacoma Tideflats - Merchant Mariner

The Tacoma Tideflats - Merchant Mariner summer program is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and begin to develop the skills needed to pursue in a career in working on freighters, oil tankers, tugs, ferries, cruise ships, and fishing boats.

Students learn deep water survival skills by entering a life raft in a pool

The Tacoma Tideflats Program (US Merchant Mariner) sets students up with a livable wage career in the international world of moving goods across the globe.  Imagine living and working on a ship, sailing all around the world, earning a high wage, and getting  2 to 1 vacation time ratio (ship tours range from 45 to 120 days).

There are 3 job categories of a Merchant Mariner:

  • Deck - securing ship cargo, navigating the vessel, and general maintenance of the ship
  • Engine Room - maintaining mechanical systems (hydraulics, electrical, propulsion, etc.)
  • Steward - cooking for the crew and cleaning indoor areas

Students will:

  • Learn shipboard fire fighting procedures
  • Learn how-to deploy and survive on life rafts
  • Learn how-to provide first aid and general awareness of personal safety
  • Participate in 5 days of field trips to explore career opportunities

This program is free for Tacoma students. Students will also receive a stipend for completing the certification.

Program Requirements:

  • Students must pass a physical and drug test
  • Students must be a US resident with a State issued identification
    (examples include a driver's license, State ID, or a passport).

With the Merchant Marine credential earned during this program, there are dozens of opportunities for employment.  Everything from tug boats, to the Washington State ferry system, Seafarers International Union (deep water ships), to fishing boats in Alaska.  The world (literally) is at your fingertips with this credential.

Students train to fight fires during the Merchant Marine Certification Program

After Graduation:  

The Seafarers International Union (SIU) offer a full apprenticeship program and are eager to hire our Tacoma Tideflats Merchant Mariner graduates.  SIU will provide all future training opportunities for career advancement and connect you with jobs for the rest of your time in the union.  SIU salaries start at about $4,000 per month and increase as you gain experience.  The SIU Apprenticeship covers training, food, lodging, etc). Apply to the SIU Apprenticeship.

Also, JobCore offers additional training opportunities for the maritime industry. All JobCore training is free to Tacoma graduates. Training includes food, lodging, and more.  

Summer 2023 Program Details

  • Application window open: Ongoing
  • Program dates: June 29th to July 18th, 2023 (no class on July 3rd-5th) 
    • VPDSD (Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties)
    • Basic Safety Training
    • Field Trips
  • Meeting location: Hunt Middle School
  • Notify selected applicants: Early June
  • Approximate hours to complete: 80
  • Certifications: Merchant Mariner Card (MMC) which includes Basic Safety and Vessel Personnel with Designated Security Duties (VPDSD), Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC), and Financial Literacy through EverFi
  • Completion stipend: $500
  • Credits toward graduation: 0.5 in Skilled and Technical Sciences
  • Total spots available: 24
  • Special considerations for this program: Mandatory drug test and physical exam, State or Federally issued ID (United States Coast Guard requirements, not Tacoma Public School's requirements)
  • For additional information, please contact Jeff Klancke: jklanck@tacoma.k12.wa.us

Merchant Mariner Careers by the Numbers

Average Salary (as of 3/31/22): $51,424 source

Required Education: Apprenticeship, JobCorepost secondary (one example), or on the job training in some cases

Job Outlook (2020-2030): 12% (faster than average) source

Current Job Postings: On indeed

What it's like to be a Merchant Mariner: