Union Guide for Graduates: The American Maritime Officers (AMO)

I want to ship deep sea; should I join the AMO or MMP?
Unless you’re one of the academy graduates that lands a direct-hire job with MSC or a tanker company such as OSG, Polar, etc., this is certainly a question that several newly-minted third mates who want to sail blue water will find themselves asking.
The AMO (American Maritime Officers) is often recommended to new graduates over MMP due to the fact that they “have more ships”. This, however, should not necessarily be the only consideration in one’s decision. Currently, there are countless third mates registered with the AMO waiting for ships. In theory, these individuals are contacted via telephone by the AMO dispatcher by the order that they registered. Upon receiving the phone call with a job offer, the mariner must provide a yes or no answer. If a mariner declines 3 job calls, they get dropped back to the bottom of the list. Although this telephone dispatch system is convenient in that it does not necessitate the mariner physically going to a hiring hall (thus making it more feasible to reside in areas far away from port cities), it does not allow for the opportunity of perusing contacts, pay scales, etc. as would be possible while physically visiting a hiring hall.
Despite that the aforementioned process is what is advertised, some mariners have indicated that although they were towards the bottom of “the list”, they received a phone call from dispatch due to the proximity of their residence to the ship requiring a third mate. From the AMO’s perspective, it would be more convenient to call someone on the bottom of the list who lives in Tampa for a ship that is in Tampa as opposed to calling someone who registered way before (i.e. top of the list) but lives in Seattle. This makes sense from a business perspective. It also can some as a wonderful surprise to new mariners, thus enticing mariners to stay in the AMO. For some, however, it can be a turn off.
Another thing to remember: certifications, certifications, certifications. Sure, the list of registered mariners might be 300 people, but if you are in possession of a PIC-DL, now you are on a list of perhaps 80 people. PIC-DL and a security clearance? The pool of candidates dwindles even further, thus increasing the chances of that phone call from dispatch.
Lastly, there is a phenomenon in the AMO referred to as “back dooring” the dispatch process. This simply means that a mariner picks up a telephone and begins calling companies who utilize the AMO for crewing. Once in a while a company may be inclined to receive someone’s resume and determine this person is a good fit for their ship and/or company. In cases like this, the company makes the right phone calls to the AMO and the mariner is placed on the ship (granted that they are either already In the AMO or join the AMO prior to going to the ship). If you register with the AMO you’ll eventually ship out; however, everyone needs to look out for themselves and their families, so calling these companies is something that one might consider.
Stay tuned for next week’s discussing outlining the International Organization of Maters Mates and Pilots (MMP)!