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Jobs Outlook: Water Transportation Occupations




Employment in water transportation occupations is projected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Job growth will stem from increasing tourism and increases in shipping traffic due to rising imports that will provide greater employment in and around major port cities.

Employment in deep-sea shipping for American mariners is expected to stabilize after several years of decline. International regulations have raised shipping standards with respect to safety, training, and working conditions. Consequently, competition from ships that sail under foreign flags of convenience has lessened as the standards of operation become more uniform. This has made the costs of operating a U.S. ship more comparable to foreign-flagged ships and has modestly increased the amount of international cargo carried by U.S. ships. A fleet of deep-sea U.S.-flagged ships is also considered to be vital to the Nationís defense, so some receive Federal support through a maritime security subsidy and other provisions in laws that limit certain Federal cargoes to ships that fly the U.S. flag.

Employment growth also is expected in passenger cruise ships within U.S. waters. Vessels that operate between U.S. ports are required by law to be U.S.-flagged vessels. The building and staffing of several new cruise ships that will travel around the Hawaiian Islands will create new opportunities for employment at sea in the cruise line industry, which is composed mostly of foreign-flagged ships. In addition efforts are underway at the Federal level that could lead to greater use of ferries to handle commuter traffic around major metropolitan areas, which may cause more workers to be hired.

Moderating the growth in water transportation occupations is a projected decline in vessels operating in the Great Lakes and inland waterways. Vessels on rivers and canals and on the Great Lakes carry mostly bulk products, such as coal, iron ore, petroleum, sand and gravel, grain, and chemicals. Although shipments of most of these products are expected to grow through the year 2014, imports of steel are dampening employment on the Lakes.

Job openings will also result from the need to replace those leaving the occupation. Some experienced merchant mariners may continue to go without work for varying periods. However, this situation appears to be changing, with demand for licensed and unlicensed personnel rising. Maritime academy graduates who have not found licensed shipboard jobs in the U.S. merchant marine find jobs in related industries. Because they are commissioned as ensigns in the Naval or Coast Guard Reserve, some are selected for active duty in those branches of the Service. Some find jobs as seamen on U.S.-flagged or foreign-flagged vessels, tugboats, and other watercraft or enter civilian jobs with the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard. Some take land-based jobs with shipping companies, marine insurance companies, manufacturers of boilers or related machinery, or other related jobs.