The men and women of United Steelworkers Local 5000 are highly skilled mariners working aboard cargo ships in the deck, engine, and galley departments upon the Great Lakes as well as highly specialized service providers to the steel industry. 

Central Marine

Interlake Steamship

Key Lakes, Inc.Sisco (Hilti)

USW Local 5000 is not a hiring hall, and we do not collect or process employment applications or resumes. We do provide information about how to obtain the proper credentials and where to send your application package. Membership with our local union is obtained after you have been hired by any of the companies whose workforce is represented by our local union. 


To obtain employment aboard a Great Lakes freighter, you must possess a valid TWIC, Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), and USCG Medical Certificate prior to applying for work. To learn more about obtaining these credentials, please visit our Credentialing Guide. If you already have your credentials and are looking for information about how to apply and what positions are available, see available Employment Opportunities.

We represent unlicensed mariners aboard 18 vessels in the Deck, Engine, and Galley departments in the following fleets: 

Deck Department

This department is the largest department on each ship with a variety of positions available. Ordinary Seamen (OS) may enter this department working as a deckhand, and after accumulating 360 sea days, may advance to an Able Seaman (AB) rating after satisfactorily completing training and passing a U.S. Coast Guard exam. AB's may work as a deckhand, watchman, wheelsman, or bosun (deck boss/foreman equivalent.) Jobs are assigned based on seniority. 

2021 Deck Department Hourly Wage Rates

Job TitleMinimum Maximum 
Ordinary Seaman (without AB endorsement)$19.28$23.39
AB working as OS$20.94$25.03
AB Deckhand$23.91$25.28

For informational purposes only. For your specific compensation rate, consult your Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

AB and OS Deckhands generally work "days," although it is rare that a Great Lakes mariner actually works 9 to 5. Deckhands are called out when the ship is preparing to make a dock or the locks which can happen at any time of day. While docked, the deckhands will handle mooring cables, operate deck winches, remove and replace hatch covers, clear decks of excess cargo, and operate gates in the unloading tunnel while offloading cargo. If the ship is "on the run," (transiting between one port to the next) deckhands will work from 8 to 4:30 performing general maintenance aboard the ship. 

Watchmen stand a regular watch of 4 hours on and 8 hours off, twice a day. Watchmen are usually assigned special maintenance projects while underway and operate gates or stand a security watch while in port. Watchman jobs vary from fleet to fleet, with some fleets employing both watchmen and wheelsman, and others combine the duties into a single wheelsman's job. 

Wheelsmen stand a regular watch of 4 hours on and 8 hours off twice a day. Wheelsmen act as a lookout while underway on the lake, and steer the ship under the guidance of the mate on watch while in confined waters. In companies where the Watchman position doesn't exist, Wheelsmen assume the duties of a Watchman while underway on the lake. 

The Bosun acts as a foreman or "deck boss" aboard the ship. Bosuns are usually responsible for organizing the day's work and delegating jobs assigned to the deck crew by the Chief Mate. 


The Engine & Conveyor Department is the second-largest department on each ship, and also has a variety of positions available. Wipers (entry-level rating) will begin working in the engine room under the supervision of the ship's engineers and after accumulating 180 days of appropriate sea time, may attend schooling and take a U.S. Coast Guard exam to obtain their QMED (Qualified Member of the Engine Department) rating upon satisfactory completion. Both Wipers and QMED's may opt to work as a Conveyorman if they desire to work more with the ships unloading gear instead of inside the engine room. All positions are assigned based on seniority. 

2021 Engine & Conveyor Department Hourly Wage Rates

Job TitleMinimumMaximum

For informational purposes only. For your specific compensation rate, consult your Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

Wipers begin working under the supervision of the ship's engineers in either the engine room or the unloading department. If working in the engine room, the Wiper often works alongside the QMED gaining experience around engine room machinery. If working in the conveyor department, the wiper often works under the supervision of the Conveyorman while working on maintenance projects on the ship's unloading system. After 180 days of appropriate sea time, Wipers can attend school to prepare for a U.S. Coast Guard exam. After passing the exam, Wipers can upgrade their rating to a QMED endorsement and work as either a QMED or Conveyorman.

QMED's work closely with the ship's engineers to monitor and maintain shipboard machinery. QMED's perform rounds, checking the condition of equipment and performing maintenance when required. On steamships, QMED's may stand a regular watch consisting of 4 hours on and 8 hours off, along with two other QMED's. On diesel-powered ships with extensive automation, there is only one QMED on the crew, and he/she works regular hours from 8 to 4:30, and other times outside normal hours when required. 

Conveyormen are responsible for the maintenance and operation of the ships unloading conveyor system. The Conveyorman is on duty during unloading to supervise the gatemen and the overall operation of the unloading system. Conveyormen report to the ship's engineers, and while not unloading, performs maintenance of the various components of the unloading system. At times, Conveyorman will assist the ship's engineers with special projects in the engine room. 


This is the smallest department aboard the ship and is responsible for preparing meals for the ship's crew and maintaining a clean dining environment. Porters begin working in this department under the direction of the Cheif Steward, and after a period of time (usually 30 days) will promote to Second Cook. Only one of our represented vessels, the tug Dorothy Ann, does not employ a Porter or Second Cook and is instead manned solely by the Cheif Steward (not a member of USW Local 5000.)

2021 Galley Department Hourly Wage Rates

Job TitleMinimumMaximum
Second Cook$23.54$25.32

For informational purposes only. For your specific compensation rate, consult your Collective Bargaining Agreement. 


Prior to applying for work aboard a great lakes freighter, you must possess a valid TWIC, MMC, and USCG Medical Certificate. Learn more about how to obtain these documents in our Credentialing Guide. Your application package must include the following: 

  • Application, resume, or both - depending on the specific companies requirements, 
  • A scanned image or copy of your MMC including both pages containing your personal details AND ratings, 
  • A scanned image or copy of BOTH sides of your TWIC, 
  • A scanned image or copy of your USCG Medical Certificate

Send this information to each of the companies you are interested in applying to using the addresses provided below. Additional information is also provided for each company when applicable. 

Central Marine Logistics

Information coming soon. 

The Interlake Steamship Company

Information coming soon. 

Key Lakes, Inc. (Great Lakes Fleet)

Information coming soon. 


A career in the Great Lakes is unlike any other. It requires you to be away from home for several months at a time, and communication with friends and family can be challenging, although most ships do have limited internet access and cellular coverage continues to improve as towers are built or improved onshore. Meals, as well as basic laundering facilities and linens, are provided to crew members. Most PPE is also provided, but there are a few things you will want to bring with you to ensure your comfort while at work. Consider purchasing the following items prior to shipping out: 

  • Sturdy, leather palm work gloves (about six pairs)
  • Safety toe work boots (insulated boots for winter months)
  • Waterproof boots (the Muck Boot brand is a popular choice, although any rubber boot will work)
  • Light jacket
  • Winter jacket
  • Insulated bibs for winter months
  • Insulated work gloves/mittens (Kinko brand is a popular choice)

Weather on the Great Lakes is unpredictable, and nighttime temperatures can often become cold even in the summer months. This list is merely a suggestion, and you should prepare to work in all weather conditions. Our sailing season usually starts in late February/early March and can last as long as late February depending on your vessel assignment. 

Great Lakes freighters usually engage in trade that permits sailors to get off the ship to restock supplies about once per week, but you should always carry at least a two-week supply of basic toiletry items and needed medications at all times. In addition to going ashore to purchase items, sailors often use online stores like Amazon to order personal supplies and have them delivered to one of the ship chandlers for forwarding to the vessel along with regular ship supplies. Bars of soap are supplied, but you will need to bring your own: 

  • dental care products (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • deodorant 
  • shaving supplies
  • nail clippers/tweezers 
  • needed medication, and/or preferred brand of over-the-counter medication (basic first aid supplies are carried onboard) 

All ships under our jurisdiction provide satellite television. Cellular coverage has improved in a lot of areas on the Great Lakes, and ships are usually in range about two-thirds of the time while underway. In recent years, unlimited data plans have become very affordable, and some carriers (AT&T is one) have "North America" plans that let you use talk, text, and data on Canadian towers without roaming charges or data caps. This is very useful, as the ships spend a lot of time in Canadian cell range. If you bring your own laptop/tablet and enjoy streaming videos or using video chat, you will want to have a mobile hotspot capable phone. While the ships do have internet available to the crew, most limit the amount of data you are able to use and restrict you from visiting sites like Netflix and FaceTime. 


The men and women of Sisco, Inc. (a division of Hilti) are highly skilled laborers based out of New Castle, Pennsylvania who provide specialized maintenance and repair services to steel mills and other heavy industries in the region.