Profile – Becoming a Mariner
Vane Brothers, AB/Tankerman
Years ago, while serving on a U.S. Navy ship docked in Singapore, Jullian Woods chatted with a mariner aboard another vessel berthed nearby. The conversation turned to the pay and autonomy that are possible working in the merchant marine.
That conversation stuck with Woods, 41, who now works as an AB/tankerman for Baltimore-based Vane Brothers. He works three-week hitches followed by three weeks off, when he makes good use of his free time.
“As an example of the freedom I get as a result of our favorable, equal-time work schedule here at Vane Brothers, recently I gave up my apartment in New York City, bought a motorcycle in Portland, Ore., and began a cross-country trip across the U.S.” he said recently.
Woods has been able to enjoy his time on the road rather than race across the U.S. When each three-week ride is over, he stores the bike wherever he happens to be and flies to meet his vessel for a crew change. After finishing the hitch, he’ll fly back to the motorcycle and continue the trip.
“It has been an incredible and life-changing journey, and it was made possible by my career as a merchant seaman,” he said.
Woods grew up in St. Louis and joined the U.S. Navy out of high school. He served aboard USS Chancellorsville, a Tioga-class guided missile cruiser. He left the Navy after four years and then earned a degree in photography. That led to work as a fashion photographer in New York City.
After spending several years in that environment, Woods realized he wanted a job that offered greater freedom. “So, I sought a career as a merchant mariner.” He entered the tug and barge industry in 2012 and joined Vane Brothers eight years later.
As a tankerman, Woods is charged with ensuring the safe loading and discharging of liquid fuel cargoes from Vane Brothers barges. “I really enjoy working in a solitary environment,” Woods said. “I love being on the water and utilizing my training and experience to overcome any challenges that might arise.”
— Casey Conley