AB inland license

4 day course, Final at the end would require a 70% score on 60 Question multiple choice.
The point of this license would be to provide a foundation for inland deckhands to have a general knowledge of the dangers, hazards, safe practices, man overboard, watertight integrity, basic Fire fighting and vessel terminology. Basically make sure people are not getting on a vessel and ripping their fingers off building tow, hurting their back, putting on face wires, falling overboard etc.
Bad Idea/ Good idea? Another tax on the industry? No refresher required. Maybe have all inland boats have at least 1 vessel deckhand that is an AB. Just curious, a company that I worked up to Captain for came to me to make a 60 question test and 5 day deckhand orientation and I figured this COULD be a basis for the industry. The LAST thing I would want to do is tax the industry for NO reason, because lord knows we are regulated enough.
The point of this would be 2fold – Make sure Little Johnnie (or Joanne) getting on the boat knows basic vessel terminology “Hey catch me a backing on the port bow” and no injuries.
The other point would be to increase pay. More licensing more money, right? If everyone on this forum says inland work is harder, why is the pay less? Kind of like my friend who works Captain at Bouchard close to retirement jokes that OPA 90 after XOM Valdez was the best thing to happen to him money wise because his salary increased dramatically. Just curious on thoughts on this one? Dumb idea? Currently there is NO minimum inland outside of TWIC background check, physical and drug test. @jdcavo @Capt_Phoenix @tugsailor @Lee_Shore

If enough inland guys got the regular AB and left these crappy paying companies, wouldn’t they have to start paying more? Maybe the individuals working there should get a little more proactive about their own careers

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The jobs are inland so I figure at some point economics has to kick in with supply and demand and right the system. Right now I have companies asking me if I know people to start as a green deckhand (I stopped referring people after some bad experiences). There also is a VAST difference between the better companies and the bad companies, maybe this would force the lower ones to raise the pay? After all, I’m looking out for the Captains just as much to have a guy get on the boat knowing something. Also, makes sense if you start at deckhand making more, you end up making more when you get in the wheelhouse.

On top of that, I’m going to assume the AB is highly catered to offshore (I have STCW but no AB license so I don’t know), like the majority of USCG testing I’ve come across.

The way I see it they could just get AB Special or AB limited (I forget which is which though).There may not be a manning requirement for it by if they want to advance their own career that’s there for them. From a regulatory stand point, if the USCG decided to increase the Manning requirements they could require these boats to carry one of the AB endorsements that already exist. I’m sure the companies would have a field day complaining to their congressman about over regulation. I agree with you from a safety standpoint, but under the current economics apperantly the companies are having no trouble finding warm bodies that are “good enough” at the job.

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Thanks for the response, just curious, I value the opinion of a lot of people on here, even Ombrugge sometimes. Curious to hear more.

I like that your company wanted to create a test for their own deckhands. I think that’s how it should be right now. Maybe not federal regulation, but if the industry can keep doing a good job, honestly, self regulating. And not just doing it “on paper”, that’s always a step in the right direction. Even training guys without any kind of official certification can lead to the guys taking it more seriously and looking for what kind of ways they can make more money and advance. I’d the company has a good reputation for having guys that know what their doing, it can look good on a resume if other hiring managers see it and they know that people from company x usually know what they’re doing.

So I used to work for this company, we parted on good terms. They contacted me about training deckhands, which is part of what I do now, not deckhands per se but vessel training. We sat down for a meeting at their fancy office, 3 of them on one side of the table and me on the other, about how to train deckhands. The guy I was friends with sent me a list of RCP (responsible carriers program) requirements to base the 60 question test on. The first on the list was confined space, so my first question involved “what is a confined space” an easy way to start 1 for 1 on the multiple choice…well the lady who had never been on a boat before says…WHY would we care about that, our guys know NOT to go into confined spaces…My response was…Well I used to work for this company about a year ago (they all knew I was captain there a year before) and a deckhand on one of my boats told me on a PREVIOUS vessel, 15 barges 1 towboat on the OHIO river the captain told him to go out and make a lock. Well in the meantime in starts pouring down rain and there is a lock delay (probably due to pouring rain), and the deckhand proceeds to open an empty barge hatch, enter a confined space, crawl down the ladder and close the void hatch just so he has enough oxygen coming in and while not getting wet. They kind of looked at each other like no way that happened at our company, but the point remains that they have NO IDEA about what happens, but it did happen. So even the “good” companies are skipping duties or don’t care. I know this happens offshore, just curious if this would end up being a tax on the industry instead of a good thing.

There’s a distinct difference between a basic deckhand skills course for new hires and an AB course/rating.

A basic skills class is a great idea, already being used by some of the larger and better companies.

I’m surprised inland boats don’t require ABs, that would be a viable rule change.


Dumb shit happens everywhere, and dumb shits are everywhere.


If enough people agree, I will give the course to these guys to debate @Capt_Phoenix @jdcavo @tugsailor @Lee_Shore I have no financial incentive. Just looking out for mariners.

While I agree that ABs are a necessity on vessels of certain size, I don’t think ABs are necessary on inland tugs. To me it would seem that the Tankerman endorsement is the inland equivlent to the offshore AB. Granted that both have a different prerequisite for aquiring I just think whichever route you choose in whichever industry there’s the middle ground that decides where you go:

Offshore : OS -> AB -> ER/Bridge

Inland : OS -> Tankerman -> ER/ Bridge

I hear the arguement but don’t agree. Tankerman are directly associated with safe transfer of petroleum products (which alot of inland vessels are carrying) and some of these skills are associated to deckhands but not necessarily fundamental. No ab has to legally sign a declaration of Independence before a transfer of oil. I think it would be unfair to both tankerman in general and deckhands who don’t work on oil barges. I do agree that Tankerman is a big step up over a deckhand though and you should Master the deck before receiving the tankerman PIC, (some go the shore tankerman route tho and no tow building is necessarily needed).

I do like the fact of saying maybe if you have a Tankermans license, that supercedes an AB so if you hawespipe on deck and get a Tankermans license, with sea time (say a year…or more than is needed for a tkman) that would equal an AB plus your tankerman. This inland AB would be more an entry level license than a tankerman.

AB special is one year of seatime. AB limited is 2. AB unlimited is 3.


AB-Limited is 18 months.
Also, AB-Unlimited requires Great Lakes, near coastal, or oceans time. Inland is not acceptable for AB-Unlimited. See 46 CFR 12.403.

Ah ok. I thought it was 720 days. It has been quite a few years since I looked at the requirement.

I don’t think requiring an AB is the answer, I would rather the leave the system as is instead. That being said I personally think this would benefit inland, but I want feedback. My concern is that if I pushed this, it would inevitably up being another hoop to jump through and tax on the industry.

I dont know enough about inland to say if it should be a requirement. I would suggest to the deckhands that it is in their best interest and opens up other doors. When good people start walking out the door and the company is having a hard time keeping the boat crewed because of wages, maybe they will wake up.

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thanks for the response.

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It seems to me that Mississippi River and ICW push mode towboating are an independent and completely different trade, with different skills. Rivermen are not what most of us think of as mariners, and mariners are not Rivermen.

It’s a completely different thing to be sinking with 500 feet of water under the keel, than 5 feet under the flat bottom. River mariners only need to know how to sit on top of the deckhouse and fire up the grill while waiting for help to arrive. A fire offshore and launching a life raft is a much different thing.

Rivermen do not know how to make and break tow, hip up, stream the tow, navigate on nautical charts, understand marine weather, anchor, lay on the wire, launch a life raft, make bar crossings, etc. Ocean and Coastwise Mariners do not know how to build tow, fleet, flank, make river crossings, make locks, make bridges, or navigate on Corp of Engineers river maps.

The river business is huge and it has been successfully conducted for a very long time. Whatever they are doing, it works. It seems to me that the river trade should have a completely different licensing system.

The River business seems to me to have more in common with over the road trucking or railroading than going to sea. I do not think MMCs or ABs, Mate’s, or Masters, or Twics, are appropriate for the river, instead there should be something like a “Riverdriver’s license” that tests the skills pertinent to the trade. Do unlicensed hands on the river need training? Sure. Do they need government documents to be a deckhand? I doubt It. It seems like the Corp of Engineers would be a more appropriate licensing agency for the river.

I think it was a huge mistake to mix together the River towboating and Coastwise tugboating in Subchapter M. This results in the river being overregulated and mis-regulated with Coastwise requirements, and Coastwise being underregulated and mis-regulated with River requirements.