Advice on maritime acadamies please

Hello all…I just wanted to ask opinions on Maritime acadamies and which to consider that may offer a faster path into a Masters of towing endorsement? My son will graduate high school this year with most pre reqs out of the way. We are from the West coast and Cal maritime seems like a no brainer for us but Ive read alot of negative and they dont offer anything towing specific. Which acadamies could one get his 3rd unlimited aswell as maybe Apprentice, Mate, or Master of Towing? Texas, Maine, Michigan…any others?

Thank You

He could get his Unlimited 3rd mate at any of the schools and if he puts in the extra work get his towing requirements out of the way too, and cadet ship on some tug boats. I went to SUNY and most of the people I know who didn’t go deep sea, went to tugboats, I work on tugboats too.

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When I went to CMA they had a tug and barge class that got me a signed off toar. It should still be the same deal, but give them a call and ask.

I wouldn’t worry about the towing endorsement while selecting the school. You can get it very quickly either in school or right after school. If you live in California I say that’s a no brainer.

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SUNY Maritime has a 2 year Mate 500/STCW program. WITH at least 30 days on a tug and completing the TOAR he can get Mate TV The tug time and maybe the TOAR might be done in the program. After Mate TV it’s one year (240 X 12 hour days) to Master (plus courses and assessments for STCW Master to work where that is needed). The SUNY program is (or was…) tug focused.

By far Maine Maritime Academy has the best workboat/ tug and barge program. They offer a VOT (vessel operations and technology major). With a focus on workboat, tugs, and ship-handling. Graduates test for their 1600ton lincense and all have their TOAR signed off and most completed if they do at least one summer on a tug. The program is a lot cheaper than their unlimited (MOT) program as there is no “unlimited license fee”, no requirement to be in the regiment (ie no cost to uniforms etc), do not have to pay for two summer cruises and the students make decent money during the summer to pay for their education.
I’m addition to having a more normal college experience. The students work in the VOT program have to work at least two summer in the industry and complete a project while working. There is a 3 week Bowdoin cruise they do have to complete one summer but most are able to work three summers either trying three different companies or going back to one of the same companies for their third summer- it’s a great way to get their foot in the door. And a lot or most especially now are easily getting jobs as Mates.
Actually being hired on as an actual crew member looks better for employment and also is easier for companies to hire the graduate as they already have employment history with the company.
The VOT students are making OS/deckhand or AB wages which is several hundred dollars a day. The wages definitely depend on the company but are always higher than the unlimited students. If your son decides school isn’t for him and or if he needs to leave school and can easily switch to the SVO (small vessel operations) two year program and walk out with a 200ton or 500 ton. Although rare there is also Maine graduates who have done the 1600ton VOT program and then upgraded to their unlimited license- it’s possible and not as hard as people might think.

The unlimited tonnage majors only get one industry internship (cadet shipping experience) that pays only 40 bucks a day. At SUNY most unlimited maritime cadets don’t even cadet ship/ internship!

Biggest piece of advice is if your son knows he doesn’t want to work on large ships then don’t waste your time with any unlimited license program he will hate it and not have the skills for a workboat job

Check out this out

Sorry for the book but I think their VOT program is top notch- never heard anything bad about it

The 500 ton program at SUNY has placements aboard towing vessels. It’s also 2 years and the Maine program is 4 years. Since the OP is looking for the fastest way to Master, the relative durations of the programs is significant. Why the difference? In large part ot may be the academic degree for the program, SUNY is an associate degree, Maine is a bachelor degree. The maritime training is similar comprehensive, both meet the same STCW requirements as the 3rd Mate programs at those schools.
[Disclaimer on potential bias - I am an alumni of both SUNY and Maine]

First thing - well done on your son. And well done pointing him to one of the acadamies. In addition to the focus on the tugs, make sure you look at what academic majors they offer and what he may be interested it. It is not the norm for folks to graduate and spend their entire career at sea - most will come ashore. The good news is most who do, do very well.

Good luck to him !

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Maine has a two year program for a 500 ton SVO (small vessel operations)

On potential bias I am a Maine alum so definitely bias but graduated the unlimited program years ago. Wish I went the VOT route I think it’s a more hands on and a better experience. Best ship handlers I know graduated the VOT route.

Cal Maritime does still offer a Tug and Barge course, which if you get all the sign offs done give you a TOAR. I spent my cadet shipping summer aboard a tug, which “satisfied” the 30 day requirement to obtain the endorsement, and I graduated with my Mate (Pilot) of Tow. Looking at the regs, its 540 sea days after that to upgrade to Master of Tow.

If your kid wants to go to CMA but take an offshore cadet shipping experience, it is still easy to obtain mate of tow as long as he has the toar. Thirty days documented on a route (as deckhand, which many companies would start a new mate at regardless), submit the paper work, and you’re set.

West Coast is great for towing, especially if local to the ports. Lots of companies do both barge work and harbor assist work so its nice to bounce around and see where he fits best.

Good on him for thinking about his career. I’d recommend the four year university simply to have a degree for when he stops sailing. Some of the two year programs are great, but having the degree is a nice fall back. I’d also caution on using the word fast. That isn’t typically a word that should be used in the towing world. He young and should welcome the opportunity to run as a mate for a few year. You’re on the west coast and given the cost of school and the network that Cal has out west, that would be my choice if I had to do it all over again. Either way, the academy route is the best and most efficient way to advance in the maritime world at 18.

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Two year is 200 GRT.
Four year is 500 GRT oceans or 1,600 GRT NC.

You absolutely picked the best program. Yes, SVO is a better education but the license is very limiting and I won’t recommend it even to people that insist they only want to work on tugs.

It’s possible but absolutely as hard as people say. They only way I know to do it without sailing as AB on a ship for a year and a half is by going to work on large supply boats. Get the big license at school.

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The MITAGS/PMI Workboat Academy program in Seattle would be worth a good look. It’s a tugboat focused work/study program. It’s probably fastest. I’ve had a couple of coop students from that program.

I’ve also had a few coop students from Maine Maritime Academy. It’s a four year program.

The PMI and Maine kids are good.

I’ve also had a couple recent graduates from
Tongue Point in Astoria, Oregon. I was not impressed.

I sail primarily on tugs in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The unlimited license academy grads, especially from Maine and CMA, are well represented.

I agree with @Capt_Phoenix. There is no point in doing a four year program for a limited license. Get the unlimited license at the same cost, in the same amount of time; there is very little difference in the course content.

The Maritime Academies focus their efforts and resources on their traditional four year unlimited license programs. The limited license programs are an afterthought with limited support.

I think the traditional four year degree with unlimited license has the most horsepower in the tugboat job market. I’m sure others will differ, maybe I’m wrong.

Wow…thanks to everybody for all the replies! Im a hawsepiper myself and a bit out of touch now with current licensing changes. He will be looking for a 4 year degree from an accredited acadamy (opens many doors for future opportunities). He decked this last summer on pushboats and realizes he will start as deckhand again after graduation to get his foot in the door at a good company here locally in the NW. Thanks for all the input!


Hawsepiper myself and a Chief, but my Son expresses an interest in being a Captain (sigh), and with that in mind, all who have been to Starfleet have been quizzed about the perceived quality of the education by me. They agree that Maine, Mass, and Suny are great, but the quality of the scholastic side of things slightly favors Mass.


For me, SUNY was just closest to home. Otherwise, they’re all the same thing to me.

I’ve been on ships where each officer was from one of the colleges so… we were all so well prepared, we ended up in the exact same place at the exact same time.

Fine choices all the way around.


Texas Maritime grad here. I graduated a few years ago and they offered a Tug & Tow class when I was there. Everyone would finish the class with filled out TOAR’s, they would just need 30 days as a crewmember on a tug and then they would have their Mate of Towing in addition to a 3rd Mate Unlimited. Not sure if they still offer it since the professor/DE at the time is no longer teaching there.

For what it’s worth, at Mass we only needed two weeks on a tug after graduating with the TOAR completed through their program.

Just curious, why isn’t your son asking the questions instead of you? Over the years I have had way too many cadets from all the academies (except Texas A&M) that have had no interest in sailing after graduation. My unscientific poll found the school and sailing was their parents’ idea.