Crazy Question

Plain and simple: If I were to start as a deckhand on a tug (1 week on 1 week off) tomorrow, in 4 years what would be the highest licenses/ endorsements I could receive if I were looking to make an apprentice position to become a Harbor Pilot. Let’s just say I didn’t have any sea time prior to starting.

From looking online, I see that I would be qualified to go for the Master Inland, AB. Could I possibly have any pilot endorsements?

Thanks for anyone willing to shed some light on my question!

  • John

Pilotage is different than any license and not spelled out in the cfr’s. You could have the trips required for pilotage in a month, but no docking pilot association would let in with no experience running the ship assist tugs. Some organizations have requirements like x amount of time as an officer or something before accepting an apprentice.

You could be a harbor tug operator in three years or so. (500 ton inland mate.) If you are a good operator, they may allow you to train with them. When you are ready and they need someone, you may get a job.

Thanks for the info. For a pilot position, which is more desirable: Third Mates or a Master License?

This is a two part questions and answer:
Some Pilot organizations actually DON’T want you to have ANY level of experience. They want you to enter, and train to THEIR specifications. On the other end of the spectrum, most pilot organizations require you to have an Unlimited Masters license, Oceans. This is especially true of STATE pilot organizations.

Some Federal pilot organizations (and/or docking masters) only require you to have a tug boat license, typically a 1600 ton license, with a towing endorsement. BUt you have to actually draw the Pilot charts, and Pass the USCG exams to get the license. You can’t just say; "I’m going to be a pilot.’ You actually have to be able to do it! It is not easy, or more guys would enter the trade. It is a very narrow (career wise) path, with not alot of places that will hire you, or even entertain your application.

The common point of both State and Federal pilotage is: You have to be invited, and be approved to join the system. It is not a simple; “hey, I wanna work here.” type of introduction and you just go into it.

I know several individuals who are quite adept at drawing the charts to get USCG pilotage. BUT, they are in NO way competent as a pilot, or even know HOW to be a pilot. On the other hand, I have met several people over the years who are great ‘Pilots’ but they don’t actually have the USCG endorsement!.

Joining a Pilot organization is just one part of the equation.

Getting the pilotage, having the expertise to do the job, and being accepted INTO an organization is the whole picture. At this point in your career, before you lock into a career path, first see if you even like being away from home for extended periods, see if you can have a relationship one week on and off, and see if you even can ‘stand’ living cooped up on a boat for a while. Before you become the next ‘pilot’ make sure you are an excellent deckhand. You can’t be the boss if you don’t do well as the grunt.

Your the man cappy208. Thank you very much for the detailed info. I really appreciate the input. I am looking over my options.
I currently have a job in the financial world that I got just out of college. A fairly good job. But I don’t know if it is for me. Harbor pilot has been in my blood for generations…have a big decision to make…

Bingo. That generational blood won’t hurt.

Sent from my iPad using gCaptain

Haha thanks Doug. I also have a wife and a mortgage and I’m trying to research salaries to see if I can even make it work financially for the time being. Typical deckhand monthly salary is closer to what: 1600 or 3200? When I see $100-150/ day, those are obviously days worked. And working week on week off seems like it would be the lesser right?

If harbor pilots are in your family then ask them how to become a pilot. Starting from nothing, it would take at least 5 years to be a docking pilot…

Cappy, he mentioned harbor (docking) pilots specifically, which rules out the ‘no training so they can train you themselves’ style as well as the master unlimited requirement. He could have misspoke though…

There is a difference between being a State pilot, a Federal pilot and a docking pilot. BUT, some areas blend the three types together, some keep them separate, and some fight the bejesus out of each other, vying for the work load (and profit)

I didn’t mispeak, it is just WAY to difficult to keep all the options easily explained. The caveat there was “The other end of the spectrum.” Meaning there are some organizations who are in between.

To keep the OP question on target, after 4 years of employment on an even time schedule, you will accrue 2 years seatime. That is counted as 3 years seatime if you work a 12 hour day. (allowing for specific type vessels etc etc.)

So in 3 years seatime (at today’s license qualifications and regulations) you could conceivably get a 500 ton Mates license. You could get a towing license, or a 100 or 200 ton license too. It all depends upon what you want, and where you are going with your career.

You will NEVER be able to get an unlimited tonnage Ocean license off just tugs. You will have to gain some time on vessels larger to get the unlimited oceans. But, whether you NEED an oceans unlimited license has not been determined yet. (at least by you) Do you know what the entry requirements are for the organization you are contemplating joining?

Now for the kicker. Just because you have the time for a certain license, does NOT mean you are qualified to actually use the license! And when joining a Pilot organization it is NOT your opinion that matters, but the opinion formed by the other members of your qualifications, pedigree and bonafides. Of course as you intimate, If you actually have relatives IN the company you are looking at, then you should be asking THEM for info, not us here!

I may need a refresher, but the terms used here are NOT universal around the country. There are Sea pilots, river pilots, harbor pilots, and docking pilots. In some areas they blend both the name and function. At this point, I would seem the OP has not specified which type he is talking about for sure. It even depends on which port you work in using the same companies tugs in a different port, some pilot organizations are prohibited from using certain tugs companies tugs, because they ‘aren’t that companies docking pilots,’ But in other ports, anyone can order an assist tug, regardless of which pilot organization they are with.

Until and unless the general location is nailed down a little better it is hard to give one size fits all info.

[QUOTE=john1218;57940]Typical deckhand monthly salary is closer to what: 1600 or 3200? [/QUOTE]

Depends where (location) and what company (good or dismal) Some companies pay as low as 1800, others pay about 4000. depends where. Where are you looking?

I am looking in the NY / NJ harbor. Moran, McAllister, ultimately would like NY Sandy Hook Pilots. Have any idea on what their salary range is?
Again, thanks for your help and advice.

I have asked my family three same questions posted here, but I also wanted to see it from another perspective.
Cappy thanks for truely answering the original question as well. I have been reading the coast guard website and others and I was a little confused.
I appreciate everyones input as always

*THE same questions

Our pilot today has a 200ton master of towing but he said he had to take all the unlimited classes.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure sandy hook pilots are more than docking pilots and I done know their requirements. I know one docking pilot organization that requires 5 years of time as an officer, so it would be roughly 10 years working on tugs to get there, assuming you get a mate job as soon as you get your license.

Well. Now that you have said where, I hate to burst your bubble, but Sandy hook requires you to have an unlimited masters license, typically you must be a maritime academy grad, (they wont tell you that, but thats the way it is.) So to be a Hooker you are looking at at least 8 years aboard ships. then going to Sandy Hook as an apprentice, which is (don’t quote me here) I believe a 5 year apprentice program at VERY low wages. (I am talking deckhand wages or less) Pick another harbor. Sandy Hook is one of the most pretentious, snobby organizations out there.

[QUOTE=kfj;57950]Our pilot today has a 200ton master of towing but he said he had to take all the unlimited classes.[/QUOTE]

I know one independent pilot in the GOM who doesn’t actually have the USCG pillotage, but sells himself out as a pilot from Brownsville to Fourchon. He makes a living at it, so He isn’t bad, just not a ‘real’ pilot per se.

Being a pilot is nice and after working in nyc is never want to be a pilot there