Inland guy wanting to go blue water

Hello to all!! I’m new here on this forum and this is my first question. I’ve searched and have done quite a bit of research about this topic and cant really find much. I work for Kirby inland marine. Im a tankerman and ive been there for about 4 years now. I’m interested in transferring to the offshore division and get on ATB’s. I understand that I need to get my AB etc… But what I want to know is what is it like working on ATB’s. I haven’t had any luck in the past finding someone to talk to about the atb life. I’m at a cross roads right now in my career because I could either go into the steersman program with Kirby inland marine or go offshore. Offshore seems appealing to me because of several different reasons, but the main reason being its a day for day gig. So is there anybody that works on atb’s out there that can give me the low down about the life? I would greatly appreciate it! Towboat life is all good but the 28 14 is getting old and atbs mostly work day for day so that’s what im looking at right now, It wouldn’t be too hard for me to make the jump but I would really love to talk to someone first that works out there before I do. Thanks in advance for anybody that responds. Like I said before I’ve looked and looked and did a search and couldn’t really find much about what im looking for.

Hello, Although I am currently shore side but during my 20 years at sea, I spent some time on ATB’s. They were some of the best vessels I worked on in my career. Yes, I am an engineer but on small boats (ATB) everyone tends to pitch in. No towing gear and the ride in a head on sea is great. I can remember being in 20’ seas off Mexico and having a barbeque on the bow of the tug. The barge knocks everything down. Beam sea is a beam sea. No towing gear for the deck gang to deal with. The new ATB’s are much nicer then what I sailed on; roomier and modern. Some of the larger units with progressive companies provide a cook. I was on many that did not so the cooking duties would rotate unless you were lucky enough to have a crew member who enjoyed cooking. One small caveat, you may not have cell phone coverage for days so if calling home regularly is an issue, stay inland. You can go days, even weeks without seeing land (which I enjoyed) so no TV, phone, etc. Good luck.

Wow!! Thank you so much for the quick response chief! That’s exactly what I was hoping someone would say! I did some time on supply boats and the ride was terrible! That’s one thing that I was concerned with. I think Im getting ready to make the move. I just need it. More money and more opportunities being offshore, along with the day for day will be the perfect job. I know that its not all peaches but it sounds good to me and im getting more pumped about just go ahead and putting in for a transfer. How often are you on dock? etc…how many day runs?etc…I cross channeled for a while in Houston and don’t really want to be loading or pumping a barge every single day. I know your an engineer but im sure you know how it is pumping them barges. I was in the navy for 4 years and im looking forward to getting back out there! Again, thanks so much for the advice chief!

As for your last questions, you might see a dock for loading or discharge every 3 days and you might not see one for a week. We would go to Mexico sometimes and take 3-4 days to load. It all depends on what type of run and the product you’re carrying. When I was on ATB’s, we carried black products; heated cargos, 5 oil and asphalt. Refined products tend to stay on a more coast wise trade and see docks more often; 2-5 days.

I work on an ATB and like he said you never know how long you will be away from the dock. We typically run up and down the coast of Texas and run to New Orleans every now and then. In my 3 week hitch if we get lucky we will do 4 jobs

It’ll really depend of the company and the trade. What size unit, how its manned, her trade, how she rides/handles, etc. When I worked on them, some in the company never left NY or DE. Makes for a busy hitch doing lighterings and bouncing off docks every day with 18-24 hr turnarounds on average, half that for lighterings.

The ride was bouncy in wx. Maybe tugchief’s boat was better, but ours pitched a lot in any decent sea no matter the direction. Twenty foot seas would have broken a lot of stuff on our barge and been one heck of a ride on the tug, safe, but probably not much sleeping going on. Head on into 10-15’ would make us have to almost hove to because of pounding, not fun.

I enjoyed it most when we were moving around with a good variety of offshore work and harbor work. But it really depended on what the market was at the time, despite being on contract; we’d do long 8-10 day trips down the coast some hitches, or never leave the harbor on others. Some units are on rails, especially in the Gulf, we weren’t and could go anywhere any time… or nowhere for a long time.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but some of the old K-Sea ATBs are now part of Kirby Offshore, so there’s a fair chance you might not necessarily be doing strictly Gulf runs, yes?

I just put in my transfer paper work today! I really do appreciate all of the feedback on this. I was having a hard time finding info. I have a few more questions. Someone said three week hitch? I’m on for four week hitches now. Three weeks would be way better. I know it’s just depends on the boat, the run etc… But isn’t it mostly day for day schedules on atb’s? So 3 weeks on 3 weeks off and so forth? That would be awesome because im really sick of working a 28/14 schedule. Yes, Kirby bought out ksea and they have east coast/gulf division, west coast division, and Hawaii division. I put in for east coast/ gulf and west coast so I could go anywhere. Are the tankerman responsible for upkeep on the tugs like they are inland? Someone told me they weren’t because they stayed on the barge. Is that true? Again, it may depend on the company etc… Again thanks for the info guys. Keep it coming!

Depends on the company for the hitches and tankermen. We did 3 weeks equal time and I know bunch of other companies do the same, but equal time is fairly standard. As for the tankermen, it really depends. All of my company’s units were unmanned barges but still employed two AB-tankermen to handle all the cargo and barge maintenance. Others have the mates serving as the PICs. Bouchard’s units (though not your “typical” purpose-built ATBs) would run with manned barges. There isn’t quite a hard and fast standard of operation yet.