Jones Act

Does anyone have any data or breakdown on American Mariners. I am more curious about the 5,500+ inland vessels that move products and what percentage these mariners represent of Jones Act mariners. I am curious because while this “niche” of the market is huge and provides significant tax funding, I feel they are not represented well. All of the USCG testing is for bluewater like Man Overboard, with Scharnow turn, Racetrack turns etc. The majority of towing questions relates to towing astern as well. The majority of ships I see enter the Mississippi River are foreign flagged. Am I mistaken in thinking that the majority of US mariners work inland on tugs? Just curious because a lot of people on here dog inland towboats like there are inferior because their license is “limited”. Can anyone lead me to where I can such data, the closest I can get is really USCG license breakdown numbers.

Another way to phrase this, what is the breakdown of Jones Act Mariners working in Bluewater vs those in Brownwater. 2nd question - Do you consider Near Coastal ATB’s say a run from Philadelphia to North Carolina to the river bluewater or brownwater? (A friend at Bouchard does this run) I have had people describe that as bluewater and others argue that as brownwater.

Let’s put it this way.

There are only around 70 deep draft foreign going commercial ships.
Probably 90 percent of all mariners are working on vessels under 1600 GRT / 3000 GT
Probably 80 percent are on coastwise or inland vessels.

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Thanks, there is no where to confirm these numbers, correct? Also, thoughts on near coastal as bluewater or brownwater? Dumb question because its a combo of the 2? Or Bluewater or brownwater? I would consider a near coastal ATB bluewater, just had this discussion with a colleague the other day and we disagreed. He referred to a lot of the Near Coastal work in the GOM as brownwater.

There is quite a bit of data on this site, that should provide some of the answers you seek.

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Thanks, never seen this before.

A lot of this info is blue water. The OPA 90 report on inland barges is from 2002, not shocking after I remember Konrad posting something about “What is MARAD good for?” . Thanks for sending, I will continue to look at it later when I get a chance.

Not a fan of the “elitist” attitude toward lower level licenses. They may be easier to get, but that doesn’t by any means diminish the skills required compared with other industries. I’ve met many mariners with inland licenses that are excellent navigators and shiphandlers. I admire those that can pilot pushboats with 6 barges through narrow channels with high current and traffic.


Some years back I was delivering a crew boat purchased by someone or another and I was to bring it to New Iberia via ICW. I had never crossed the wax lake outlet prior. Once I was approaching that particular intersection it was quickly noticed how tug traffic was at a stop both E and W bound to allow only one tow to cross at a time. Of course im at the wheel of a 12,000hp beer can with engines and thought : " It can’t be THAT bad".

I had never in my career felt like my stern was going to overtake my bow prior to that crossing and my hat is off to those that are pushing those deep draft tows with only 2 Detroit’s.


If the Atchafalaya river is running, the wax is running! I remember when I just got cut loose, I was crossing the wax all nervous and got pretty crooked and the guy 1/4 mile behind me called and said “Holy SHIT ELLY LANE, its running that hard!?” I just said no sir, I just have no idea what I’m doing!" I’ve met boats holding up for “fog” before there, ie waiting for the Captain to wake up and assume watch and across. Certain times of the year, they hire a “shadow tug” to follow you across because they’ve had so many accidents.

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Same in engineering. My first few years sailing were deep sea vessels. When work slowed with the bankruptcy of several large companies, and the impatience of my youth (and liberal spending practices. . .), I took a job with Crowley on their tugs, which I thought would be easy and temporary. It was neither. I learned a hell of a lot more about engineering and my self on hawser boats and ATBs. . .


I consider “blue water” to be deep sea shipping, “brown water” to be inland only, “Offshore” to be OSVs, and “offshore towing” to be offshore towing.

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Their license is inferior and can be obtained without even being able to read and write, their equipment is frequently rather small and shitty, but those operators have skills.


Skills pay the bills, I think it’s just a matter of time before inland pay gets on par or close to those with “superior” licenses, these inferior licenses are paying $750/day to be a trip pilot right now.

You do bring up another point. You won’t pass where I took my schooling without reading, writing, basic math for tides and currents or being able to plot a chart (which inland guys will never use)…BUT, if you know of certain schools that are handing out licenses to guys who can’t read or write, how does one go about reporting that? There is a certain institution in Louisiana that got Shut down for this reason, then reopened with a different name, same owner, same location etc and it’s business as usual. Pisses me off having certificates handed out. I would really like USCG to raid this one again and it amazes me that this still happens when the USCG already busted them.

As far as I know the USCG still allows “orally assisted exams” for the small licenses. You can be illiterate and still test at the REC.

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Yea I’m talking about blatantly handing out certificates to people who haven’t done the required work. Even if someone reads out a tide and current, the person still has to know how to do it. Not the same thing. You could read out a rules test to someone illiterate and they still would fail if they didn’t put in the work to understand how to pick the right answer.

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What classes do Western Rivers guys even have to take other than Apprentice Mate Western Rivers and Radar? Unlicensed crew doesn’t even need an MMC.

Deck hands don’t need to be licensed but Steersman/ Apprentice Mate is 5 modules. Rules, Nav Gen (tides and currents), Deck Gen, deck safety and chart plotting. Someone reading those sections out to you would not help you solve any of those problems. My apprentice/ Steersman covered about 70% of the 1600 Ton Master. Western rivers is open book and radar is kind of joke as well. Either way, the apprentice mate, at least the course I took, was pretty thorough.

I realized that, my point is that the Western Rivers guys take almost no courses. Most of the bullshit, guaranteed to pass classes aren’t what they’re taking.

They take Apprentice Mate Western Rivers and Radar.

Yep. I know for a fact some schools are handing out certificates for the harder courses, like Apprentice Mate. The same schools that were busted in the past for doing it. They simply changed names and the USCG re approved them.