Looking to advance, need advice

I’m sure this has been asked and posted about as nauseam, I’ve done some searching and am considering options however I would greatly value opinions and advice from fellow mariners.

I’ve been a deckhand for nearly 17 years sailing on tugs mostly with 6.5 years on OSVs back in 2011 and am currently sailing ATBs moving black oil.
Two years ago I obtained a license as 3rd Mate Unl, OICNW (NC) and last year I picked up my MOT(Oceans) and tankerman PIC DL barge.
The company I work for has/had a training program which I was told I would be placed into once I got my towing endorsement. I have several written recommendations from captains including the one I’m working with as well as the port captain but those above them seem to only be hiring Mates with prior experience from without the company and no longer training/promoting from within.

My options have come down to either go knock on doors to try to grab a low paying river boat job for the experience, try to join a union to ship out, apply at some place like OSG maybe or just stick it out and continue to push for a position here.
I have children and would prefer not to sail deep sea but at this point I’m willing to entertain the idea as long as it were steady work with the possibility of advancement.

What do you think would be my best option here?

I would start by applying with the tugs or OSG (outside the unions) and see if anyone bites. Or if you have few choices and are feeling the pinch join the union and hit the hall while applying elsewhere. Cover your bases and see where opportunity strikes first, then just take the first thing to come along.

That’s how I got my start.

Thanks for the reply Shooter I appreciate it, I’ll give OSG a shot, there are a few other shipping companies I’m eyeballing as well.

So has this unnamed company you are with actually been hiring anyone in these days of very slim offerings? If they have hired outside mates, I would go right to the VP of human resources with your recommendations for promotion in hand and demand to know why you are not being considered to sail mate? Make them sweat a bit before bailing out…fight for what is right!


Make them sweat? You’re more likely to get a “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out” sort of response.

1 Like

You didn’t mention how old you are. That makes a difference, especially at larger companies.
17 years on deck may have pigeonholed you as a career AB/Tankerman at some companies, possibly including where you work now. You didn’t mention if you have documented recency.

If you are around 40, you should do well, but if you are 60 it’s going to be difficult.

There are smaller tug companies, and some larger tug companies with turnover, that will put you on as a mate. And be damn glad to have you. It would be best to start with an ocean or coastwise towing company that uses the mates as watchstanders at sea, not boathandlers that have to make arrivals and departure on their own. If you are looking to be thrown into boathandling and build skills, try the companies pushing gravel barges.

1 Like

and I say


I’m mid 30s, I started working on harbor tugs in my late teens, did that for about 6.5 yrs, went to Bouchard for a while for three years for some money, then one of the big 3 OSV companies for nearly 7 years, recently back to tugs working for a fairly high volume NE bunkering outfit, did two years on wire boats and now back to ATBs.

I have no documented recency.

I’d like to hear which ones?

This would be perfect honestly. I have made a handful of landings and done some light boat work but am nowhere near ready to hold my own watch docking and undocking barges, though yes I would like to be proficient at some point and with enough training and practice I believe I could be, but I am fairly comfortable underway with a tow in light traffic, even better if it’s an ATB.

Thanks for your reply Tugsailor.

The ones I’ve met have not been of slim offerings but fairly well seasoned Mates and Captains for the most part, with two guys in the last few months that washed out…one from Harley and one from Crowley that were unable to effectively dock/sail the barge while being evaluated for a Chief mate spot but they were just relocated and given other positions, one as 2nd on another ATB -who quit last month, for whatever reason and one as Tankerman.
What these guys put on their resumes is beyond me, but the company took it that they were capable of handling the boat, what I gather is they had just been sailing as 2nd at these other companies and never really got the experience to develop their abilities.
Edit: reading comprehension. Yes the company I work for is hiring.

I think your options are pretty limited with a NC license these days, especially deep sea. I heard that Bouchard was short on mates, and they are ok with a NC license.

1 Like

I may just start studying for the Cel nav test and grab that if it’s a huge limiting factor, I was hoping to get a spot somewhere before I invested the time and energy into it.

That’s one company I would never work for again in any capacity. Among other things, their pure negligence is dangerous and recently got two mariners killed.
I have a few friends their though, they seem to be okay for now.

How do you have MOT oceans with a NC mate license?

I was working international when I was signed off on my TOAR and during the ‘observation’ period.
See 46 CFR § 11.465 (d) and 46 CFR § 10.404 - ©

I don’t blame you brother.

1 Like

You got mot oceans without ever having taken a celestial class or exam?

That’s correct, the closest thing to celestial that I took was T-Nav, still haven’t sat for my celestial yet.
To clarify that’s Mate of Towing not Master.


When you get your celestial done I think AMO has tanker jobs and I think Crowley currently needs mates on wire tugs.

1 Like

I may be in debt in back dues to AMO, when I was working in harbor the entire crew of those tugs were AMO, I left there in ‘08, but it’s worth a shot, I’ll defintely be sending an app in to Crowley and looking at studying C-Nav in the meantime. Thanks for the tip!

I don’t see anything on their job page but I’ll check again with my contact there and see if they still need people.

1 Like