Master of Tow 500 Near Coastal... Now What?

I just passed my 500 ton exam earlier this week which was no small feat for a simple dude like me. I’m a mate with the company I work at which has all tugboats under 200 GRT on near coastal routes doing everything from dredging, ship assist, barge moves, long tows, you name it.

I’m excited to upgrade my tonnage but I never really stopped to figure out what I could do with it.

What has everyone else’s experience been with that size license and what do you all do with it? I’m just trying to get some ideas I might not have thought about.

No idea but congratulations on passing.

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So, one thing that might actually be a help to others is a little known part of the CFR’s regarding testing requirements. If you hold a Master of Tow you can upgrade to a 500 near coastal with only 3 modules instead of the usual 7. I had to take tests on Stability, Navigation Problems, and Deck General/Safety.

I had to tell my evaluator about that part in order to get the proper Approval To Test letter.


Having your upgrade may help you get on an ATB with some companies.

If you wanna go that route you may need ecdis, arpaa and gmdss if you don’t have them already.

Those are all STCW courses. If you need those, you’ll also need an STCW endorsement as officer in charge of a navigational watch (to work as mate).

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I only upgraded because my company required it for promotion. You should be good for any where you want to go with 500 t and a towing endorsement.

CONGRATULATIONS in an ever-changing World of the maritime. I started as a towboat cook in the 60’s - before licenses were required for many things. When I first started studying to get a license, there were SEVERAL areas and levels with different rule books - even different lights on vessels and horn signals. Thanks goodness for International Rules of the Road acceptance.
I started with a 100 ton license, then 2nd class ocean towing. Went from New England to Gulf of Mexico to work bigger boats to upgrade. Even though I had TWO operator licenses, I had to serve for MONTHS as AB aboard anchor-handling tugs to get AREA time (no longer necessary) to sit for 300 Ton Master. Then I went from utility boats to dive boats to supply boats to AHTS boats. It was the 80’s by then - - and oil was $15 per barrel. To KEEP and HAVE a job I upgraded to 16-Ton Master, took Celestial and other courses to be able to work anywhere in the World, then ran AHTS vessels in Mexico and Africa for several years. MERGERS of companies caused me to re-think where I was and what I wanted. Returned to Boston to work whale-watch and tour boats, then tugs. We laid the first electric cable to Nantucket Island in '96. MOBY DUCK found me and asked me to operate that - - I did that for the wonderful four years they were in Salem. Retired now. Wishing you and others the VERY BEST.

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Congrats on passing. I have jad many declhands over the years beat their chest about getting their 500grt so they can steer. Only one ever made it,

Its a hard exam and most people do not realize the committment that they will need to make.

Hopefully your license will get you into a master position.

So to update my original question of what to do with a 500 ton and master of tow…

I got on a bigger tug on a sweet run in the Gulf and am totally enjoying things here. I’ll always have a soft spot for smaller harbor tugs and variety of work and lots of boat handling, but this gig was too good to pass up and I wouldn’t have this opportunity without the 500. It was a good move to study all those nights and upgrade.


Could you quote this CFR reference for the uninitiated who might benefit from it if they knew where to find it?

Sure thing.

46 CFR 11.418(b)

Scroll down to part (b) and it will mention the abbreviated exam if you hold a Master of Tow. The three modules are…

Q132 - Deck General/Safety
Q133 - Deck Safety (Stability Problems)
Q134 - Nav Problems (Near Coastal or Oceans, depending on your intended upgrade)