Obtaining towing license?

I’ve been working on a tug boat for almost 5 years. I was wondering what is the fastest way to obtain the liscense I need. Should I go to a school and obtain my steersman apprentice ? Once that’s done I understand I need to hold the apprenticeship for 360 days and complete a TOAR. My question is do I have to be steering for the 360 days to count or can I still be on deck ? Also I’ve only traveled the lower Mississippi within a 20 mile range (fleet work). I know there are schools that offer TOAR courses but since they aren’t within the mile markers I’ve decked does it do me any good to attend the course ? Sorry for any confusion in my wording. I might be wrong in what I’ve heard or read but I’m looking for any help that can be given. Thanks

1 Like

If you go the Apprentice Mate/Steersman route, you’ll need 12 months after getting that license before you can get Mate. There is a faster way if at least of your deck time was on a vessel over 50 GRT. You can get Mate 500 GRT Inland with a total of 2 years on deck. Of this 2 years, at least one has to have been on vessels over 50 GRT, and at least 3 months of this time over 50 GRT has to have been performing bridge watchkeeping. The bridge watchkeeping part might be a problem, but the time working on the TOAR might be enough. If you go for Mate 500, you can get Mate Towing Western Rivers with 90 days on western rivers and completing the rivers TOAR (Inland takes 30 days and complete the inland TOAR). The time on western rivers doesn’t have to be after getting the Mate 500 license.

You can also get Apprentice Mate/Steersman with 18 months on towing vessels, it wouldn’t be restricted to particular miles, it would be for the entire western rivers. You can then get Mate Towing with 12 more months and complete the TOAR. The Mate also wouldn’t be restricted to certain miles.

You can also go from Apprentice Mate/Steersman to Master to a restricted area with 18 months and completing the TOAR.

If you go for Apprentice Mate, you can take a course instead of taking the exam from the REC. If you go for Mate 500, you have to take the Coast Guard exam.

As for your user name:


I am a 100 ton nc captain. I have a completed toar for western rivers and inland and Great Lakes. I have tons of seatime on different tonnages from my time as a mariner and my ten year stay in the coast guard. Would my route to towing be the same? I have been told that I can operate as a mate with just my toar in hand and 30 days observation. Can you shed some light for me?

You can APPLY for Mate of Towing Vessels. You can’t serve as one until you get the endorsement in your MMC. See 46 CFR 11.465(f)

The “TOAR in hand” you refer to is for licenses for more than 200 GRT. If you hold Master 100, it doesn’t apply to you and you need to have the endorsement in your MMC. See 46 CFR 11.465(d).

You can take a 1 day TOAR assessment at Northeast Maritime. Once completed you need 30 days sea time as a training mate, check the wording on that as the CG can be kind of demanding. Fast way possible

Can they do a Western Rivers TOAR?

Regardless, that doesn’t apply to either asker as neither has an appropriate license.

I’m fairly certain it doesn’t need to be as “training mate” to count as the 30 days.

(f) Those holding any endorsement as a master of self-propelled vessels of any tonnage that is less than 200 GRT, except for the limited masters endorsements specified in §§11.429 and 11.456 of this subpart, may obtain an endorsement as mate (pilot) of towing vessels by meeting the following requirements:

(1) Providing proof of 36 months of service as a master under the authority of an endorsement described in this paragraph.

(2) Successfully completing the appropriate TOAR.

(3) Successfully completing the appropriate apprentice mate exam.

(4) Having a minimum of 30 days of training and observation on towing vessels for the route being assessed, except as noted in paragraph (b) of this section.

An easy path into tugboats for experienced small vessel masters.

1 Like

What I’m curious about is section (1). I’m assuming it means 36 months experience as a licensed master? Not experience prior to license?

Its 36 months as a Master. What it took to get a Master’s license doesn’t count.

Copy that. I’ve got over 30 years on the water. Thousands of sea days and thousands of miles of offshore.
I don’t mind it don’t count, because those are the rules! :smiley:

Note that this is different than someone with a 500 Ton license, they can work as Mate or Master of a towing vessel as soon as they get the time on towing vessels and complete the TOAR, if they carry the sea service documents and the signed off TOAR, they don’t need to have ther towing vessel endorsement in their MMC (but they should have it added at the first opportunity…).

For the path you are looking at, you need to have the Mate of Towing Vessels endorsement in the MMC before you can work as Mate on a TV.

Jdcavo, yes. I have my documented 1080 days as a master, completed toar for inland and western rivers and on the 22nd I will have my upgrade to 200 ton master. What the end result will be… we will let the sea figure that out.

With anything less than a 500 ton license you need to have Mate or Master of Towing, just having a TOAR isn’t good enough. Did you apply for either of those also?

I have 200t mate NC and need to get a towing endorsement to get a spot training. Can I just take TOAR and put it on my license? I have 12 years on tugs as AB with most of the time over 200t vessels.

No. You can’t go from Mate 200 to Mate or Master of towing vessels. You need either:

  1. 3 years as MASTER on vessels less than 200 GRT; or
  2. License as Mate/Master for 500 GRT or more and a completed TOAR and at least 30 days on a towing vessel; or
  3. At least 12 months on a towing vessel while holding a license as Apprentice Mate and complete a TOAR.
1 Like

Thank you for the clarity!

You should easily qualify for Mate 1,600, apply for that and get a TOAR.

Now I’m looking at something different, get my AB, Firefighter and Radar Observer classes (which I need anyway) and with 90 days on vessels over 50T, I can apply for 500T Mate and continue that route.