Outside towing Mate looking to move into harbor

Hi Folks,

I haven’t posted on here for a while but thought I may be able to glean some advice from you all.

I’m an academy guy with 5 years of experience doing outside wire towing work as a Mate and a couple years of big ship stuff as 3rd Mate. I have my 1600t masters plus master of towing, tankerman PIC + other random stuff.

My goal is to move inside and transition to harbor tugs including z-drive/voith which I have no experience with. I obviously don’t have the experience to be a “plug and play” type but I’m not inexperienced either.

Would it be reasonable to take a Deckhand position with a harbor company, or would I be better off holding out for some type of “training” position? I’ve been considering the Deckhand route since I’m confident I can learn quickly, I just don’t want to sell myself short. I’d really appreciate some insight from you folks.

Btw I’m West Coast if that makes a difference.

Big thanks to anyone that can help.

First, you might want to work on your nautical terminology. Sailing deepsea as an officer has become “big ship stuff” and the many certifications that mariners must have today have become “random stuff.” Really? Dude, you must be from California.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter. You share the very common goal to transition to harbor work with many other outside men looking to do the same. No port captain or marine ops managers will find it odd for you to inquire about doing that. I’d suggest finding employment as an outside mate with a company that does both outside work and inside work. Then arrange to ride along as an observer on the inside boats on your time off. Working on deck would be a waste of your time and your “random stuff.” A company that would send you to simulator training , or that has a formal training program would be best. One good inside captain willing to train you informally would be fine.

Crowley, Foss, Dunlap, Western Towboat, and even Harley, might be companies where you might find opportunities.

EN Bisso and Willie Bisso in the river work 7 on 7 off, they are always looking for people. Not a bad option. I know the guy that does hiring at EN Bisso, he called during high river because they needed people for hold ins. I know they had a few people go to pilots recently so they should have some openings.

BTW, you mentioned nothing about a towing endorsement, harbor tugs at least the ones in the Miss River, require a towing endorsement (TOAR). I take that back, you mentioned wire towing so you have a towing endorsement.

Also, a lot of the companies will train you for Z drive. I have heard of guys learning Z drive from conventional in 1 day, others it might take 6 months. All depends upon your skillset, but most companies would be willing to train you on Z drive (a lot of the pilots bitch when they have assist tugs that are under horsepowered or convential tugs so Z drives are becoming more of the norm in harbor assist)

Hey thanks for the response tugsailor. I tried to write my post casually so it would be succinct and to the point. Fortunately I already work for a company that has inside work, but haven’t inquired about observer time. That’s a good idea.

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Valid point, at least I brought something meaningful to the conversation. Good luck with that 500 Ton license you’ve been asking about for 3 years along with those STCW requirements.


Thanks !! hope the mails gets here fast can’t wait to add that 500 to my mmc

I highly doubt anyone has ever gone from zero z-drive experience to doing ship assist solo in a day.


That would be quite impressive indeed! I’ve only driven a z-drive once but it wasn’t nearly as intuitive as I imagined it would be. Challenging.

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JESUS really? so before z drive what happened? did the ships fucking dock themselves? no, conventional tugs docked them. The industry is actively teaching z drive because it is the new norm.

Yes, they did. What’s your point?

You’re kind of an angry guy. At least that’s the impression you are projecting here.

I’m not really sure what the point of harping on about what license someone holds has to do with anything. Maybe go take a nap and you’ll feel better after some rest.


What is your experience exactly? Did you get on a tractor tug and we’re fully trained driving ship assist jobs after one day?


Yeah from my own experience , z drive it more difficult that you’re normal twin screws tuggy boat, and from zero experience to coming along side at 6.5 knots grabbing a line off the bow in one day is pretty good I’d like to meet that guy

I have zero experience in Z drive and I think it would take me about 6 months to learn it. But I have seen more than one pick up like that.

Yea well, harbor assist gets paid less than tug boats. I would make it safe to assume $150-$200 less a day

I’ve done ship docking with single screw, twin screw, and z drive. Even after being highly experienced with conventional tugs it takes a while to learn to run a tractor. There’s a huge difference between being able to undock, dock, and transit safely, which I did unsupervised my first time ever on one, and doing actual assist work.


What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

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In 1 day?

Yea maybe transiting and docking and doing straight sailings, no way they’re doing Stems, Powered Indirects or landing backwards in 1 day,

I say this only as a lowly Engineer who’s seen many a conventional twin guys crash and burn on Tractors when doing the advanced maneuvers

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BTW, everyone that wants to become a pilot, and when I say pilot, I mean work 7 days on 7 days off and make a minimum of 400k a year…they work their time on harbor tugs in the Mississippi river until they get the call…some never get the call, but I promise you these guys/gals are ready and they are some bad ass boat handlers, like JP