Seattle TOAR Services

Seattle TOAR Services (whoever that is) is offering a one day, oceans and near coastal TOAR simulator course in the MITAGS-PMI simulator on Saturdays and Sundays for $2000.

Prerequisites: Mate 500 NC or Oceans, and 30 days of documented observer time on tugs.

That is a fast and easy way to get your TOAR done now.

$1000 would be fair. $2000 is a bit of a rip off , but well worth it if you need it.

The truth is: it is super easy for anyone with a 500 ton or better license to get an endorsement as Mate or Master of Towing. No actual towing experience, skills, or ability required.

But don’t worry, the fine folks at the USCG say this is safe!

Good morning, @tugsailor

I understand your opinion and concerns and I’m glad to address them.

There is no fast and super easy path to completing a TOAR. You have to really want it. I’ve had training mates on board tugs with me who were two years into trying to get a TOAR signed off.That’s a lot of towing sea time yet they can’t stand a watch. I’ve assessed many mariners at sea and it takes a lot of time and dedication to the task.

Cost is of concern to everyone who seeks any license. It’s costly to rent a simulator, provide a professional service, and make a profit for my business.

The vast majority of the Near Coastal//Oceans TOAR was designed as an entry-level series of assessments. A mariner who has passed the license exams and has some entry-level boat handling skills will find that the TOAR is not a challenge, and nearly 30 of the assessments are given credit for due to the assessee holding or being qualified to hold OICNW.

The USCG says this is what you have to do to hold a towing license. As for safety, if you can’t demonstrate your skills you’re denied the license.

Best regards,
Doug Pine

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I’m not criticizing your new TOAR course. You are filling a need for mariners and I wish you success.

Anyone who wants a TOAR should stop complaining about how hard it is to find a DE that will help them get their TOAR signed off, and go take a one day TOAR course. Just “git ‘er done.”

In my opinion, the USCG’s concept of requiring towing experience and an assessment for a towing license was a sound idea. However, the implementation is a failure. 30 days of observation time on a tugboat is not a meaningful amount of experience for a license as Master of Towing. Nor are the USCG TOAR requirements a meaningful assessment of essential towing skillls. It is what it is, but I don’t have to agree with it. In my opinion, what the USCG implemented is just another wasteful, time consuming, expensive, aggravating government regulation which accomplishes nothing.

In my opinion, virtually all USCG mandated courses are far far too expensive for what they are. For example: tuition at the University of Washington is $330 per credit hour for residents and $1,439 per credit hour for non residents. A typical 1 credit hour course would have 1 hour of class time per week for 10 weeks, totaling 10 hours of class time, plus about 20 hours of homework, study group, meetings with the instructor, etc. When 10 hours of classroom instruction for academic credit at an accredited major research university costs $1,439, forgive me for thinking that a one day (deducting lunch and breaks, it’s only about 5 or 6 hours of instruction) USCG mandated course with no academic credit for $2,000 is far too expensive.

That said, anyone who wants a TOAR should fly straight to Seattle, pay the $2,000, take the course, and get back on the plane with your completed TOAR in hand.

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I’ve been wondering what happened to you since you disappeared from here a few years ago.

That’s assuming its a ‘pay to pass’ course. The website suggests otherwise. .

Just an observation, and if I am right its a good thing. I don’t want to think about the pencil-whipped toars out there somehow faking it as we speak. Its one thing to be able to stand a watch offshore being a point man and a completely different thing doing tow work.

Some people pick up towing fairly quickly, most get it eventually, but some never do.

It doesn’t take too much for the average mariner to learn to tow offshore point to point. It takes a lot of hands on practice to become a good barge handler.

I hear that the other TOAR courses have very high pass rates. I suspect that they all claim to be selective and rigorous. If Seattle does not have a very high pass rate, it won’t survive. Word will get out quickly and no one will risk $2000 if it’s not pretty close to a sure thing. There are other places to go for a one day TOAR.

The problem with the TOAR is that it’s an entry point into just applying to some companies, even if you start out on deck. And then finding a DE that will sign off within the company might be difficult in itself. Schedules have to line up, DE’s willing to train and opportunities available to perform the required maneuvers, often unpaid. These services that help you to get your TOAR signed off after performing the assessments are well worth the price paid if they help land a job. There are a few east coast outfits that run TOAR programs, and they are run by well-respected mariners. A TOAR is the price of entry. No worthwhile company is going to hand you the keys to their boat untested. I think this is a positive thing for west coast guys trying to get a spot in the wheelhouse.

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Absolutely. I thought about becoming a DE and offering to do TOARS, but companies all expected me to do it for free. So I’ve made a point of not becoming a DE. I’m not doing it for free.

And that’s the problem that many people face. Kind of a chicken and the egg. However, if you’re a DE, what’s to stop you from running your own TOAR program and making some money on it? I know there are some companies that offer extra in their day rate for being a DE. I’m sure QA will also be one of those in the near future, once that is fully implemented.

Maybe lack of access to a boat or a simulator…?

Yet another good reason for buying this

I thought about getting a 27’ aluminum “tug” on a trailer and visiting various ports to do TOARs, but most companies won’t pay for it. I figure most of these guys who want a TOAR are too cheap and too shortsighted to pay for it either.

A guy I know that runs a school said he thought about it. He figured that it would take 5 days to actually and credibly do everything the USCG has in the TOAR. He felt that the only way to do it would be to partner with a tug company. He didn’t think there was enough money in it to bother with.

If you assume that anyone with a 500 ton license has already done firefighting, lifesaving, first aid, etc, then the TOAR course can be cut down to one or two days.

In my opinion, As a practical matter at least 90% of the candidates must pass or it won’t be financially viable. To make sure that many guys pass, some guys may need time to practice and a bunch of do overs. That may take more than one day.

I thought about using a tug. The problem I ran up against was weather. Some of the assessments have to be done in high wind, some in current. Easy to replicate in the sim. Not so easy on a warm sunny day on Lake Union.

Kind of dropped under the radar. Semi-retirement and playing in a good band is distracting :slight_smile:

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Diamond Marine Service has a TOAR course up in NY (Kingston I think) using the tug Cornell.

The truth is a lot of captains don’t want to sign guys off because they are afraid they’ll be “on the hook” if the guy they signed off runs over a bridge. Others don’t do it because the companies are too cheap to pay for the DE course and they aren’t going to take it on their own dime.

I’ve heard good reviews of Diamond’s TOAR program.

It’s an unfortunate perception out there that DEs and QAs hold some liability for people they sign off. Nothing is further from the truth. It’s like when you go get your driver’s license. The examiner doesn’t get hauled into court down the line when you crash your car. A DE or a QA sees the skill performed to his/her satisfaction, signs it off, and that’s that.


@tugsailor, In todays industry, the benefits of bridge simulators bear a great deal of resemblance to flight simulators when comparing methodologies of assessing and training potential tug boat operators. When real time operations cannot be engaged because it is not assessable, dangerous or unacceptable while the vessel is on charter, the bridge simulator allows the mariner to be assessed or trained in preforming controlled tasks in various environmental conditions, like restricted visibility. All without risking the safety of crew, the public and equipment.
From vessel familiarization, rules of the road, maneuvering and standard operations, simulator assessments for TOARS at Seattle TOAR services and ours on the east coast at Maritime TOAR assessments at USMRC are the direction the industry must go to improve operator assessments in safe, C.G. approved and realistic conditions.

I agree. I am a proponent of simulator training and assessments.