Towing Companies in the Panama City to Pensacola areas?

So, I am looking to get my Master of Towing added to my License and have been looking at two different ways.

  1. I could go take one of the TOAR courses, pay the admission fee, go stay in a hotel, blah blah blah and at the end I would still need the time on a towing vessel to get my Master of Towing. I have heard that many of the companies look down on these TOAR courses due to them not giving much real world experience and that it can be fairly easy to get signed off on these?

  2. I was considering working in my off time (28 days) for a small inland towing company and helping out for a reduced rate or whatever was needed to make the situation mutually beneficial for both parties so that I could get my TOAR signed off and get the seatime needed to actually get my MOT. This would also include real world experience which I feel would be better than just going to a class and also would stop me from paying for the course and the additional expenses that come along with that route.

What are your thoughts? I am not looking for permanent work as I have a job but I cannot get my MOT with my company.

If route two is possible, does anyone know of any small tug companies in the area (Florida Panhandle) that may need additional help? I tried calling around to Eastern Shipbuilding and a few others in the Port of Panama City but just got put on hold for a long time with no answers as to companies that service the area.

Thanks guys

What’s stopping you from getting an MOT, with your company?

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You need ocean or coastwise tugboat time, and an ocean or coastwise TOAR , or to get an ocean or coastwise MOT (it covers inland too).

There are little gyppo tug companies everywhere looking for free or dirt cheap help. Getting the 60 (12 hour) days of tugboat seatime should not be too hard.

Unless you are incredibly lucky, it will be easier, cheaper, and much faster to just go take a TOAR course. No one cares how you got the TOAR or MOT.

It will be hard to find a good tugboat job without a lot of tugboat experience, but there are crappy companies that will hire any warm body with a license that is in the right place at the right time and ready to go.

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Should be 30 (8hr days) or 20 (12 hour days) Since he has over a 200 ton license.

My company does not have a lot of working Tugs. We have some anchor boats but I have been unable to get on anything that would allow me to get my TOAR signed off. I have put in for positions wen we were training people but I was told “You’re needed where you’re at.”

We do have a few that are heading up to Alaska and I requested to train for them when the vessel I was on was stacked. I got a lot of oks but no action, I followed up with them and then I was put on a OSV, I am in no way complaining, I have a job where a lot of people with more seniority do not.

I considered taking the class and getting my TOAR signed off that way but then I would just have a TOAR and still zero seatime on a qualifying vessel.

I am not really looking to get hired by a tug company at this point but I would like to have the endorsement to be more valuable if I find myself in the position where I am having to find new employment. I like having as many options available as possible if it Is something that I can obtain.

That answered my next question. Honestly just getting the TOAR box checked off isn’t going to help much, IMO. Any towing job I’ve ever done has required a resume of Towing experience. There is miles of things to learn afterwards. I understand your motivation, but I wouldn’t pay for a class that doesn’t have a paycheck waiting after it. YMMV

Try and get it for free unless you are committed to going down that path. I don’t see anyone turning a watch over to a green hand TOAR or no TOAR.

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Yeah, I didnt expect to get a position as soon as I got the MOT. I have been in the maritime field for a little while and know full well that there is a lot to learn in each segment and that you must pay your dues (at least you should…)

I would just like to have it to where if I lost my current position I could go on as a mate or something instead of having to be an AB for a long period of time. Though I know that working as an AB in that field would probably be beneficial for the knowledge factor…

I agree it’s good to have, I just wouldn’t pay for it. IMO a green Mate with a TOAR or without is the same thing. Working for a small company in your time off is a good idea.

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Thanks for your information! I will continue to look for some small companies that may be able to accommodate.

Even with a mate or master of tow, with zero experience no one reputable would likely hire you as a mate.


That’s basically true, but . . .

Also, it depends on the job. There is a huge difference between being 2nd Mate on a long offshore run (for example to Hawaii) where you’ll never touch the controls, and being Mate on short runs in tight, high traffic coastal waters where you have to actually run the boat and do the barge handling.



Each industry has its own experience and handling environments. I work out of Fourchon and we do a lot of boat handling in some tight places but then offshore around the rigs it is all DP. Then again, I have heard that vessel to vessel has different work practices where the mates do almost none of the vessel moves and are basically used as paperwork secretaries…

I have a good amount of handling experience but I understand that anyone who hasn’t worked with me directly has no reason to value that until I have proven my abilities or skill set. It is a lot to risk when there are so many people who talk a great game but when it comes to actually backing it up, they are severely lacking whether that is due to over confidence or they were simply talking themselves up to get the job. From an employers standpoint I can see where the caution takes precedence over the new hires perceived “Experience”.

Getting jobs is mostly a matter of personal reputation in the trade.

After that it’s mostly about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right license, and ready to go.

The effective job hunting process is constantly changing. Now, it’s difficult to even get noticed amongst the avalanche of resumes without working a personal connection of some sort.

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Luckily I have been fairly decent at networking and meeting people within other parts of the maritime industry all while not alienating them (this seems to be a big thing within our industry, one industry looking down on another and invalidating them). I have friends in the ATB industry, people in the drilling industry, OSV obviously, inland towing, and a couple on container ships.

What you say about right place right time seems to be very relevant. I know that if a company needs someone, they will take someone who just walked in off the street before calling someone who took the time to write a Résumé and email the HR department in a professional manner. Also, you have those whose entire marketability is walking into the office and telling them how great they are and how under skilled their counterparts on the vessel are. The office knows no difference as they never really interact with many of the mariners so these guys just cut the throats of others to gain position. I have noticed that with the industry being in the gutter currently, this issue has expanded.

Hopefully, in the near future, everyone is back working. Though, I do believe that many people will take this time to change careers entirely. Some will retire and others will not be able to afford the additional courses required to upgrade or maintain their current status. When things turn around (If?) hopefully this creates a job market that is beneficial to the individual mariner and people who were diligent during the slim times can reap the rewards of their efforts.

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I suggest you apply to tug companies that primarily crew up “Day boat” operations such as 1) ship assist 2) dredging and construction and 3) fleeting tugs. It’s much easier to get hired to work part-time off the casual / stand-by lists as the dispatchers at these companies typically are crewing boats up each day. These dispatchers like to have an experienced hand to work on deck available, usually the night before you get a call, “can you be on the dock at 4:00 AM tomorrow?”

When interviewing you should lead with you are looking to gain tugboat experience on deck during your vacation time instead of inquiring about TOAR sign-offs. (More of TOAR sign-offs in my next post)

Inquiring about TOAR sign-offs during the interview process can be a pit fall that often closes more doors than it opens. From personal experience I found better reception by leading with I am looking to gain experience by working on deck rather than will your company sign-off my Master of Towing TOAR? Many companies have just one or two DEs (Designated Examiners) and getting assigned to work with them is often difficult. Somewhere I heard that 1 in 20 captains is a DE, however it might be as bad as 1 in 50. Get your 30 days sea-time and then deal with the TOAR. I did the TOAR class in New York for my Oceans and had a DE sign-off my Western Rivers. Best of Luck…


I agree that it is almost always easier, faster, and ultimately cheaper to use a two separate stages approach: (1) get the towing seatime, (2) spend a few dollars and take the TOAR course.

Also, I have never seen anyone sailing on a only TOAR. I think it would very difficult to find anyone that would hire you with just a TOAR. Get the MOT sticker on your MMC.

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I can see that.

I spoke with a small company in the Panama City area and was basically straight with them. I told them I was looking to work toward getting my TOAR signed off and I would be willing to work at whatever capacity that would be beneficial to both of us and would do so either for free or a very low rate.

If I were to go tow one of the ATB companies I would assume that they would hire me as an AB and then allow me to work my way up as I got the TOAR and towing endorsement? I wouldn’t mind putting in time like that to learn the actual job I would be overseeing as well. My only fear with this is if I left my job to do this, I do not know how much of a pay cut I would take and the length of time to get back in the wheelhouse. I would take a pay cut to gain the towing endorsement if it was a short term thing but I would hate to leave and then get stuck on the deck for the next year or two…


Keep your job.

If you only need 30 days or 20 twelve hour days of Towing seatime (what a joke) to get Master of Towing, just find some gyppo tug company that will let you work for little or nothing on your time off. You could do 10 days during your time off, twice, and you’d have it. Try to get mostly coastwise seatime.

Meanwhile get scheduled for the next TOAR class at Diamond Marine Services, or wherever else it’s easiest for you.

If you work where I suspect, maybe you could just ride one of their tugs or AHTSs for free on your time off.

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