Tugboat Wages 2022

As I sat next to a travel nurse on a flight home, she told me about her many opportunities to pick temp jobs anywhere she wants for 13 week hitches at $5,000 a week. A wage that has at least doubled, if not tripled during the past two years.

There is a shortage of licensed nurses just like there is a shortage of licensed mariners.

I was struck by the similarity of 13 weeks licensed nursing gigs far from home to the13 week (or more) tugboat hitches that some of us licensed mariners do. Of course the nurses live in nice, hospital provided apartments, and go do whatever they want when they are off shift. They are not imprisoned 24/7 on old tugboats.

But after a very long period of wage stagnation (and at times cuts), mariner wages have only increased about 20% in the last two years. Of course at the same time the cost of a new (or used) pickup, or building materials, or appliances, or food, has gone up a lot more than 20%.
We licensed mariners have not received any increase in buying power.

Hospitals are getting a lot of federal aid, but so are many maritime employers. Paycheck protection loans that don’t need to be paid back, and so on. Loans that have a real interest rate that is negative. Fat federal contracts. Yet, many marine employers are scamming their way out of paying the required “prevailing wages” to employees working on federal project contracts.

The shipping companies have in many cases gotten over 1000% increases in freight rates. They are making a lot of money.

The offshore oil patch is making a comeback and they are struggling to crew their boats at higher wages

We mariners, especially us licensed tugboat mariners, need to demand and receive much bigger wage increases this year.


I am not disagreeing, but am somewhat of a realist.

That $5000/week for travelling nurses works out to a “day rate” of about $700 to $850 per day (I have assumed they work 5 or 6 days a week)/ That is comparable to what many mates are getting as discussed above. Consider also that these travelling nurses may not be getting additional compensation for lodging and meals, and that their work hours are probably comparable (12-16 hours per day). So if that is viewed by Congress as excessive, despite being driven by market forces (i.e. the employers are willing to pay it to attract scarce personnel), what likelihood is there that mariners can do better, especially when, unlike the travelling nurses, the employers may be loath to pay more? A similar shortage of mariners may be the only thing that can work. Is anyone willing to stay home for the greater good?

Again, I don’t disagree, but have to wonder how a similar increase in compensation can be achieved.


In the past, I have rented apartments to traveling nurses working at the local hospital. The staffing companies paid. I don’t know whether the nurses got a grub allowance or simply had to buy their own groceries.

Biggest difference is that many of the nurses are getting more pay for the perceived COVID risk. Although, many of them are exposed to COVID, they have really good protective gear and protocols. A neighbor who is a doctor at the local hospital tells me that while the hospital has been overflowing with COVID patients, there have been very few hospital staff COVID cases; none of which can be confirmed as caught at the hospital.

A few weeks ago while Boston had a high 28% covid infection rate, Mass General with 83,000 employees only had 2000 out sick.

Most mariners do not bear such COVID risks, but on the other hand protective gear and procedures are primitive while traveling and on the boats. Far too many crew members have a negligent attitude and fail to take effective precautions onboard, or especially when they go ashore. I know of several tugboats where the entire crew got COVID.

I do not think mariners can get a 100% or more wage increase like the nurses. The mariner supply shortage is no where near as severe as the nurse shortage. Maritime employers don’t have both hands in the huge federal cookie jar like the hospitals do.

Inflation is not 7% as the government claims. Anyone that is buying a house, renovating a house, buying heating oil, buying appliances, or food knows that inflation is far far over 7%. 20% is typical with many items over 100%.

I think that about a 50% wage increase in 2022 for licensed mariners is appropriate, affordable, and possible. Some companies (especially with multi year union contracts) won’t have to give much, if any, of an increase, but most companies are going to have to pay more to crew the boats this year.

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I love that hospitals are facing the penalties of their shitty pay and employment policies so they go bitching to the government to pass a law forcing nurses to accept crap pay.

Hey hospitals, if you paid reasonable money you wouldn’t have staffing shortages and this need to pay for travel nurses.

200% is triple and 300% is quadruple.


Yes of course. Fixed it.

8 posts were split to a new topic: Off topic from wages thread

I hear that Western Towboat sent out an email awhile ago announcing higher wages are coming.

Have they arrived? What are they?

I hear 6% increase at Western Towboat. That seems rather small.

Base Master $754
Master (west of Cape Spencer) $830

Base Deckhand $348
Deckhand (west of Cape Spencer) $382

Western often sails short one deckhand and splits the missing man’s wage among the crew. That bumps Master to about $916 and deckhands to about $420. Guys with seniority get more.

I have not heard about Deckineer or Mate pay.

Nor have I heard about cargo pay.

Western’s pay appears to be about average.

Hello, What company? I’m tankerman AB

What companies?

How do you know

Hey, they (Western) did give out a 6 percent raise.
Mates were at $503
With the raise it went up to $533.
You are correct about them running short and the crew splitting the pay. There are a lot of 5 man crews instead of 6. They seem to be having major turnover right now.
Hands down the nicest and cleanest boats around, though.
You should live local because they have no dedicated schedule and no travel pay and most likely you will be on a different boat with a different crew every trip until you can get on a permanent boat.

I used to work there.

This was in reference to vitus.

Where I work a deckhand is a guy with only an OS endorsement, or no MMC at all. Is that the case here? Or does the term “deckhand” in this case mean an AB?

I did not know how Western distinguishes between OS and ABs. They also have Deckineers that certainly make more.

A lot of tugs are 99 GRT, so no MMC required for the deckhands.

Same for you as an UIFV?

Certainly, at some companies there is a big difference between OS and AB pay. But at some other companies there may not be any difference.

At some companies, an OS with proven Alaska tugboat skills that can operate equipment, set ramps, load and unload cargo, lash cargo , etc. would probably get paid quite a bit more than an AB unlimited without those skills.

At the mom and pop non-union companies, what people get may depend more on their longevity, perceived value to the company , and negotiating skills than anything else.

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Yes. At CTI deck crew is split between ABs and deckhands. Deckhands don’t require MMC or STCW.
Because of it, deckhands with no sailing/Alaska experience start at only $200. But top OS deckhands make $350. At any rate, lowest paid AB deckhand here makes $390 (highest about $490). New hire ABs make $350. More with Alaska experience.

Because our guys get 1.5 days for each calendar days of seatime, like some tugs do, it only takes five 25-day voyages to get enough seatime for AB-fishing, so a green new hire can nearly double his pay in a year.

Is it normal for most tugs to sail without a designated cook? If so, who cooks?

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Yeah, pretty normal. Some companies run designated cooks. Some union contracts pay the AB more with those duties.

Generally speaking, the ab on the back watch will handle the cooking duties, and it may only be dinner. Rest of the day it’s a fend for yourself or whoever feels like making breakfast and lunch will do it.

Some boats if the rest of the crew wants to give the ab a break (or if their cooking sucks) they’ll chip in on dinner duty.


Vane gave a 2% raise and lost a lot of people


9.5% raise over 3 years, 3/3/3.5, has started a mass exodus. Rumor is the company has reached out to the union wishing to offer sign on bonuses in an attempt to attract mariners to fill spots. I expect a dramatic suitcase parade should that begin.