Tugboat Wages 2022

I also have never understood why tugs can’t have cooks. What percent of tug mariner pay includes cook pay or is that a freebee?

I’d say that at least 80% of coastwise tugs do not have cooks. Even on 90 day plus voyages.

30 years ago most boats had cooks. They also helped out on deck. I don’t recall any increase in pay for doing away with the cooks.

There is a lot of food waste without a cook. Food that isn’t good gets thrown out. Leftovers are not utilized in future meals. The guys eat a lot of expensive packaged crap that tastes better than what was cooked.

On many, if not most, tugs the BIG expense is fuel. It does not matter whether the customer is paying for fuel or not. If the owner is paying for fuel a boat’s day rate is high. If the customer is paying for fuel, the boat’s day rate is low.

On lower horsepower tugs on short coastal runs with modern fuel efficient engines that are not run hard, fuel might cost less than crew. On most tugs fuel is by far the biggest daily operating expense.

Food, even if it’s bought in expensive places like Dutch Harbor, is a tiny part of the cost of running and maintaining a tugboat.

Certainly, crew turnover, particularly in a remote place like Dutch Harbor, is much more expensive than food. Not to mention that any crewmen, much less good ones, are hard to find now.

Management time is valuable, especially at a Mom and Pop company where the office is not overstaffed. What does it cost in wasted management time to find and fly out crew because of an inadequate food budget or no one onboard that can make decent food?

Its rare to have any food budget in Alaska. I can only think of one company operating in Alaska that stupidly fusses about food cost or what food the crew buys, that company has a lot of turnover.

1 Like

We get $25 a day subsistence pay. Bring your own food, haul it to the boat. That includes your drinking water too.

That’s ridiculous, but harbor boats are different. They assume everyone is driving right up to the boat, so they can bring food, bedding, towels, etc.

$25 a day might be a good food budget in a place with low food costs, but if each guy is bring his own food in an uncoordinated way, that must be a mess.

We did get coffee filters in a contract negotiation…. But I can’t tell you the last time those arrived at the boat when not bought by a crew member

The vanishing cook started during the early to mid 80’s crunch in the oilfield. Then the 333 strike. Most of the SIU tugs lost the cooks as the companies pressed on the following contracts. The ATBs I sailed before I retired had cooks. Some were “iffy”…

1 Like

This is more common than you may think. I know of live aboard tankermen doing this on manned barges. I also did it myself way back when when I was working for a ma and pa crewboat company. With the right crew, it worked out well. It can easily be a headache with the wrong crew.

Luckily when I did it, I lived in driving distance of where the boat operated. Couldn’t imagine flying in from somewhere and having to deal with getting my own grub.

But even at that company I worked at, they gave us coffee and drinking water. That’s pretty lame that you’d have to bring your own drinking water.

Hey, at least you’re getting fucked.


But do they pay for travel??

But they don’t even run their fingers through my hair and call me pretty!

Ha! No.

Someone can put up with quite a lot for a 7/7 harbor job close to home.

But it sounds like you need a better paying job.

My custody is the only reason I haven’t bounced.

1 Like

…or the poster is a paid shill spouting the company line…

That’s your opinion, which is fine. Just sharing what I know. Lots of different contract structures out there.

Or it could be someone who doesn’t think that the “office” is out to get them all the time. Thankful for my employment and the life it provides me.

Yeah. All of the tugs I sailed on, and that infamous ATB all had cooks. Some were bad, some where horrendous and every once and awhile we had a good one. Ironically one of the worst from Crowley showed up on the ATB. . . sheesh. . . after about a year, he got fired when coming back with the groceries, he dropped the bag with the wine in it right in front of the company rep. Oops. It got to the point where his food was so bad that the captain and I would cook for ourselves at midnight when we got off watch. . . His relief was easily one of the best I sailed with. At least for a single cook galley.

1 Like

I am on a small tug mom and pop company. We deliver petroleum in the NY area. As senior captain I am privy to some of the management concerns.

Our number 1 daily expense is fuel, number 2 is payroll. Depending on the trip sometimes 3 to 1
We have a part timer, family of owner running the shoreside office. Owner rides the boat, (also steers and tanks the barge) and his phone rings constantly, sorting out jobs and schedule. There are some other business expenses that should not be taken lightly: 1 billion in insurance, SIRE vetting, Classification society, dock space rent, mooring and towing gear, paint, Lawyers & Accountants, The 5 year drydock costs as much as buying a new barge.

The guy buys most everything he can from BJs including lube oil. We are almost a two pot ship. I am the only American amongst other nationalities. So when American food is cooked the other guys may not eat it. However rice and rice dishes ( what they want) are cheap so it’s not a major expense.

I will supplement the grub on occasion with farm fresh stuff like, fresh eggs, half a pig from my farmer buddy, and whole fresh chickens and I have to buy my own brand of coffee and creamer. The boss can never find the right stuff, so I handle it myself. I would like to hook up with a CSA for produce but we slow down in the spring when CSA is available.

I am constantly buying stuff from Ebay to keep old electronics running. I even buy some engine parts and gauging tapes there, in the past I have bought PFDs, survival suits, LED navigation lights, flashlights, portable radios, antennas etc. The guy is excellent about reimbursing me.

I can tell you that the prices we charge our customers for delivery have not changed in 20 years. For a mom and pop oil terminal there is only so much they can pay, only so much they can mark up fuel for their customers. Most of the mom and pop terminals are gone or gonna be gone. We are down to one actual heating oil customer. Fortunately we have a city contract for bunkers and we transport quite a bit of biodiesel. Which is becoming more and more important.

When it’s really slow we move scrap and dirt to keep the boat working.

On a micro level there is only so much we can improve on.


The profit potential and cost structure for a tug and barge doing “in house” work is often very different than for a tug and barge on charter to customers.

Tug and barge companies bid for jobs against other tug and barge companies. They compete on price, service, reliability, relationships, etc. For them the tugs and barges are profit centers.

A company that is in the business of trading in a commodity, like oil, aggregates, cement, salt, lumber, grain, or chemicals is governed by the economics of that commodity. It merely owns tugs and barges to deliver the commodity. The tugs and barges are cost centers.

A company that provides a service like dredging, construction, logging, etc. is governed by the economics of that business. The tugs and barges are just pieces of equipment and part of the cost of providing the service.

You’re pretty. At least from the back.:rofl:

Feel better?