Various Tug Questions


New poster here with some limited maritime experience- please be patient with silly questions.

I’ve worked on harbor ferries (Boston) for several years, but will be relocating to the Seattle area and am interested in moving to tugs and have a few questions:

  1. Odd question: I will need to upgrade my license (a process I more or less understand) as it appears most tug companies ask for 1600…but I think most tugs aren’t really close to 500 let alone 1600. So, is sea time for GT credited as tug+barge or what? Where do I get time for a 1600 in the towing industry?

  2. Do harbor tugs in Seattle (Foss, Crowley, Olympic…) tend to work days or on a rotation? I ask as I recently discovered Boston Towing is on days, which I didn’t expect but is ultimately desirable down the road after the upgrade. I expect these harbor jobs are lower paying than ocean/coastal towing jobs, but are they highly competitive in Puget Sound?

  3. Wife’s question: “Are you going to miss the birth if we have a baby?” Stemming from the rotation question, how do companies normally handle such extraneous circumstances (birth is one, but maybe my mom’s sick or something else). I’m assuming paternity leave is out haha. I assume you or the company tries to find a replacement otherwise you’re stuck…?

Appreciate any input you may have.

You usually just need time over 100 for the 1600, nonissue getting that on tugs.

No idea on schedule at those companies.

You can usually get off for big life events if you plan them in advance. Some companies will help you out more than others, some expect you to just work it out with your relief as long as it doesn’t interfere with the company. Most good companies will get you off for an emergency no questions asked, but legitimate excuses and don’t abuse it.

Your best bet is to go to Master 500 first, then you can upgrade to master 1600. I don’t see any point in testing for mate just to test again for master. If for some reason you have sea-time someday for an unlimited 3rds then big deal, test then. If you’ve been running ferries for a while, you can probable do the 500 now with just a few classes to satisfy some STCW and professional qualifications. You won’t be able to get a 1600 mate or master until you start getting time over 100 tons; the 500 is a good foot in the door.

1080 days of service on Ocean, Near Coastal or Great Lakes waters, OF

  1. Service on inland waters, other than GL, may substitute for up to
    540days of the total required service., AND
  2. 720 days of service MUST have been as a master, mate, or
    equivalent position while holding an endorsement as master, mate, or
    operator of uninspected passenger vessels, AND
  3. 360 days of the service as master, mate, or equivalent position, must
    have been on vessels over 50 GRT; OR

the resident NW tug expert here is rshrew…you might PM him

I do believe however that a 500t mate with a TOAR will certainly get you on a NW tug although like with many companies, you might have to start on the deck before you get into a wheelhouse. You don’t mention having towing time or an endorsement so then no matter what, you have to go AB to start but know there is a shortage to tugboat hands out here these days.

Welcome to the PNW too btw…after you get here you will thank God everyday you didn’t go to Loosiana!

Crowley wants 1600ton masters tickets. Everyone else will most likely take a master of towing would be my guess. I think everyone is 2 weeks on/off crowley may vary 30/30 depending on where guys live. I would say odds of getting on a harbor tug for Foss/crowley would be slim those are usually pretty sought after positions but I would try regardless. Olympic doesn’t really do any ship work just bunkering around the sound they always seem to be hiring…

Your best bet with tugs it to have the expectation to spend at least three years on deck. Having an OS is a minimum and being an AB is preferred. Harbor jobs tend to pay less but also can require less qualifications to get your foot in the door. It is very hard to get in with a good well paying company right of that bat. Its not impossible but it is rare. Passenger boat experience doesn’t translate into tugs very well. I started working on passenger boats while at Mass maritime and continue to run passenger boats in my time off, the two are very different worlds. Hawse piping your way up to a to a 1600 ton license is no easy or cheap task. I would recommend a 500 ton. It is simpler to add on a towing endorsement to a 500 or higher. I think a 500t masters can be achieved from a 100ton if you get the right about of time on the right tonnage. If you haven’t yet, I would visit the NMC website and look at some of the checklists. The check lists are not super intuitive but you can get the picture.

I also would not commit to one geographical area. Especially if you don’t have a big license with lots of experience. There are a lot of companies that pay travel and work rotations. I think somewhere in the forum achieve there is a post with a bung of tug companies worth applying to.

1600 ton licenses and higher only require time over 100 tons which I think is a recent change (I could be wrong about that). Tug and barge tonnages can be combined under some circumstances. ATBs with no towing gear can be considered “push-mode only” and those units can count the barge tonnage. It also has to do with how the seatime letter is written.

Time off for family emergencies is usually something that can be worked out. Depending on how nice the company you work for is. The only problem especially with ocean going units is that last minute emergencies may still take a few days before you can get relieved and it will be a very long few days.

1080 days past the demarcation line on any size vessel in any capacity plus a five day AB class and a four day Lifeboatman class will get you an AB UNLIMITED ticket. Most tug companies tend to say “call us when you have it.”

Has Harley broken into ship assist work in Seattle yet?

Not really maybe just a couple jobs

Thanks for all the input, fellas.

Finally making the big move, very exciting! Is it feasible to climb the ladder to the wheelhouse doing work mainly in the Sound? Or is there generally an expectation to ship ocean for some time to accomplish that? GL and Western River guys certainly get out of it, but I’m not sure how that applies to this market. Obviously taking what I can get at this point- just another curiosity, forecasting. Thanks again.

usually you have to make your bed on the ocean before harbor duty but some guys get lucky.