What does a steersman on an island tugboat do all day at work?

I really hate to bother you but I’ve spent about 4 hours trying to find an answer to my question online and this is the closest thing I could find. I live in Texas and one of my good friends lives in New Orleans Louisiana on an island tugboat as a steersman. I’m trying to find out exactly what his job intales cause I’m curious what his jobs like. All I can find online is how to become a steersman on a island tugboat but nothing says what they actually do. If it’s not too much trouble is there any way you might have time to either tell me what a steersman on an island tugboat does all day at work or at least tell me where to look for the answer? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I’d really be thankful for any help you might be with this.

Why don’t you just ask him

1 Like

Maybe he steers the boat?

That would be a logical assumption for what a STEERSman does.

No problem I enjoy explaining this career path to others. On the inland waters and rivers in the United States in order to become a steersman/apprentice mate on a towing vessel you must go through numerous steps. Usually you start as an inexperienced deckhand learning how to do all of the necessary task a deckhand is expected to perform such as tying barges together and cleaning the boat and doing maintenance. Once you are proficient at accomplishing these tasks you begin holding your own watch 6 hour shifts on and off without being supervised as a deckhand. Once you become experience and have I believe 360 12 hour days as a deckhand you can apply and attend classes to obtain your Steersman’s license. However, just because you have the license and sea time this does not mean you are a steersman, the captain/company must agree to train you to drive the tugboat and barges and sign off on the required tasks that are expected of a Towboat Pilot. In a sense a Steersman’s license is learners permit for the Towboat and barge industry. Many steersman are still expected to do deckhand duties and even train new deckhands while also learning how to steer the boat. After 240 days and passing the required evaluations on boat handling the steersman May upgrade to the next license/ position which is mate/pilot of towing vessels on the routes he has learned. At this point his only duty is to safely navigate and steer the vessel and complete proper paperwork, inspections, and have good communication with the office personnel and customers. I hope this helps.

Thanks, Gavin Fayard


When do you learn to “flank the bend” !!

1 Like

360 days.

I expect he was referring to 240 (12) hour days, which equals 360 days of sea time.

1 Like

Roger that, it says 360 days, I thought it was 12 hour days but I stand corrected. mcp_fm_nmc5_29_web.pdf (127.2 KB)

This actually is for the limited license but it’s the same sea time requirements.

That’s the wrong checklist anyway. In the quote you used he was talking about advancing to Mate of Towing, the checklist you posted is to get steersman.

He said 360 (12) hour days to get steersman, which is 540 sea days, and that’s exactly in line with that checklist.

Pretty sure he said 240 days. But yes I did post the wrong checklist, thanks for clearing that up.

He did, when he was talking about scanning from steersman to mate. When he was talking about getting steersman he said 360 (12) hour days.

See below:

Thanks so much for the help I understand what his job is alot better now. Have a blessed day

1 Like

He’s on work release and has to stay on the boat. He’s usually to busy when he’s working to talk much and so exhausted when he’s not working he falls asleep talking to me. Plus for some reason he doesn’t exactly understand what I’m asking. I was just wondering what all he has to do. Like does he clean the boat or do training all the time or do whatever that might have to be done to be able to keep the barges together or practice steering the boat or what ever. I have never known anyone before that has the job he has and I have never known anything about barges or tugboats or really anything about any kind of maritime work. I hope I didn’t bother you too much by asking you about it. Have a blessed day.

Work release ? Like a jail program lol . Must be penpals

Is his name Scott by any chance

Bizarre. Wow.


Your boyfriend Scott is on work release? Sweetheart you need to re-evaluate your relationship.


Lets get real. Did it ever occur to you that he’s not on a boat when he says he’s gone? If he has a side piece that may explain why he is cryptic or completely avoids talking about his job.
I can understand being too busy to do much more than to have a quick chat while he’s underway but doesn’t being tired whenever you try to make conversation about his work raise any alarms with you???

Any mariner that finds a female who would at the very least feign interest, even remotely, would usually jump on going blah blah blah about it. And most females after about 20 seconds regret asking about it in the first place!


I don’t know what to say… I don’t really think we are anything but friends… But I don’t know what to think about any of it now