Towing EndorsementsMaster of Towing, Mate (Pilot) of Towing, and Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing are the three Towing Endorsements. Learn how to get licensed and go from deckhand to wheelhouse.

Towing Endorsements

Towing endorsements include: Master of Towing, Mate (Pilot) of Towing, Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing. When issued without a tonnage limits they apply to: Seagoing tugs of less than 300 GRT, AND any size tug working inland waters only.

In short this article focuses on the easiest path Master of Towing. To explain: Easiest meaning, less cost, less stress, and no Coast Guard Exams. If stress and cost are your thing, then check out the Alternate Path at the end.

Towing Endorsements: From deckhand to Master of Towing

The trick to fast advancement is: Firstly, knowing your sea service benchmarks. And secondly, is getting the license as soon as you can.

Note, the sea service is counted in 8-hour days. However, when working 12-hour days, each day counts as a day and a half. For example: 240 12-hour days equals 360 8-hour days; And similarly, 360 12-hour days equals 540 8-hour days.

1. Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing

The first benchmark is 540-days: That includes 360-days on tugs. To clarify, 180-days can be on any type or size of vessel, and on any navigable waterway. At this benchmark get the Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing license. That is to say complete an approved Apprentice Mate (steersman) course.

Apprentice Mate (steersman) checklist

To explain: The Apprentice Mate (steersman) allows the deckhand to stand a watch. But, only under the direction of a licensed Master or Mate of towing. In other words: This is a training license for the deckhand to complete the TOAR. OR, Towing Officer’s Assessment Record.

Near Coastal / Oceans TOAR

Inland TOAR

2. Mate (Pilot) of Towing

At 900-days of total sea service: That includes 360-days on tugs, while holding the Apprentice Mate (steersman). In addition, the mariner must have completed:

  1. A TOAR.
  2. An approved Basic Firefighting course.
  3. An approved Radar Observer course.

Mate (Pilot) of Towing checklist

3. Master of Towing

At 1440-days of total sea service: That includes 540-days as Mate (Pilot) of Towing. Note that this upgrade is based on sea service experience alone.

Master of Towing checklist

Alternate Path

It must be noted that there is an alternate paths towing regulations.

In summary: A mariner holding a Master, or Mate 500-ton or more, AND having 30-days on a tug, AND a completed TOAR, can operate a tug within the limits of the license.


46 CFR 11.464 Master of Towing.

46 CFR 11. 465 Mate of Towing

The upside of this path is: it can shorten the time to get a towing license for some mariners, depending on their sea time. However there is a greater cost in: dollars, study-time, and stress. Or, in other words, the stress of passing the Coast Guard exams.

However, that said: There is one upgrade that will save time with minimum coast, and stress. Mate of Towing Near Coastal, having 360-days experience as mate on a near coastal, or ocean tug can get Master 500-ton by passing a limited exam.

Master 500 / 1600 Ocean / Near Coastal checklist


In conclusion, holding the license does not guarantee you will get to the wheelhouse. But you cannot advance without the license, so it is a step in the right direction.

If you have any questions please contact us. Above all, our business is helping mariners. However, selling courses is what we do to stay in business.

More info and links

General Requirements 46 CFR 11.463

Master of Towing 46 CFR 11.464

Mate (Pilot) of Towing 46 CFR 11.465

Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing 46 CFR 11.466

Master 500-ton Ocean / Near Coastal 46 CFR 11.418

Apprentice Mate (steersman) course