Tugboat Captain Made Easy

Tugboat Captain
Tugboat Captain Made Easy. The bridge of a tugboat in the Straight of Juan De Fuca inbound approaching New Dungeness.

Tugboat Captain Made Easy

There are two basic ways to become a tugboat captain. The direct route. And, the lateral route. This post, Tugboat Captain Made Easy, explains them in simple terms. The following regulations are referenced:

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

Tugboat Captain: the direct route

The direct route is the easiest way from deck to captain. The big advantage of the this route is no exams at the Coast Guard. However, this route is best when the deckhand keeps close track of their sea time.

Firstly: Apprentice Mate (Steersman) of Towing

This route starts when the deckhand has 540-days (1.5 years) of sea time. This time must include 360-days on towing vessels. At this point take our Apprentice Mate (Steersman) class. And then, go back to work as a deckhand. And start checking-off the TOAR.

Near Coastal and Ocean TOAR >>

Inland and Great Lakes TOAR >>

Secondly: Apprentice Mate to Mate (Pilot) of Towing

Mate requires 900-days (2.5 years) of sea time. This time must include 360-days on towing vessels with the Apprentice Mate license. Additionally, the applicant must have completed:

  • Firstly: a TOAR.
  • Secondly: an approved Radar Observer class.
  • Thirdly: an approved Basic Firefighting class.

Thirdly: Mate (Pilot) to Master of Towing

The tugboat captain must have 1440-days (4-years) of sea time. This time must include 540-days (1.5 years) as mate on a towing vessel, with the Mate of Towing license.

The lateral route

There are two lateral routes. These routes are for captains with licenses. But, with no tugboat experience. However, if you are a career deckhand with years and years of sea time, they provide a faster route. The downside is, they require taking exams at the Coast Guard.

Master or Mate greater than 200-ton

In short, if you hold a license as Master or Mate of inspected vessels greater than 200-ton. For example: 500-ton or higher. And, you have 30-days experience on a tug. And, a completed TOAR for the route. Then, you can operate any tug within the limits on your license.

Master less than 200 to Mate (Pilot) of Towing

This route is for mariners with a Master 200-ton or less license. For example: Master 25, 50, and 100-ton are included. But, does not included a Limited Master. The mariner with this license may be issued Mate (Pilot) of Towing by meeting the following:

  • Firstly: Document 1080-days (3-years) sea time as master under the authority of the license.
  • Secondly: Have 30-days of training and observation on a tugboat.
  • Thirdly: Complete a TOAR for the route.
  • And fourthly: Complete the Apprentice Mate (Steersman) exams. Or, an approved course.

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

By Dennis

Instructor and Director at Columbia Pacific Maritime LLC