Towing endorsements include: firstly Master or Towing; secondly, Mate (Pilot) of Towing; and thirdly Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing. When issued without a tonnage limitation these endorsements apply to seagoing tugs of less than 300 GRT; OR to any size tug working exclusively on inland waters. In short this article focuses on the quickest and easiest path from deckhand to Master of Towing by identifying the sea service benchmarks.
Towing Endorsements: From deckhand to Master of Towing
Most deckhands want to advance to the wheelhouse as soon as possible. Therefore knowing these sea service benchmarks is very important. Just as important is getting the endorsement as soon as you meet the requirements. Note that these benchmarks are in 8-hour calendar days. However, when working a two-watch system each 12-hour day counts as a day and a half. For example 240 12-hour days equals 360 8-hour days; And consequently 360 12-hour days equals 540 8-hour days.
Firstly, get the Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing endorsement
The first benchmark is 540-days of total sea service experience; that includes 360-days on towing vessels. To clarify, 180-days of this experience may be on any type or size of vessel on any navigable waterway. Once the deckhand reaches this benchmark they should get the Apprentice Mate (steersman) of Towing endorsement. That is to say the deckhand should complete an approved Apprentice Mate (steersman) course. Or, likewise they could take the exams at a USCG Regional Exam Center.
To explain, the Apprentice Mate (steersman) endorsement allows the deckhand to stand a watch. But only under the direct supervision of a license Master or Mate of Towing. In other words, this is a training endorsement. While holding this endorsement the deckhand should complete the skill and knowledge assessments in the TOAR. AKA the Towing Officer’s Assessment Record (TOAR).
Secondly, get the Mate (Pilot) of Towing endorsement
The second benchmark is 900-days of total experience. These 900-days must include 360-days on towing vessels while holding the Apprentice Mate (steersman) endorsement. Additionally the mariner must complete: firstly, the TOAR for the route; secondly an approved Basic Firefighting course; and thirdly an approved Radar Observer course.
Thirdly, get the Master of Towing endorsement
The third and final benchmark is 1440-days of total experience. This experience must include 540-days as mate on a towing vessel while holding a Mate (Pilot) of Towing endorsement. Additionally advancement from Mate to Master of Towing requires no additional exams or courses. It is based on sea service experience alone.
Another option to advance from Mate to Master of Towing is to qualify for Master 500 Near Coastal. The advantage is twofold; firstly it reduces the experience requirements by 180-days; and secondly the mariner may operate seagoing tugs greater than 300 GRT. The disadvantage is the mariner must complete the exams at a USCG Regional Exam Center. However mariners working on near coastal or ocean routes may qualify for Master 500 ton; with 360-days on near coastal routes as mate on a towing vessel; and completing a limited exam.
Towing Endorsements: Conclusion
In conclusion, avoid being the deckhand with 20-years experience by using these benchmarks. However, holding the endorsement does not guarantee advancement to the wheelhouse. But you cannot advance without the endorsement.