Training mates - Part I


How much time does it actually take to train someone to be a qualified mate on a towing vessel?

I'm referring specifically to someone who possesses the Coast Guard-required documents and license to legally operate a towing vessel in the U.S. It's possibly the most pressing issue of our time as companies scramble to man up their vessels. The personnel crisis grows worse by the month.

It all depends on which license track you take. Using the towing vessel-specific system of apprentice mate/steersman to mate, it can take a motivated seaman as little as three years and four months of total elapsed time while working an equal-time schedule (and only two-and-a-half years working the two-for-one schedule typical in the Gulf).

This is the hawsepiper's way: put in your time working on deck, buy the books and study (or go to a test prep school), ask lots of questions, and behave like a sponge. You only test once, to get the apprentice mate ticket, and after that it's just more sea time and practical assessments by a captain qualified as a designated examiner. Presenting a completed TOAR (Towing Officers Assessment Record) to the Coast Guard, along with letters of sea service, gets you the prize: Mate of Towing Vessels.

The Pacific Maritime Institute in Seattle offers another route. Their two-year program for entry-level personnel, which combines 32 weeks of classroom and simulator training with a minimum of 52 weeks of underway training and assessments, qualifies the graduate to go and sit for either a 500-ton oceans or a 1,600-ton near-coastal license. They also get STCW '95 certification and an AB-Limited. But it costs $27,000.

So there are the raw numbers, the time frames in which a paper-legal mate can theoretically be cranked out of a training program or brought up through the hawsepipe. A more difficult measure is the time required to be completely competent.

How long should it take to produce qualified mates who are truly able to hold down their watches and have the respect and trust of their captains?




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