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
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?