As tug and barge operators struggle to hire workers, some unusual recruiters are emerging to help the industry: members of Congress.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., held a press conference in March to highlight the importance of the maritime industry and urge young people to pursue careers in New York City’s growing maritime sector — a sector that has many high-paying jobs to offer but not a lot of takers.

“Staten Island has a robust maritime industry that unfortunately not many people are aware of,” Malliotakis said at the press conference that also included representatives of tug and barge companies that transport an array of commodities and assist with refueling, maneuvering, and lightering ships in and around New York Harbor.

“With this industry comes a lot of job opportunities for the residents of Staten Island, and we’re here today because of the influx of federal infrastructure investment into New York ports and waterways,” she said on the dock at McAllister Towing & Transportation on Staten Island. “Tugs and barges are major industries in our communities.”

Malliotakis said that although this is a thriving and growing industry that offers top salaries to workers without a college education, many companies “have had to turn down business because they don’t have the labor to keep up.”

Buckley McAllister, president of McAllister Towing, said his company is growing and hiring. “Once credentials are in place, somebody can start out as an ordinary seaman or deckhand aboard one of our boats, and we will train them and provide them with a career path to help them move up to engineer, mate or even captain. We’re looking for young leaders who will help lead the way for our industry in the future.”

He said the average salary for an entry-level position is $45,000, while an able-bodied seaman can earn $64,000, engineers $90,000, mates $94,000 and captains in the six figures. McAllister Towing offers a full range of benefits and like many others will train new recruits.

Rick Iuliucci, vice president of operations at Vane Brothers Co., said because of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and investments made by the state of New York in maritime projects, his company is busy and “in dire need of mariners.”

“We’re seeing a lot happening when it comes to our waterways and marine industry,” the congresswoman said. “And as a result, there’s been job creation.”

New York City and specifically Staten Island are positioning themselves as a major maritime hub, especially for the emerging offshore wind industry. The state and federal government have made major investments to make this happen.

New York received $128 million from the infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year that will fund dredging at the Arthur Kill Terminal on the southwestern side of Staten Island, which will house a new offshore wind construction facility. Plans are also in the works to develop a second offshore wind port on the west side of Staten Island that will be a staging area to assemble wind turbine parts.

The press conference was the first of others planned with members of Congress to promote maritime jobs in their districts, said Ben Lerner, vice president for public affairs and communications at the American Waterways Operators. “We look forward to exploring future opportunities to work with members of Congress to introduce our industry to the next generation of mariners.”

Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.