No matter how fast the world changes, careers in the maritime industry remain abundant for skilled and motivated workers. Maritime is one of the world’s oldest industries – rich in tradition and history, that is also evolving in exciting ways to keep pace with technological advancement. The importance of maritime for both commercial trade and tourism results in numerous stable, well-paying jobs, and a variety of opportunities on and off the water, regardless of a person’s training or experience.

Entry level positions are Ordinary Seaman, Wiper and Food Handler. These positions require little to no formal education past high school, with some short-term on-the-job training.

Rated positions aboard towing vessels include Able Seaman and Qualified Member of the Engineering Department (QMED) Any Rating, Junior Engineer or Oiler. These positions can require vocational training, maritime courses, apprenticeships, and/or a combination of time on-the-job at sea.

Officer positions aboard towing vessels include; Masters, Mates, Engineers. A High School or GED equivalent is required, as well as Merchant Mariner Credentials with various endorsement based on advanced coursework through maritime academies, colleges and/or the Coast Guard, plus long-term on-the-job training and minimum time.

All applicants need a Merchant Mariner Credential issued from the U.S. Coast Guard and a Transportation Worker Identification Credential from the Transportation Security Administration to work on towing vessels. G&H Towing can help applicants with navigating these licensing requirements.

Other minimum licensing requirements are:

  • Master – MMC with a National Endorsement as Master of Towing Vessels upon either Inland Waters or near Coastal Waters or Oceans with valid Radar Observer (unlimited) endorsement. FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.
  • Chief Engineer (CHE) – Must hold a valid MMC with a National endorsement Chief Engineer – Limited Near Coastal without horsepower limitation or National Designated Duty Engineer without horsepower limitation.
  • Mate – Must have a valid MMC with a National endorsement as Mate of Towing Vessel or equivalent on either, Inland Waters, Near Coastal Waters or Oceans with valid Radar Observer (unlimited) and possess a FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.
  • Deckhand – Valid Merchant Mariner Credential endorsed as either Able Seaman (AB) Unlimited, Limited or Special or Ordinary Seaman (OS).
  • Deck Engine Utility – Valid MMC endorsed as either Oiler, Junior Engineer or Wiper.


The Master, also known as Captain, is the senior-most officer in command onboard a vessel. All members of the crew, passengers and persons onboard a vessel are subordinate to the Master. The Master is responsible for the overall performance of the vessel and the crew – the seaworthiness, safety and security, navigation, crew management and legal compliance of the vessel and crew. They must effectively implement the Company Safety, Security and Environmental policy, comply with the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS), flag state laws and regulations. The Master also must ensure that their crew is trained and is responsible for carrying out drills and instructions. Masters, or Captains, tend to be outstanding leaders, expert ship-handlers, navigators and administrators.

Chief Engineer

The Chief Engineer is senior-most officer in the engine department and is responsible to the Master for the efficient operation of the engine room and machinery spaces aboard the vessel. Chief Engineers are responsible for refueling the vessel, monitoring performance of a deck and engine equipment, pumps and machinery. They routinely perform preventative maintenance to keep all the vessel equipment in tip-top shape, and they assist the Master in maintaining the vessels stability by monitoring and transferring liquid loads onboard the vessel.

All planned mechanical and electrical maintenance falls under the Chief Engineer’s responsibility, which requires detailed records of engine parts and repairs to be kept. The Chief Engineer is also responsible for calculating fuel, water consumption requirements and coordinating operations with shoreside engineers. When the engine room is due for inspection by the local marine or safety authorities, the Chief Engineer ensures that the engine room is ready for inspection.

Mate (Officer in Charge of Navigation Watch)

A Mate is the second officer in the deck department. Onboard towing vessels, they are trained to stand at navigational watch and when doing so, serve as the Master’s representative. The Mate often serves as the officer in charge of deck operations when towing or mooring. They are responsible for inspection and repair of lifesaving, firefighting and safety equipment. They maintain navigational charts and publications and supervise the Deckhands in the performance of seamanship and deck maintenance duties. Mates also inspect and maintain towing gear, vessel lines, wire rope and pendants and other deck tackle.

Able Seaman (Deckhand)

As a member of the deck department, an Able-Bodied Seaman (AB) or “experienced” Deckhand has a varied role onboard a tug. They are, by virtue of their experience, a Deckhand which is knowledgeable and understanding of the way of the sea and could hand, reef and steer if needed.

The Deckhand’s duties include standing watch, where they will assist the Officer in Charge of the Navigation Watch in steering the vessel. They are qualified to serve as a “lookout” and are an extra set of trained eyes in the pilothouse. Onboard towing vessels, they assist the Officer of the Navigation Watch, handle and make up lines for towing and mooring. They perform general seamanship duties: splicing lines; rigging fendering; and performing routine deck maintenance, including chipping and painting. Senior ABs who are looking to gain an Officer endorsement must also stand watch in the pilothouse. Deckhands must be capable of working on the deck in adverse weather conditions and be able to perform physical tasks.

Wiper/ Oiler (Deck Engine Utility)

Wipers, like Ordinary Seaman, are an entry level rating in the Engine Department. Onboard towing vessels, they sometimes serve as Deckhand, but when the vessel is not underway, they assist the Chief Engineer in performing maintenance on the vessel’s equipment and machinery.

An Oiler is a specialize rating which is a Qualified Member of the Engineering Department (QMED). After gaining experience and sea service aboard a vessel and passing a Coast Guard examination they are issued their Oiler endorsement, which means they have demonstrated certain competencies within the engine department. Like the Wiper, they will serve as deckhand when needed and will also assist the Chief Engineer.

Ordinary Seaman

An Ordinary Seaman (OS) is an entry level position in the deck department. This person performs similar duties to that of the Able Seaman (Deckhand). By law Ordinary Seaman can only make up a limited number of the rated deck positions aboard a vessel since they often lack requisite experience and service time. Once they have acquired the necessary sea service, they can take an examination to gain an endorsement as an Able-Bodied Seaman (AB) which leads to greater responsibility.