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Tug Master

What’s it like working as a Tug Master?

Tug Masters command the powerful boats used to assist ship movements in ports and harbors. While small in size, tugboats are extremely powerful watercraft and their handling takes much skill. Added to which, the Tug Master must have detailed knowledge of the waters he/she works in to avoid incidents. The nature of the job means that Tug Masters can expect to work in all weather conditions often in shift patterns, and when Tug Masters are on job the working hours can be long and irregular.

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What kind of work can I do?

Tug Masters working in port can be called on to assist with berthing or unberthing of ships, or to guide a ship through perilous or difficult waterways. Working closely with port authorities, Masters and Pilots, the port Tug Master will usually head out to meet the ship at sea to attach a line before skillfully guiding it to its berth.

In the US, pusher tugs can be used to push long trains of barges on rivers and inland waterways, while ocean going tugs can be involved in salvage, rescue, fire-fighting and pollution prevention. Tug Masters can also be involved in providing assistance to ships in distress or to tow oil rigs.

Where can I work?

There are relatively few tugboats operating around the world and the turnover for jobs is low, meaning that career opportunities are limited. However, Tug Masters may use their maritime experience and contacts to work in other areas in the industry such as Pilots, marine inspectors, fleet managers and port operators. Tug Masters make light work of maneuvering today’s mega ships into tight channels and berths.

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How big is the sector?

Some ports are introducing new tugboats that are smaller, more powerful and more technically advanced to cope with the trend of bigger ships calling at international ports. These newer tugboats require a smaller crew putting pressure on an already limited career pool.

Tug Masters usually have a seafaring background along with Officer or Master level experience at sea.