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If you’d like to work in a short-haul towing environment among the highest officer positions, you need to earn a Master of Towing license. This license, designated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), often meets the minimum requirements for fleeting operations. Earning a Master of Towing also reflects the time and experience you have. With that, it can open up new professional opportunities and experiences.

In the guide to a Master of Towing below, you’ll find the requirements to earn this license, the duties, where to get a Master of Towing and other tips. Consult these tips when you’re ready to advance your career and take on new challenges.

How Do I Get a Master of Towing License?

Getting a Master of Towing license depends on the current endorsements you hold. You’ll need the proper documentation and certificates based on those prerequisites, working your way up the ranks. Because a Master of Towing is a specialized license, there are special requirements to earn the certification.

How Do I Get a Master of Towing License?

Requirements of a Master of Towing

The USCG designates general and sea service requirements to earn a Master of Towing. First, the general requirements to get a Master of Towing include:

  • Having United States citizenship
  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Having or getting approval for a Medical Certificate
  • Being drug testing compliant
  • Paying Mariner fees

If you meet those requirements and have the proper documentation, you can then move onto the sea service necessary to get the license. You must have:

  • Performed 90 days of service within the past three years on vessels.
  • Served 540 days on a towing vessel as a Mate.
  • Spent 90 days on a particular route in any deck position.
  • Completed necessary courses and exams.

The USCG also defines and credits those days of service in these particular ways:

  • Great Lakes service counts day-for-day as Great Lakes, oceans or near coastal service.
  • Inland water service, other than Great Lakes, can count toward up to 50% of the necessary ocean and near coastal service.
  • Western river service only counts for Western river endorsement requirements.

To confirm these designations, you’ll need to submit a Towing Officer Assessment Record (TOAR). An examiner from the National Maritime Center (NMC) will assess that record. For Western river endorsement, you’ll need 90 days of observation and training. Determine which designation is right for you as you take on these requirements.

Along with these prerequisites, you’ll need to know the Mates license requirements to get a Master of Towing. You can also remove tonnage limitations or add routes on existing Master of Towing endorsements. Those changes involve different steps, depending on your current endorsement status.

While the USCG sets those and other requirements, there are some qualities it’s best to have if you’d like to become a Master of Towing. While these aren’t necessary, these character traits will benefit you, your crew and your operation. Based on the duties of a Master of Towing, you’ll want to have organizational, communication and other leadership skills.

Duties of a Master of Towing Vessels

Duties of a Master of Towing Vessels

Having a Master of Towing license puts you in an essential leadership position. You’ll be the one who’s responsible for maintaining safety and best practices on a tugboat, barge or another towing vessel. You have mates and other individuals under you, and you must lead them and your operations for the best results. With that position comes a host of responsibilities, which include:

  • Knowing USCG and other organizations’ regulations
  • Following guidelines in the certificate of insurance
  • Complying with the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS)
  • Performing preventative maintenance on the vessel
  • Delivering freight or cargo
  • Upholding customer service

Along with those more technical and logistical requirements, you’re also responsible for your crew. That encompasses tasks like:

  • Keeping accurate records of your crew and their responsibilities
  • Maintaining the safety of your crew
  • Supervising your crew and ensuring they complete their duties
  • Leading daily drills
  • Holding safety meetings and training

Part of keeping both your crew and your vessel safe is being able to make quick decisions. If you believe it’s dangerous to proceed with a route due to unsafe conditions or that continuing an operation endangers your crew or the vessel, it’s your responsibility to stop the operation or find a safe alternate route.

Before you get a Master of Towing license, it’s essential to know that this position comes with plenty of responsibility for a crew and expensive assets, including the tugboat, barge or another vessel along with freight or empty cargo. If you believe you have leadership abilities, including decisiveness, organizational skills and other beneficial traits, it could be worth earning your Master of Towing.

Where to Get a Master of Towing

With your requirements complete and an understanding of the responsibilities you’ll have with this endorsement, you need to know where to get a Master of Towing license. The USCG and the NMC are responsible for taking your application and updating your Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). Be sure to fill out all the required information for the appropriate application to ensure the USCG can process your request as soon as possible.

Before you apply for your credential, you need to gather any documents and complete the necessary training. You’ll find institutions that offer training programs for earning a Master of Towing. These courses, like the Master endorsement itself, come with prerequisites, requiring that you:

  • Are 21 years or older
  • Have proof of United States citizenship, such as a passport
  • Have a valid Merchant Marine Licensing and Documentation (MMLD) Medical Certificate
  • Have a valid MMLD Y designation, based on a Safety and Security Evaluation Branch (SSEB) screening
  • Passed an approved drug test within the past six months
  • Have a Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) for particular voyages

After you complete your training and meet other USCG requirements, you can file your application and await the update to your credentials.

Sign up for a Course With MITAGS

Complete training for your Master of Towing with MITAGS. We’re a non-profit vocational center helping individuals join seafaring professions or helping to advance the careers of those who are already professionals. At MITAGS, many of our courses include tugboat simulators to hone important skills that’ll help advance your career and abilities.

Learn more about our tugboat and barge courses or contact us with any questions. Our student services team is also able to assist with the necessary paperwork needed to submit to the USCG. With MITAGS’ resources, our effective technologies and our high-quality training techniques, you get a beneficial education and the guidance you need to lead you to a Master of Towing license.