Workboat Mate Program



This license will allow you to serve as a deck officer
aboard towing vessels and other types of workboats.

Most vessels of less than 1600 Gross Register Tons (GRT) are considered workboats. Workboats are used to assist in waterfront construction projects, dredge to widen and deepen channels, assist with the docking/undocking of ships, transport critical crew and supplies to offshore locations, and haul cargo from port to port via a barge towed astern or pushed ahead. Still more operations in the maritime industry depend on the special knowledge that comes with a 500-1600 GRT license such as some ferry boats, small cruise ships, underwater salvage vessels, and some research vessels.

Though this type of license has a federal “limit” to the tonnage that the officer is allowed to command, the variety of projects that workboats accomplish makes this mariner very well-rounded and marketable towards companies seeking professionals. There are some distinct differences between the unlimited and 500-1600 GRT licenses. Generally speaking, voyages from port to port are shorter; anywhere from one week to two months and are usually confined to near coastal runs. The crew size on board workboats is smaller; between four to eight members of differing job duties. 

The person maintaining the navigational watch usually stands their duty solo and does not have a team to assist: meaning that monitoring the radars, radios, electronic chart, logbook, steering and other duties need to be efficiently performed simultaneously.

The watch systems on board are designed to provide rest time and work times for licensed personnel. This is usually the “six on six off” system that begins at midnight each day. Workboats themselves are smaller and ride in the sea a bit rougher than other vessels, but are also much more maneuverable in operation. Crews often share the cooking/cleaning duties and physical space at more of a premium than on a ship.

Another aspect that separates a workboat crew is rigging. The deck crews of smaller vessels are more capable at rigging cargo to be towed or transited in other configurations; becoming part of and learning to lead the safe work on deck is a major part of the job. Apprenticeship training in how to direct workboat operations and becoming a deck officer brings many diverse opportunities in the maritime industry.


  • Primarily apprentice on:
    • Tugboats
    • Supply Vessels
    • Salvage vessels
    • Small cruise ships and vessels up to 1600 GRT
  • Crew size between 4-8
  • Voyages approximately between one week to two months in length
  • Trips remain primarily ‘near coastal’
  • Remain with same company
  • Traditionally solo watch stander on the bridge
  • Involved in cargo operations