Tugboat Deckhand Salary: How Much Do They Make?

tugboat deckhand salary

Are you physically fit, quick on your feet, and a great team player? You might do well as a tugboat deckhand. This occupation calls for some serious physical exertion, putting all of the muscles to work with demanding tasks that might seem small upfront, but serve an immeasurable purpose for the maritime industry.

A tugboat can carry anywhere from three to nine crew members, and although all of the different positions serve a purpose, none are quite as visible as the tugboat deckhand. Interested in sending in an application? Here’s what you can expect to receive as tugboat deckhand salary.

How Much Does a Tugboat Deckhand Earn in the US?

For the record, the numbers aren’t really set in stone. It still depends on who you work for and how often and how long you work in a day.

On average though, a tugboat deckhand might expect to earn an average of $166.18 a day. If you’re working an 8 hour shift, that places you at about $20.77 per hour.

Keep in mind that these numbers are an average of the salaries earned across various states. Some states can pay as low as $11.92 per hour, while others can pay as much as $40 per hour. It all depends on where you choose to work.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most tugboat deckhands will work more than eight hours a day. Which could push up your daily average salary if you decide to work overtime. Overtime hours are also paid more than regular hours, with an increase of about 40% to 50% of your average daily rate.

One other factor that could affect how much you make is how long you’ve been in the industry. Entry level deckhands earn an average of $37,294 annually, while senior deckhands could make upwards of $61,541.

Salaries for Tugboat Deckhands in the US

A big factor that could impact the salary you make as a tugboat deckhand would be the state you’re working in. There are some states that pay higher especially when they’re located where maritime trade and industry are more prominent.

Here are some sample salaries for tugboat deckhands in different US states:

  • Mississippi - $12.50
  • Louisiana - $18.18
  • Alabama - $22
  • Florida - $23
  • Georgia - $38
  • Missouri - $14.37
  • Tennessee - $36

What Does a Tugboat Deckhand Do?

how much do deckhands make on a tugboat

Well, while the salary is definitely not too shabby, it’s important to remember that the work of a tugboat deckhand is no simple feat. These guys are some of the most tired workers on the entire maritime force, and for good reasons.

So what exactly does a tugboat deckhand do? Here’s a quick rundown:

Handle the Lines

These guys are responsible for handling the lines as the tug berths and unberths from the dock and the vessels that it works with. Remember that a tug boat functions to help other larger vessels maneuver around the dock, which is a lot of work considering its size.

Deckhands need to make sure that all of the cables, lines, and towing tackle are properly secured. They also need to know how and where to push or pull in order to get the vessel where it needs to be.

Maintain and Repair Machinery

Tugs carry a lot of machines that are used on deck for the purpose of towing and docking other rigs. Of course, bigger machinery and equipment will be the responsibility of the engineers.

However smaller pieces of equipment and machinery fall into the hands of deckhands. That’s why it’s important to have some technical skill when it comes to minor repairs.

Keep the Deck and Cabins Clean

Well, what else are deckhands for? These guys are essentially the all-rounders of a boat. So aside from doing the manual work of towing and docking other vessels, they’re also in charge of cleaning.

That involves cleaning all the areas of the boat not limited to the deck and cabins. It might look like janitorial work, but it’s really more of a safety precaution.

Watch the Surroundings

There’s a lot that could go wrong on a tugboat. Backing into another vessel, tripping cables and lines, strong waves crashing on board are just some of the potential dangers of working on a tugboat.

Deckhands are expected to keep an eye on the surroundings at all times. This requires that they be alert and vigilant especially if they’ve been specifically told to. If they aren’t on watch duty, they’re expected to rest and recover so they can be refreshed for the next shift.

Keep the Tug Operational

Tugboats require a lot of maintenance. Whether it’s carrying around machinery, moving equipment, or stowing away supplies, deckhands should be ever ready to assist in whatever tasks need to take place aboard the tug.

That also includes knowing safety and emergency protocol, and executing any necessary steps to avert or remedy potential accidents and damages that might happen on the boat.

How to Become a Tugboat Deckhand

Is the tugboat life for you? Well, here are some of the requirements of a tugboat deckhand in case you were thinking about sending in your application:

Physical Fitness

The biggest requirement for a tugboat deckhand is physical fitness. Companies will perform an in-depth physical check-up before making a hire. Some will even go as far as checking your mental wellness to ensure that you’re up for the mental challenge of being tired and stressed out most of the time.


These guys get almost no breaks in their schedule. Most deckhands will pretty much live on the tug for several days at a time before being given a couple of days off of the boat. That said, applicants need to be available to work these kinds of schedules.

Safety Training

The requirements vary from company to company. But tugboat deckhands are almost always required to complete a safety course, emergency training, and survival craft course depending on the company. Make sure you ask around to find out what specifics your company is looking for.

All in a Day’s Work

Tugboat deckhands don’t get quite as much credit as they deserve. Working long hours in challenging conditions, these guys are the backbone of the maritime industry. And while a tugboat deckhand salary might not be too fulfilling at the start, you can expect a fat increase the longer you stick with the demanding profession.

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