U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Resource: Tug Boat
Category: Public Works and Engineering (ESF #3)
Kind: Equipment
Minimum Capabilities (Component) Minimum Capabilities
Type I Type II Type III Type IV Other
Vessel Personnel  

Tug Boat Captain

Inland River Pilot

Docking Pilot

Description   Term used on the inland waterways to describe a vessel operator who holds a Master license Term used on the inland waterways that equates to "Mate" in the coastal sector; A pilot is the second operator onboard an inland towing vessel; The pilot has similar navigation duties and credentials to the Captain/Master, although the Captain/Master has the ultimate authority onboard the vessel A docking pilot is an individual with specific expertise in maneuvering large, deep sea vessels in confined spaces (e.g., alongside a pier); The docking pilot boards the ship, takes the conn, and brings the vessel into port; Most docking pilots are licensed by the Coast Guard (except in Maryland and New Jersey, where they are licensed by the State) and are employed by tug companies
Training or Requirements  

Requires a tug boat captain’s licensure issued by the U.S. Coast Guard; Increasingly, 2-month schools are available for captain licensure

Requires licensure issued by the U.S. Coast Guard

Requires special licensure issued by the U.S. Coast Guard or New Jersey/Maryland

Crew Availability  

Generally live on the boat during working times, as schedule depends on the tug boat companies (e.g., 4 days on, 4 days off)

Required by law and on an on-call basis

Specialty position on an
on-call basis



Tug boats are typed as one resource as modifications and enhancements are based on boat-to-boat, location, and working task specialty bases. Tug boats and operators are subject to licensure and jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard, and are required by law to make use of river pilots on inland waterways. The docking pilot specialist is becoming more used in current times. Horsepower will be the first determining factor in tug boat requisitioning, as tractor tugs are the preferred equipment type. Equipment is usually requisitioned from a U.S. Coast Guard or harbor-master matrix based on the closest and largest available tug boat. The matrix will assign the tug type, size, and how many units may be available to assist in the emergency situation.

National Mutual Aid & Resource Management Initiative
Public Works