Captain Robert L. Johnson is pleased to announce the availability of tugboatlife.com, a new website designed by and for the maritime and merchant mariners' community. "There are about 60,000 people working on tugs in the United States. I want the web site to promote what we do and to serve as a voice for the people in this business," said Captain Robert Johnson, a tugboat captain with more than 15 years' experience. "We want to attract and retain people who are interested in our line of work."
"We've been playing with the site for about six months," says Johnson. "We've got the MySpace generation in the workforce now. They're more computer savvy and they keep up with things online," said Johnson. "We're trying to recruit young people into the workforce, and there is no online user community for people who work on tugs and do shore support. There are corporate sites, but there's nothing specifically for our community. Our site is trying to address the actual working life."
Johnson continues, "It's not necessarily even for just the people who work here. A farmer in Iowa may be a thousand miles from the ocean, but he might still want to know about life on a tug."
The site contains news, discussion boards, a downloads section, and a place where site members can create their own online journals. The site also features a private message board for members to communicate with each other and links of interest to the community.
Johnson is bullish on the opportunities available for people as young as 18 years of age. "This is a job where you can make $40,000 a year right out of high school, if you're willing to do the work. The pay range goes up to about $150,000, depending upon your position on the boat." According to Johnson, a good worker can become a tugboat captain within about five years of starting work. "If you meet all the regulations, and you're careful, you can work your way up pretty fast." Johnson is quick to point out that the work comes with health insurance and excellent retirement benefits, too.
"The lifestyle can be tough," he acknowledges. "You usually work two weeks on, two weeks off. It depends upon your assignment, though. In the Great Lakes, you work until the Lakes ice over and then you start again in the Spring." Johnson adds, "In Florida, we work, rain or shine, 365 days a year. We do watch the weather, though. Sometimes we can't go out if it's too bad."
The job opportunities on tugboats are available for anyone. According to Johnson, there are more women in the field now than there have been at any time in the past. "This is a field where anyone can do the work. We're also starting to get new hires from the maritime academies," says Johnson. This is a newer trend, he says. In the past, most workers started in the business through a corporate apprentice program.
Tugboatlife.com is free and anyone, regardless of their work status, can register. The site is a great way for maritime academy students, high school students, marine engineers and others interested in the lifestyle to find out more about the opportunities and challenges of working on a tug. Says Johnson, "We just want to give a real-life view of what goes on."