Tugboats are like the sheepdogs of harbors, estuaries, bays and ports, tasked with guiding larger vessels past obstacles. These larger ships can then tie up safely at berth to discharge or take on passengers and cargo. Tugboat captains command these vessels to avoid hazards, using navigation devices such as radar, compasses and sonic depth finders to safely complete each mission. Salary levels for tugboat captains may vary depending on factors such as location and employer.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as part of its May 2010 analysis of work and wages in the United States, classified tugboat captains along with captains, mates and pilots of other water vessels. It concluded that the average yearly pay across this employment category was $70,500. Individuals amongst the top 10 percent bracket of earners achieved average salaries of more than $117,310, while those in the corresponding bottom group earned an average of less than $30,690.
Salary by Industry
Of the sectors of the shipping industry listed in the bureau’s analysis, tugboat captains are most likely to work within support activities for water transportation. The average salary for sector was given as $82,800. Other employment opportunities for tugboat captains may be within deep sea, coastal and great lakes water transportation, which had an average of $72,560.
Salary by Geography
In its analysis of tugboat captain salaries across some major cities, SalaryExpert.com found that wage levels were highest for captains operating out of Miami, an average of $105,277. New York was reported at $70,456, while Charlotte, N.C., was amongst the least lucrative at $39,441. The bureau found that at state level, wages from captains, mates and pilots were among the highest in Alabama and Texas at $85,390 and $84,880, respectively. Hawaii was listed at $62,830 and Alaska at $62,670.
According to the bureau, the water transportation industry will grow considerably in the coming years, resulting in increased job opportunities. It expects the job market within the shipping industry to grow by around 15 percent over the period from 2008 to 2018, and that there will be more vacancies than suitable candidates to fill them. For tugboat captains, the rise in opportunities will stem primarily from the increase in waterborne international trade coming in and out of major port cities. It should mean that salaries for the occupation will remain attractive.