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How it all started: Jamie Peever of Seaspan Marine

My name is Jamie Peever and I am proud to say that I am the third generation of my family to work as a Tugboat Captain.

My first real experience was with my father aboard the Sea Cap 3 in 1989. It was a day that left a lasting impression on me and later influenced my career choice. My father and I arrived at Valley Towing in New Westminster expecting to board the boat, but instead we boarded a sea plane. We landed in the Juan de Fuca strait for our crew change. There was a breeze and some chop on the water when we landed. As we transferred to the tug, the plane’s wing surged toward the Sea Cap 3’s housework.

I remember my dad standing on the trunk cabin and fending the wing off. It was an exciting first experience for me and I was eager to see what else his job had in store. Once we settled in and the plane took off I was asked if I wanted to steer. I jumped at the offer and was instructed to steer on a landmark in the distance and not to let it move from the centre of the window. I spent the rest of that day taking in the sights, painting, and watching the wheel.

Ten years later in the fall of 1999 I found myself again heading to work with my father, this time seriously considering the tugs as my future career. We were on the Seaspan Charger for the week where I began learning the duties and responsibilities of a deckhand. After several rides along I knew I wanted to pursue work on the tugs, but with no actual work experience on my resume, finding a job was difficult at first. I took the required Marine Emergency courses, Food Safe etc. and registered at the ILWU local 400. I waited every day for two months in the Union hall but I was not dispatched. I grew tired of waiting so I volunteered on a small tug, the “Iron Horse”. It was based in Richmond and still operates mainly in the North arm and in the flats of Point Grey. I bounced around the Fraser river for the next four years working for companies like Burrard, Valley Towing, and Hodder where I continued to gain experience and local knowledge in both log and barge towing. 

In May of 2004 I worked my first day as Master on the Sea Cap 7 towing logs into the pocket at Acorn Mill. I had watched the job many times from the deck and was eager to try it myself. The job went very smoothly and I realized on that glorious sunny day that I wanted to become a Captain.

Ten years later in the fall of 1999 I found myself again heading to work with my father, this time seriously considering the tugs as my future career. We were on the Seaspan Charger for the week where I began learning the duties and responsibilities of a deckhand. After several rides along I knew I wanted to pursue work on the tugs, but with no actual work experience on my resume, finding a job was difficult at first. I took the required Marine Emergency courses, Food Safe etc. and registered at the ILWU local 400. I waited every day for two months in the Union hall but I was not dispatched. I grew tired of waiting so I volunteered on a small tug, the “Iron Horse”. It was based in Richmond and still operates mainly in the North arm and in the flats of Point Grey. I bounced around the Fraser river for the next four years working for companies like Burrard, Valley Towing, and Hodder where I continued to gain experience and local knowledge in both log and barge towing.

In May of 2004 I worked my first day as Master on the Sea Cap 7 towing logs into the pocket at Acorn Mill. I had watched the job many times from the deck and was eager to try it myself. The job went very smoothly and I realized on that glorious sunny day that I wanted to become a Captain.

My daily work routine usually involves waking up at 04:50 and arriving in North Vancouver at Seaspan for 06:00. I work out for an hour at Seaspan’s gym and I board the Cates 8 around 07:00. I perform my engine room checks and walk around routine. I start my log and write down the day’s tides. At 07:30 I call Seaspan dispatch and receive the first job for the day.

During the summer months a typical first job might be towing an oil barge from Marine Petrobulk across the Harbour to one of several cruise ships docked at Canada Place. Normally the Cates 8 will tow the barge with an ASD tug as an assist on the stern of the barge. The deckhands help monitor the final approach to the ship and advise the tugs of distance and final position. Once secure, the barge usually transfers product for several hours before being towed back to Marine Petrobulk. 

The Cates 8 is often utilized as a line boat. We normally arrive at the berth early so we can be sure the ship’s approach is clear and make a note of the current velocity and set, to inform the pilot. As the ship approaches the berth we normally stand by the bow on the opposite side of the ship than the ASD tugs with their lines up. Sometimes as the ship enters the berth the pilot will ask for the distance forward or at times he may require a push.

There is a variety of jobs routinely performed by the Cates 8 in Vancouver Harbour, from assisting at the dry dock to towing chemical, rail, oil, chip and salt barges. Our shift is 0730-1930.

In April of 2018 I was very fortunate to attend the ASD Tug simulation training with SeaWays in Portsmouth. The simulator training was a great introduction to the operation of an ASD tug as I had no previous ASD experience. The instructors clearly explained and demonstrated each manoeuvre and then coached me through it. We then began combining our new skills into circuits. Repetition soon created muscle memory and the controls felt more natural each day. As I write this I am currently completing day 4 of my on board training on the Seaspan Hawk in Vancouver Harbour. So far I have assisted with 3 ships and several oil barges, including towing alongside. The training has been challenging and also rewarding because of the level of control expected from the instructors. “Close enough is not good enough” is one of the many phrases engrained into my mind by the trainers. I feel confident that with practice I will be able to operate an ASD tug safely and efficiently with the skills I have learned from SeaWays.

My advice for a young person wanting to become a tug master is to ask questions and seize every opportunity to gain experience, knowledge and skill. Practice manoeuvring the boat, make radio calls, learn the tie ups and familiarize yourself with the collision regulations. Never become complacent and always put the crew and the boat’s safety first. I have enjoyed my career so far and am looking forward to the next chapter aboard the ASD tugs.

HOW IT ALL STARTED: MIKE FOULKES OF SEASPAN MARINE =>
CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING TUG TOWLINE FORCES ONTO SHIP’S DECK FITTINGS =>
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