I was introduced to tow boating through a family friend. Ted Davis owned a small yarding tug out of New Westminster and needed occasional help on weekends. Ted was a patient man and made the job fun and interesting. The food was good too and as a bonus he even paid me! At the time it never dawned on me that this might end up being my career.

Mike Foulkes 1 Several years later, while preparing for Labor Day weekend, a call came in “does anybody want to work on a tugboat ASAP?“.
I borrowed a pair of caulk boots, a car, made some lunch and I was off.

That was 42 years ago.
I spent my first year working the North Arm of the Fraser River on a small yarding tug servicing most of the many mills in the Marpole area. We were towing log booms and chip barges. Of course it was probably the worst job in the fleet, but I didn’t know any better.

I was lucky to have some great mentors who took the time to teach me some valuable skills mostly associated with log booms. Of course my old skipper taught me a lot about patience. Reflecting back now I’m glad I stuck it out.

After my first year it was time to spread my wings and the coastal division was the next adventure. I spent 13 years towing log rafts and barges, freight, sand and gravel and bulk paper from Vancouver up the coast through Alaska.

Mike Foulkes 2 Six years through that journey I took time out for schooling and in 1982 achieved what today is a 500 Ton Masters. I spent a brief time working as a coastal mate but was eventually recruited to run a boat in the River division.

In those days there was no training, the phone just rang and they told you the start time, the dock and the boat. Most often I had never set foot on the boat. Those times were extremely stressful.

Today it’s much different. Seaspan has a strong training culture. It starts with onboard familiarizing on each boat in your division. For upcoming Masters it may start in the simulator. Then six weeks onboard training with a training master on various tugs in a variety of locations.

These guys are good and ready when they are cut loose. For the past 4 years I’ve been active with the Seaspans onboard training program and assisting with instruction in our conventional tug simulation which is championed by our Port Captain Chris Jensen.

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Recently I took Neil and Steve of SeaWays for a tour of our local operation based out of Port Kells onboard the Seaspan Tempest. We ran them through the paces, on a typical day we would tow up to 12 barges in a 12 hour day. The tugs are purpose built 80 ton 64 feet, 1800 hp twin screw with a bow thruster. Having great equipment keeps the job safe and manageable.

Recently Seaspan signed an impressive training contract with SeaWays and I look forward to seeing what the future Master will look like.


PB Towage consider SeaWays Tug Master training a significant competitive advantage, the same objective competency based standard delivering optimal safety and efficiency outcomes across their growing fleet. While the towage industry is seeing the power of tugs go up around the coast, it is not just bollard pull that Marine Pilots are looking for. Quality training, in particular of the Tug Master in conjunction with the Pilot is the key to the effective use of a modern, omni-directional tug.

It normally takes in the order of three months to train a new Tug Master. Even if you have a good training system, the cost of “live” training is prohibitive taking wages, fuel, weather and opportunity into account. The ability to replicate maneuvers in an advanced, well calibrated simulator, configured for specific port and vessel condition, allows the trainee to achieve the required level of competency in a fraction of the time.

Full mission simulation is the future of Tug Master Training and PB Towage recognise SeaWays as an international leader in the field.

Tony Cousins

Managing Director, PB Towage

The course content, structure and materials is all a credit to Seaways and the facility for the course is just fantastic.

The trainers experience and professionalism is unequaled and their complete understanding of our requirements at Barrow Island made the training so much easier.

I found the structure of the training very easy to understand with more hands on training than sitting in the class room, I for one adapted well to this environment.

Each trainer took time to ensure we fully understood each maneuver and spent extra time with us when required and allowed us free time alone to hone our skills on the controls, we all found this very beneficial.

A special mention must go to Steve Sandy, I can’t speak highly enough of this guy, his presentation and explanations of each section of the course was extremely easy to follow and watching him operate the tug controls was just incredible. He is quite a remarkable chap and an excellent trainer and of course his easy going nature makes him very approachable.

I highly recommend this training to all new and used tug Masters and would urge all Tug owners to put their Masters forward for this training.

Steve Linton

Tug Master OMSA

“The seaways training course modules one and two is without doubt the most frustrating but yet rewarding courses I have attended.

I found an excellent balance between theory and practical. The training was delivered by a number of professional, dedicated and enthusiastic instructors, each of them leaders in the field of ASD and Harbour towage.

The training had a strong focus on ASD/Towage safety and provides you with the tools to respond positively to emergency situations”

Steve Wall

OMSA Tugmaster on Chevron’s Gorgon Project

I completed my Azimuth training with Seaways and cannot thank Arie enough for the knowledge he passed to me at that time.

Not only did we complete the hands on ASD training but covered aspects of professional development that still assist me in everyday operations.

We covered items like our company safety management system, which was still in its infancy, crew and client management, personnel management and of course the mantra of Authority, Control and Finesse.

I still refer to my training almost daily and always have my training manual at hand. I would highly recommend the Seaways training to any of my officers or anyone who was serious about becoming a professional ASD Tugmaster.

Capt Jayne Hogarth FITA

Master “Mermaid Sound”

For anyone who has not had this brilliant training package, then I suggest you contact your Company and ask if this package could be made available to you, the booklets on the Modules alone are worth their weight in gold and something that you can refer to at anytime you like, like we say, you can never stop learning.

There are three principles that Seaways drum into you and if you remember them you will not go far wrong, they are as follows:- Authority, Total Control and Finesse. So once you have mastered the rudiments of the Training package you will drive with AUTHORITY, have TOTAL CONTROL of the VESSEL and the Situation and with that YOU will drive with FINESSE, what a lovely feeling and your Crew will feel safe as well, that’s all we/they want, to know they come and go home from work safely and Seaways Training does this by the bucket load.

Ps:- Happy Tugging.

Capt. Alan Preston

Serco Tugmaster