TowboatUS is one of the towboat companies in South Florida.

The towboat market in Florida

The towboat market in Florida refers to the industry of companies and boats that provide towing services for boats and ships in the state’s waterways. These services can include pushing or pulling vessels to and from ports, assisting with docking and undocking, and providing emergency assistance. The demand for towboat services in Florida is likely driven by the state’s large boating population and busy ports.

The cost to tow a ship can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the size and type of ship, the distance of the tow, and the specific services required. A small tugboat towing a barge a short distance within a port might cost a few thousand dollars, while a larger tugboat towing an oil tanker across an ocean could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Other factors that can affect the cost of a tow include the location and difficulty of the tow, the experience and equipment of the towing company, and any additional services that may be required, such as escort or pilotage.

The cost to tow a small vessel about 5 miles can vary depending on several factors such as the location, the size and condition of the vessel, the experience and equipment of the towing company and the level of urgency, but in general, it would be less expensive than larger vessel. A rough estimate for a small vessel like a pleasure boat or a yacht can be around $300 to $800 for a 5 miles tow.

The state is home to many ports and marinas and a large boating population, which would suggest that there are many companies that offer towing services. These companies may range in size from small, independent operators to larger, commercial companies.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees and regulates the towing industry in Florida, and they are responsible for issuing licenses to towboat operators. It’s also important to note that many marinas and boatyards also offer towing services.

Tugboats or towboats? Well, they are almost the same thing.

Tugboats, also known as towboats, are specialized vessels that are used to move other boats, ships, barges, and other floating structures. They are typically smaller and less sophisticated than the vessels they assist, but they are much more powerful, with large engines and advanced propulsion systems.

The difference between towboats and tugboats is that a tugboat is egg-shaped at the front because it does more pulling then pushing. According to the Tugboat Enthusiasts Society of the Americas, a tugboat has the main job of pulling larger ships to dock. A towboat is square at the front to push barges. Contrary to its name, a Towboat does not tow things behind it. A Towboat, also known as a Push Tug or Push Boat. A towboat actually has a confusing name. It pushes boats rather than pulling. 

One of the main characteristics of tugboats is their high power-to-weight ratio, which allows them to exert a significant amount of force to move large vessels, even in adverse weather conditions. Tugboats can be used for a variety of tasks, such as towing, pushing, pulling, and maneuvering large vessels in and out of ports, harbors and other confined areas, as well as in open waters.

Tugboats are also used in emergency situations, such as rescuing stranded or sinking ships and fighting fires on ships and in ports. Some tugboats are equipped with cranes, heavy lifting equipment, and firefighting equipment to perform these tasks.

Tugboats can be powered by different types of engines, including diesel, electric and hybrid. The most common propulsion system for tugboats is the fixed propeller, but other systems such as azimuth thrusters, water jets, and Z-drive have been developed to improve the maneuverability and efficiency of these vessels.

Additionally, tugboats have a variety of design features that make them more suitable for the tasks they perform. For example, tugboats that operate in shallow waters or in tight spaces often have a flat bottom and a shallow draft, while those that operate in open waters have a deeper draft and a more pointed bow to help them cut through the waves.

Overall, tugboats are essential vessels in the maritime industry, they play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and efficient movement of cargo and other vessels. They are also used in other industries such as construction and oil and gas exploration and transportation.

What types of towboats exist?

There are many different types of towboats, also known as tugboats, that are used for a variety of purposes. Some of the most common types include:

  1. Harbor Tugs: These are small, powerful boats that are used to assist larger vessels in and out of port. They typically have a short, wide hull and a powerful propulsion system.
  2. Ocean-Going Tugs: These are larger boats that are used to tow ships over long distances, such as across oceans. They have a longer, narrower hull and more powerful engines than harbor tugs.
  3. Pushboats: These are tugs that are specifically designed to push barges and other floating structures, such as oil platforms. They typically have a flat stern and a raised bow.
  4. Fire Tugs: These are specialized tugs that are used to fight fires on ships and in ports. They are equipped with firefighting equipment and often have a large water pump on board.
  5. Salvage Tugs: These are tugs that are used in salvage operations, such as rescuing stranded or sinking ships. They are typically outfitted with cranes and other heavy lifting equipment.
  6. Ice-Breaking Tugs: These are tugs that are used in cold climates and icy waters to clear paths through ice for other boats and ships. They are typically equipped with reinforced hulls and powerful propulsion systems.
  7. Research Tugs: These are tugs equipped with scientific equipment and facilities, they are used in oceanographic and hydrographic research.
Smaller inflatable towboats like this are used by fire departments to put out fires on boats or tow small vessels.
Smaller inflatable towboats like this are used by fire departments to put out fires on boats or tow small vessels.

These are just a few examples of the many different types of towboats that exist, and there are many variations and specialized versions of each type.

What areas of Florida are the busiest to start a towboat business?

Florida is home to many ports and marinas, as well as a large boating population, so there are several areas in the state that could be good locations to start a towboat business. Some of the most popular boating destinations in Florida include:

South Florida: The Miami area and the Florida Keys are popular boating destinations, with many marinas, ports, and boatyards. There are also many large commercial ports in the area, such as the Port of Miami and Port Everglades, which could provide a steady stream of towing business.

Central Florida: The area around Orlando and the Space Coast, is a popular destination for boating and fishing. There are many lakes and waterways in the area, as well as a number of marinas and boatyards.

West Florida: The Gulf of Mexico coast, from Tampa Bay to Naples, is a popular boating destination, with many marinas and ports, as well as offshore fishing and diving opportunities.

North Florida: The Jacksonville area and the St. Johns River are popular boating destinations, with many marinas, boatyards, and ports.

How to get a license to start a towboat company in Florida?

A large towboat towing a barge on the Mississippi River.
A large towboat towing a barge on the Mississippi River.

In Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is responsible for issuing licenses to towboat operators. To obtain a license, you will need to meet certain qualifications and follow certain steps:

  1. First, you will need to be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license.
  2. You will need to complete a boater safety course and pass an exam. The FWC offers a boater safety course online, which can be found on their website.
  3. You will need to have a boat that meets certain standards, including being properly equipped and maintained, and having the appropriate safety gear on board.
  4. You will need to provide proof of insurance for your towboat, and you may need to pass a background check.
  5. You will need to complete an application and pay the appropriate fees, which can also be found on the FWC website.
  6. You will need to pass a physical examination and a drug test if you will be operating the vessel alone.
  7. You will need to pass an FWC inspection of your vessel and equipment.

These are the general steps and requirements, but the specific regulations and procedures may change, so it’s advisable to check with the FWC for the most up-to-date information and any specific requirements.

Also, a commercial vessel operator’s license is required if you are going to be transporting passengers for hire.

Cape Ann Towing, not bad to drive boats around all day :)
Cape Ann Towing, not bad to drive boats around all day 🙂

How to get a job working for a towboat company?

Getting a job working for a towboat company can be challenging, but it can also be a rewarding and exciting career opportunity. Here are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of getting hired:

Obtain the necessary qualifications

Many towboat companies require that their employees have certain qualifications, such as a boater safety certification, a commercial boat operator’s license, and a certain level of experience working on boats.

Get experience

Experience on the water is important, it can be obtained through working on boats, or by volunteering on a tugboat or other vessel. You can also gain experience by working on boats or in the maritime industry in other ways, such as working as a deckhand or a marine mechanic.


Building relationships with people in the industry can be a great way to learn about job opportunities and get your foot in the door. Attend job fairs, networking events, and industry conferences to meet people in the industry.

Be flexible

Tugboat jobs can be hard to come by, so it’s important to be flexible about the type of work you’re willing to do, the hours you’re willing to work, and the location of the job.

Look for opportunities

Keep an eye out for job openings on industry websites, such as the websites of towboat companies, trade organizations, and job boards.

Prepare a good resume and cover letter

Tailor your resume and cover letter to the job you are applying for, and highlight any relevant experience or qualifications you have.

It’s important to note that obtaining a job as a tugboat crew member can be competitive, and you may have to start in an entry-level position and work your way up. But with the right qualifications and experience, perseverance and networking, you can increase your chances of getting hired by a towboat company.

These are some searches of towboat companies that are hiring now: and

If you have a small pleasure boat, you most likely have a towboat service membership. It’s a must.

A towboat membership for pleasure vessels is a service offered by some towboat companies to provide assistance to boaters in distress or in need of towing services. It is usually provided to boaters who have a subscription to the service, which can be purchased on an annual or monthly basis.

The service typically includes a dedicated phone number for boaters to call for assistance, and a towboat will be dispatched to the location of the boat in distress. The towboat will then provide the necessary assistance, such as towing the boat back to a safe location or providing fuel or other supplies.

MarineLife can save you on the water if you boat stalls. They can tow you or bring you gas.
MarineLife can save you on the water if you boat stalls. They can tow you or bring you gas.

The specifics of the service may vary depending on the company and the package purchased, but it usually includes a certain number of tows or a certain number of miles per year, and sometimes additional benefits like discounts on other services, or a dedicated customer service representative.

Some companies also offer a “concierge” service that includes arranging for services such as fuel delivery, mechanical assistance, and more, as well as other benefits such as discounts on slips and other boating-related services.

It’s important to note that not all towboat companies offer this service, but it can be a convenient option for boaters who want peace of mind and quick assistance in case of an emergency or unexpected breakdown. It’s also important to check the coverage and the specific services provided, as well as the pricing, before subscribing to a towboat signature for pleasure vessels.

TowboatUS is one of the most common membership services. It is a membership based fresh and saltwater towing service available to boat owners as a part of membership in BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States. Other companies are Seatow, and many small local companies.

Max Francisco