Line Haul vs. Harbor Work by Billy Jordan

I would like to start by saying that I am not trying to make
one specialty more or less important than the other one.
In my time working on towboats I have heard the arguments
between both shift boats and trip boats about how one job
is tougher than the other.

In my opinion they are both challenging in their own way.

On a trip boat, the crew has tow work, housekeeping,
cooking and cleaning, in addition to the daily routine of
vessel maintenance and repairs.
The crew has to deal with the weather, such as rough seas,
fog, rain, high-water, vessel traffic. The pilots have to deal
with the pressures of making decisions which effect the
entire crew and with the expectations of higher-ups to make
the miles.
There is the issue of riding over. It is so common these
days to get a call from the office on crew change and being
told that you r relief did not show. And of course, the real
biggie, living aboard. Long trips away from home and family.
Away from entertainment of most any kind. Isolated from
what is going on the world. The internet and cell phones
have helped take some of the sting out of this but there is
no substitute for being home with your family. Eating home-
cooked food and sleeping in your own bed….

Now let’s look at the shift boats
When a line haul vessel often gets to shut down for weather
or fog delays, the Harbor boat generally keeps on trucking.
Many are dedicated to a fleet or barge loading/unloading
facility with round the clock activity. There is a tremendous
pressure to perform, to be fast all the while trying not to get
anyone hurt. A shift boat will often have to monitor several
radio channels at once and be able to filter out what
information is relevant to them, all the while staying in
control of the vessel and crew. Often times the show goes
on regardless of weather, mechanical issues, short crewed
or not. Time is big money when loading or unloading ships,
trucks or trains. There are lots of hourly workers and
everyone is looking for someone to blame for costly delays.
For the deck crew the hours are long and sometime very
hard. Men put themselves at risk many times a day more
than on a line haul vessel.

Whether you work on a trip boat or shift boat, my hat is off
to you,
my heart goes out to your family, because for most of you
out there, you are making a living for them with your great
sacrifice and risk.
Billy Jordan
Jamie H.
Mobile, Alabama
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