For harbor captain Greg Stuart, there is no telling what a day will bring aside from docking the boat. Sometimes he could be guiding a boat through congested waters for several hours at a time and other days he could be responding to dispatch, overseeing logistics and sending out traffic reports.
“No day is ever the same, but that’s what I enjoy the most about my job,” said Stuart. “I’m always doing something different every day.”
Stuart has been navigating the waterways for Gavilon Group, a commodity management firm, for over 13 years now. One of his core responsibilities is managing the harbor service, including three deckhands, three pilots and one steersman. For Stuart, the most rewarding aspect of his job is working with his crew.
“I have the best boat crew at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa,” said Stuart. “My crew is top notch at keeping everything clean and safe for maneuvering the waterways.”
Before landing his job as a harbor captain, Stuart first gained experience on the river loading fertilizer and then eventually advanced to a role as a deckhand. In that position, he learned the ins and outs of the boat while moving cargo and cleaning the deck, but that’s easier said than done.
“Being a deckhand is a lot of hard work,” explains Stuart. “It’s not an easy job, especially when you’re expected to work on the boat regardless of the weather. However, you can learn a lot of transferrable skills that could lead to other opportunities if you’re looking to move up in your career.”
After Stuart’s supervisor and peers caught notice of his strong attendance and overall work ethic, they motivated him to pursue his pilot’s license. So, after a few years of training as a steersman, receiving a solid letter of recommendation and passing five written tests, he successfully obtained his pilot’s license from The River School, a U.S. Coast Guard licensed training program in Memphis.
“I initially never even thought about becoming a harbor captain,” said Stuart. “Fortunately, my colleagues believed in me and wanted to see me grow in my career.”
As the maritime world continues to boom, there are a variety of employment opportunities available all over the coast, especially for Millennials and Generation Z. According to Stuart, with more companies providing on the job training, like internships and apprenticeships, you can enter the field with or without a college degree.
For those interested in specifically becoming a boat pilot, Stuart encourages them to explore the wide variety of virtual training programs and pilot licenses across the nation.
“My suggestion would be going to schools that have digital training,” explains Stuart. “Everything reacts in real time like barges, but you’re actually in a classroom. There’s also so many different pilot licenses out there. So, be sure to do some research and figure out what kind of pilot you want to be before making any commitments.”