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Foss cadets are on track for a career in the towing maritime industry

By Bruce Sherman –This article first appeared in the June 2014 Issue of Towbitts, the official publication of Foss Maritime.

For his senior project at Monroe (Washington) High School, Tanner Lippincott worked with family friend and veteran Foss Capt. Dave Corrie, producing a paper on what it takes to be a tugboat master.

“I went out with him on the Pacific Star, and we assisted a 900-foot cargo ship as it arrived in port, and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen,” Lippincott said. “This was something I could see myself doing.”

Sean Russell was working on the dock and as a sometimes-deckhand for Washington State Ferries, and was cruising the Internet, looking at maritime training programs, when he came across the Workboat Academy Deck program at Seattle’s Pacific Maritime Institute (PMI).

“This two-year program just popped up, I contacted the school, got through the interviews and was picked by Foss,” he said.

Today, both young men are newly enrolled in the program, where they can earn a mate’s license through both classroom and sea time as a deckhand. Both have been paired with Foss.

Foss has supported the program since it’s inception in 2006, believing it fills an important need in an industry with a greying cadre of deck officers. Foss has sponsored about 9 cadets, and 34 additional Work Boat Academy partner companies. also sponsor them.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and pass a math exam. They also must have a merchant mariner’s credential, a TWIC card, a passport and be at least 19 years old.

The Workboat Academy program operates in Seattle, Baltimore and New Orleans and offer cadets a much faster track to a mate’s ticket than would otherwise be available to them. The alternatives are four-year maritime academies and the seven years it would normally take for a deckhand to build sea time and pass   for the required exams.

Both Russell, 23, and Lippincott, 19, are enthusiastic about their new career paths and have been happy to soak up the material they’ve been exposed to so far, such as first aid, watch standing, firefighting and safe use of liferafts, the latter which required them to go for a swim.

A number of Russell’s family members have had maritime careers, mainly in fishing and the Navy. He’s had some college, but the mate program seemed a natural for him.

Lippincott has spent lots of time fishing “on every lake, river and bay” in Washington but was planning to play college football until working on his project with Corrie.

“It totally turned me around,” he said.