Profile – Becoming a Mariner
Western Towboat Co., Engineer
Nick Parks first got to know Western Towboat Company crews while serving on security boats at Naval Base Kitsap, where he would inspect tugboats and other vessels entering restricted waters.
With his four-year naval term winding down, he joined Western crews on a voyage towing a cargo barge between Seattle, where Western is based, and Whittier, Alaska. He made good money and enjoyed the work.
“I did an observation trip to Alaska and was able to see what it was like before I got out of the Navy so I could start making a plan,” he recalled recently. “In between getting out and that trip, I would come in on the weekends and help run the tugs on the (Duwamish) river and help with line handling on the river.
“As soon as I got out of the Navy I was on the boat and working,” he added.
Parks, 30, joined the family-owned Western Towboat eight years ago. He carries a DDE-4000 license and serves as an engineer primarily on the 108-foot oceangoing tugboat Pacific Titan, which tows cargo barges to Alaska. The vessel is equipped with an all-Caterpillar engine room and Ulstein z-drives.
The role of an engineer is multifaceted. It involves managing the deckhands and overseeing training and maintenance routines along with ensuring the vessels’ systems are functioning properly. Engineers manage fuel and engine oiling and keep detailed logs for the engines and machinery.
“We have a really high standard for cleanliness and upkeep and maintenance in our organization,” Parks said. “It feels good to be part of it and look back on projects and feel a sense of pride in the work and in the company.”
— Casey Conley