At Turn Services, one of our core values is growth. We love to see young team members gain knowledge and grow both personally and professionally throughout the company. That said, we are happy to develop our team members’ skills to meet the evolving needs of the maritime world and promote from within.  

Our Steersmen development program does just that. The program was created to help motivate candidates’ progression from Deckhand to Captain, where they will possess their Master of Towing Vessel license.  

We are happy to introduce the Steersmen Program by having you all get to know the current team members enrolled in the program: Chris Toler, Ross Dempsey, and Ryan Bostic.  

Chris Toler has been with Turn Services for almost a decade now as he joined our team in 2013. He learned about working on the river while working at a plant just off the river—one day he got a phone call mentioning the opportunity and took the offer on a whim. He describes his experience in the maritime industry as very humbling as he has navigated his career by learning all that he can.  

“My best advice to somebody starting out in the industry is to be patient, and to learn all there is,” Chris says. He also includes that while struggles may arise for everybody, to not let the frustration get to you as that is part of the experience of building a successful career. Chris explains that he’s had a great time in the Steersmen program thus far, “I’ve been learning a lot and I’m continuing too, I’m loving it,” said Chris. Outside of work—when he’s not catching up on sleep—Chris has a knack for cooking and loves to grill.  

Ross Dempsey has been with Turn Services for just over 4 years but knew this would be his career since he was a young boy. Ross shares that the paternal side of his family is from New Orleans and most of them had worked on the river. “My father was a Crew Boat Captain and some of my earliest memories were of him taking me to work with him,” Ross explains, “I remember jumping up on a toolbox and wanting to drive the boat. Looking back on it, I always knew I wanted to work on the river.”  

From the day that Ross started work as a Deckhand at Turn Services, he knew it was the career for him, so he wanted to learn all there was to learn. He recalls that as a deckhand he would consistently volunteer to work on any of the boats when it was available to him.  

Ross says the first month in the Steersmen Program has been great so far. He explains that all of the deckhands and Captains at Turn have been great to work with, as well as a big help to his growth in the company. “It feels like I’ve come full circle since starting at Turn Services, as Captain Darryl Bartholomew was the first captain I worked with as a Deckhand and now I am working with him in the Steersmen program,” says Ross, “him, Captain Chad Romano and Captain Erick Aguiluz have motivated me more than anybody.”  

As somebody who’s worked at Turn for years, Ross attests that if you want to learn and show that you want to learn, then the team will be excited to teach and motivate you to do your best in your career. A piece of advice from Ross to young hires is to “give your heart, but not your head,” meaning that you should stay eager to learn and be passionate about your job but not to let it drive you crazy, especially when the job gets hard.  

Ryan Bostic is currently enrolled in the Steersmen Program alongside Chris and Ross. Ryan has been with Turn Services for the past decade. He recalls he began working on the river as he heard about it through family friends in the area and began working as a Deckhand at the St. John fleet.  

Ryan says that his experience in the industry has been great this far as he has gotten to meet lots of people from all different states. Ryan has also overcome struggle during his career, as he endured a hand injury which he feared would affect his working capabilities. However, with some time off and physical therapy, he was back and stronger than ever.  

Ryan has enjoyed the Steersmen Program so far. “There’s definitely a lot more going on in the wheelhouse than steering the boat,” says Ryan. “I’m enjoying the program—I really appreciate the Captains that have been working with me and the patience they lend.”  

Ryan also shares of the relationship’s he’s formed at Turn Services, “The guys you work with become your family, we all watch out for one another” said Ryan.  

In 2006, the process to acquire a Master of Towing license had become a four-step program, and therefore our Steersmen Program emerged. The four-tier system includes moving from a deckhand to an AP Mate license, then a Mate of Towing, and from there you can earn your Master of Towing license. Through our Steersmen Program, we provide service letters to obtain the first two licenses for worthy candidates.  

For the next phase, Captains give their recommendations for candidates they think will make excellent captains and who have demonstrated both skill and great work ethic throughout their time at Turn Services. With a Mate Pilot license and this recommendation, they work closely with the Captains to earn their Master of Towing. This program typically takes anywhere from three to seven months. To earn a Master of Towing, you are assessed to ensure the DE approves that you’ve mastered Vessel Familiarization, Navigation and Piloting, Watch standing, Maneuvering, the Rules of the Road, Safety and Emergency Response, and Environmental Protection. 

We wish the best of luck to Chris, Ross, and Ryan in their journey within the Steersmen program, and to those who have graduated from the program, and those aspiring to enroll. 

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