When you work in this industry, where you are largely responsible for the navigation and upkeep of a vessel, you have to consider that working conditions and working hours might not always be ideal and to your liking. These jobs can be hazardous and require people who are detail oriented and conscientious, which is something that you have to consider before applying to work on a vessel and training at a maritime school or academy.
While some jobs require more than one member of the same position to take shifts on board, some industries only employ one of each type of crew member. This all depends on the number of hours at sea, the size and type of vessel you are working on. Your working conditions will vary greatly. On cruise ships you will have relatively good accommodation and meals and meet lots of interesting people while you work. You get to work in a more luxurious setting and the environment is also more relaxed, while on a commercial fishing vessel you are under more stress, you have to navigate through dangerous waters, make excellent time, and the environment is not exactly luxurious. The facilities mean that if you are a deckhand or in another position on the deck you have to endure storms, high winds and extreme temperatures out in the open, completely at the mercy of all the elements.
Your working hours also vary greatly especially depending on your specific job title, but all the maritime jobs from Captain to Deckhand all consist of long working hours. Aside from this, the entire crew will have to work in case of any emergency when called upon, even if it is at 3 o’clock in the morning. Some jobs have longer hours in the summer season, and some positions will consist of 24 hour shifts that rotate, so you have one day on duty, and the following day off. Each of the following positions have very diverse working hours, and completely different schedules according to the employers, size of the vessel, and the type of industry.
Chief Engineer: The chief engineer usually works for 8 hours per day, but is always on call. When at sea for long periods of time the shift extends to weekends and holidays as well.
Designated Duty Engineer: This position sometimes requires you to work in 2 shifts of 4 hours each per day to perform various engine checks, but you will also work 8 to 16 hours or more 7 days per week depending on what vessel you are employed on and how long you are at sea for.
Assistant Engineers: You will work 8 or more hours in a day, working 7 days per week normally with a few days off in between, unless you are at sea, where you will work constantly for months and then receive a month or two off when you return to shore.
Engineer: The average for an engineer is 51 hours per week and this can be working in daily shifts, but also being on call.
Oiler and Wiper: These positions will be filled by more than one person usually giving you the opportunity to work in shifts of 12 hours each, although you will also be on call at all times if needed in an emergency situation.
Master or Captain: As the leader of the entire vessel and its crew, captains are usually working full time for sometimes 3 months at sea, after which they will receive 3 months off. Sometimes masters will work very irregular hours depending on what is happening at any specific time at sea, and will rest whenever there is an opportunity.
First Mate, Chief Officer, or Chief Mate: This important job will also see you working irregular hours, but usually shifts are assigned, although you will be on call 24 hours a day. This job will also consist of sometimes 3 months at sea and then you will get 3 months leave.
Second and Third Mates: You will normally work in shifts while on board of about 12 to 16 hours per day, but are on call 24 hours a day.
Able Seaman Deckhand: There are various able seaman positions which means that shift work is offered and you can expect to be on duty for long hours, and can sometimes work for 4 to 7 days, and then get 3 days off (in a fishing environment).
Ordinary Seaman Deckhand: This position would also work in shifts of about 12 hours and you will get a certain number of days that you are on duty and then you get time off. This will normally depend on how long your time at sea is, but if you are on a cruise ship, you will still get time off after working for about 5 days, which you can spend on board, exploring ports, or you can spend them at home if possible.
Deckhands: On a commercial in-shore vessel, the deckhands can work anywhere from 5 hours to 16 hours per day and will normally get a day off during the week, especially if returning home each day. If you are based at sea, you will work for the duration you are at sea including weekends, and then you will receive a certain number of weeks or months off.