Everything You Need to Know About Wiper Jobs

Everything You Need to Know About Wiper Jobs

Eve Jones

Are you looking to find out more about entry level cargo jobs? Thinking that a career in the Merchant Navy / Merchant Marines might be exactly what you’re looking for?

In that case, carry on reading as we continue our series of articles that explore ‘what is a seafarer’s job’ and take a deep dive into the duties and responsibilities of a Wiper on a ship.

Maritime jobs come in all different shapes and sizes and they all fall under one of three different departments: the Deck Department, the Engine Department and the Catering Department. No prizes for guessing that the ship’s Cook (as well as the Messman) fall under the remit of the Catering Department.

man cutting vegetables

What are some other examples of maritime jobs and seafarer ranks?

First of all, the Deck Department is responsible overall for the safe and efficient running of the vessel. Deck Officers, such as the Chief Officer and Second Officer are the managers of the ship. Under their supervision you will find Third and Fourth Officers, the Bosun, Able Bodied Seamen, Ordinary Seamen and Deck Cadets.

Those with a mind for all things mechanical or electrical will be found working in seafarer jobs in the Engine Department.

These seafarer ranks include the Chief Engineer and then the Second, Third and possibly Fourth Engineers. You may also find an Engine Cadet in this department as well as a Motorman along with entry level ship jobs such as Oiler and Wiper.

You might also meet a Pumpman on your travels, but that’s only really likely if you’re working on an oil tanker.

oil tanker with offshore oil rigs in background at sunset

You will probably also come across an Electrician, a Junior Electrician, an Electrical Engineer and an ETO (Electro-Technical Officer). Needless to say, these seamen and women work with the electrical systems on a vessel, while the engineers are more focused on the engine and other mechanical systems and equipment.

Read more: Seaman Interview Questions & Answers for Engineering Jobs

And last but not least, of course, the person overseeing the entire crew, as well as the vessel and her cargo is the ship’s Captain, otherwise known as the Master.

While the ship’s Master is the top ranking (and paying!) seafarer job, the Wiper is pretty much starting right at the bottom of the ladder.

stairway under the ocean climbing upwards

Having said that, the great thing about maritime jobs is that there is plenty of scope to climb up that ladder and grow a career that might start out in an entry level job at sea but soon, with more training, experience and sea time, can turn into one of the higher seafarer ranks.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what a Wiper does on a ship.

Everything you need to know about Wiper jobs

First of all, a Wiper is one of the most junior entry level cargo ship jobs, and as the name suggests, you will be doing a lot of wiping and cleaning!

yellow cleaning in progress signs.

This means wiping down the vessel’s engine spaces, equipment and machinery and making sure they are kept clean so that they can operate correctly and efficiently. This also involves greasing and degreasing and generally making sure that the engine room and work spaces are kept clean and tidy.

A Wiper’s duties and responsibilities also include assisting the department’s other crew members with tasks such as basic maintenance, which could mean chipping and painting, as well as keeping inventory and making sure that logs are filled in correctly.

As a Wiper you may also need to fill in for other members of the department if needed, and stand watch as part of the watch team, however you will not be assigned a watch yourself.

man looking through binoculars

What is the maritime career progression for a Wiper?

Because a Wiper on a ship is an entry level ship job, the good news is, there is plenty of opportunity to progress in your maritime career.

Basically, Wiper jobs are apprenticeships for Marine Oiler jobs and a Wiper will eventually become a QMED - a Qualified Man of the Engine Department. This means an upgrade of the Wiper’s duties and responsibilities to then include tasks such as repairing and maintaining the actual engine, as well as the auxiliary power systems.

What qualifications does a Wiper on a ship need?

The good news for anyone thinking about a career in seafarer jobs and about becoming a Wiper is that this is one of the jobs at sea that doesn’t require too many qualifications.

street art saying 'yay!'

In fact the position of Wiper aims to give the seafarer a grounding in plant layout and the basic duties that need to be performed in the Engine Department, all while building up that crucial sea time.

However, a Wiper will need to be familiar with a ship’s safety equipment and also understand vessel operations. Like most maritime jobs, a level of fluency in English, which is the main language used onboard due to the fact that a crew could be made up of different nationalities, will be expected by many employers.

They will also need to have passed a medical test (probably also including a drug test).

banned sign with the word 'unacceptable' written underneath

The majority of employers won’t expect a Wiper to have years upon years of experience in this seafarer rank, but if you do have experience or have previously worked in a similar role, you may find it easier to find your next contract.

The right personality traits for working in seafarer jobs

Besides the basic seafaring documentation and medical and physical fitness checks, anyone even thinking about working in seafarer jobs will need to have certain personality traits.

Almost as important as physical fitness and strength is mental strength. Jobs at sea can be tough. Time spent away from family, other loved ones and friends can take its toll on some people, and as well as homesickness to deal with, there is also the issue of long hours, days, weeks and months spent miles away from land.

view of land from a ship's porthole

Read more: How to Cope with Working Away from Home in Jobs at Sea

In fact, we urge anyone thinking seriously about a career spent working in jobs at sea to ask themselves some serious questions before pursuing it any further.

But while working in seafarer jobs, whether they’re entry level cargo ship jobs, or Chief Officer or Master jobs, is definitely not the easiest life to choose, it can be one of the most rewarding.

Imagine learning skills and attributes that will last you a lifetime - even if you quit working in jobs at sea at some point and find employment in a shore based maritime job such as a job in an office, a maritime academy, or in a seaport.

an industrial port at sundown

Imagine traveling the world (and being paid for it!) Even if shore leave is often shorter than it used to be due to quick port turnarounds, you’re still seeing life at sea, experiencing the awesomeness of Mother Nature, and waking up and going to sleep with spectacular views, sunrises and sunsets!

Imagine working with a dedicated team of hardworking individuals from all walks of life who, due to your unique lifestyle and circumstances, will be a team you can truly count on, and maybe even become friends for life.

Yes, a Wiper’s job may be on one of the bottom rungs of the seafarer job ladder but if you want to pursue your dreams and a career in the maritime industry, this is a first rate way of getting some real life experience of working on a ship.

vessel being pulled by a tug into port

How Martide can help you further your maritime career

At Martide we love nothing more than helping qualified seafarers find the right jobs at sea for them. We’re always looking for crew of all seafarer ranks, ages and experience to fill our clients’ maritime job vacancies.

From entry level cargo ship jobs such as Wiper and Oiler to seafarer jobs like Shipfitter and Second Engineer, right up to vacancies for a ship’s Master, if you’re looking for your next (or first!) contract at sea, you should create an account with Martide today.

And just to make life even easier for anyone looking for jobs at sea, we’ve also created a free mobile app for seafarers. This enables you to search and apply for our jobs when you’re on the go, as well as stay in touch more easily with employers and manning agents.

Download the app right now from Google Play for Android or from the App Store for Apple iOS and we hope to see you onboard soon.

Read the previous article in this series: Everything You Need to Know About Motorman Jobs