Your Guide to Different Types of Seafarer Jobs

Mar 02, 2020 · 14 mins read ·

Jobs at Sea
officers looking out of bridge window

There are so many different seafarer jobs that a list of all of them might just stretch the length of a container ship’s deck and back.

Okay, that might not be a strictly scientific fact and we may have just made that up, but the truth is maritime jobs are so varied that it’s almost impossible to create a comprehensive guide to all of them in one place.

If you’re thinking about enrolling in maritime training and wondering which jobs at sea you could study for, to really understand the direction your career should take, you’ll need to narrow seafarer jobs down into broader categories.

Read more: Your Guide to Seafarer Jobs & Joining the Merchant Navy

And then delve deeper into the subject before you even start thinking about how to get a job at sea.

Read more about maritime training here

Your guide to different types of seafarer jobs

For example, at its very broadest the maritime job sector can be divided into offshore jobs at sea and shore based maritime jobs in the shipping industry.

Within those two divisions you could further divide offshore jobs into seafarer jobs - i.e. working on a ship, and offshore jobs working on oil rigs or in drilling.

Read More: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Career in Seafarer Jobs

And of course, shore based maritime jobs can encompass anything from working as a ship broker or a lecturer in a maritime training school, to a port operative or stevedore.

And that’s not even touching upon ocean adjacent jobs such as a marine biologist, marine conservationist, or ocean meteorologist.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take a closer look at just some of the most popular jobs at sea on vessels, including entry level cargo ship jobs, as well as some of the shore based maritime jobs.

Examples of shore based maritime jobs

Like we said, it would be almost impossible to list every single one of the shore based maritime jobs that you could consider, but we hope this guide to some of the most popular jobs in seaports will give you a good starting point and help you to decide whether a career in shipping is for you.

We’ll start our list off with some of the maritime jobs in ports you might want to consider.

What does a Marine Pilot do?

This is a person who has an in-depth knowledge of a particular port’s entry and exit and any unique or difficult to navigate features it might have. The pilot will board a vessel that is approaching or departing the port and navigate her safely in or out to ensure a trouble-free passage.

What is a Vessel Traffic Services Operative?

Unlike the marine pilot, a VTSO won’t board a ship but will be found in the port’s control center. Their task is to control the safe and efficient movement of vessels in and around the port by using marine radar and communicating with the ship by radio telephone or VHF radio.

What does a Port Manager’s job involve?

A job for those who like being in charge! The majority of port-related operations and activity fall under the jurisdiction of the port manager. This can typically include the development of the seaport, health and safety, the port’s operations, and liaising with all of the different companies and organizations who use the port, such as shipowners and freight forwarders.

What does a Dockworker do?

A dockworker, longshoreman, stevedore, or docker is one of the entry level maritime jobs that doesn’t need formal maritime training. It involves loading and unloading a ship’s containers and can include deciding how those containers should be stacked. Operating heavy machinery, forklift trucks and goods lorries are a big part of this job.

What is a Port Operator’s job?

When the dockworkers have finished unloading the containers, the port operators will make sure that the cargo is safely transported from the ship to either a holding zone or a depot, or onto a truck or train for onward transportation. This is another shore based marine job that will likely require workers be qualified to operate a mobile crane and/or forklift truck.

What does a Shipfitter do?

A shipfitter, or ship fitter job is pretty much what it sounds like: fitting the parts of a vessel together. However it can be broken down into two different jobs: engine fitter and deck fitter. Generally speaking, a shipfitter will follow blueprints to cut out, fabricate, assemble and erect metal sheets to create the vessel’s main structure. The job also covers maintaining and repairing the same.

Now let’s take a look at some of the seafarer jobs that actually entail spending time at sea.

From entry level cargo ship jobs to able seaman jobs and oiler jobs, right through to jobs for ship’s masters and chief engineer jobs, this by no means exhaustive list will hopefully give you a clearer picture of just a handful of options for the vacancies for seamen that could be available to you.

Maritime jobs and seafarer ranks

Working on a container ship is unlike going to work in the vast majority of environments. If you’re thinking of working in a shore based maritime job, you know that you’ll probably be working, for the most part, in an office or at a port.

If you’re looking into seafarer jobs on ships then you’re going to need to break your workplace down even further and decide which part of the vessel you want to work in or on.

For example, do you want to spend your time in the engine room? Or on the bridge or in the pilothouse? Perhaps you’d prefer to be working up on deck, or maybe you’d like to put your chef skills to good use and work in the galley preparing meals? The choice is yours.

What is an Ordinary Seaman?

The OS is one of the entry level cargo ship jobs you might want to consider if you’re just starting out on your career at sea and don’t have much experience on your maritime resume just yet. This is basically a position where you’ll learn the ropes of being a seaman.

What does a Wiper on a ship do?

Like the OS, the position of wiper is another of the entry level maritime jobs that anyone starting out on their career at sea could consider studying for. Wipers work in the engine room and are tasked with assisting the engineers, and cleaning the machinery and engine spaces. Some wipers go on to work in oiler jobs after they have served their apprenticeship.

What do Junior Electrician jobs involve on a ship?

Ship junior electricians are entry level cargo ship jobs but the remit still includes tasks such as installing and replacing electrical components and wiring, the repair and maintenance of faulty electrics, and reading (and understanding) technical diagrams and blueprints.

What are Able Bodied Seaman jobs?

An able seaman, able bodied seaman or simply, AB works on a ship’s deck and is a level above an ordinary seaman, having more experience on their seafarer resume, and more sea time. The job includes acting as lookout and conducting security rounds while the ship is under way. They also assist with deck operations such as docking, undocking, and line handling, as well as deck maintenance.

What does a Deck Officer or Mate do on a ship?

A deck officer or mate plays more of an executive role than the AB and they are responsible for a ship’s safe navigation and maneuvering. This includes communicating with operatives on shore and also making sure cargo is properly handled and delivered. A typical career path would see you working your way up from 3rd mate to chief mate.

What are Chief Officer jobs?

One of the top paying jobs at sea is the rank of chief mate. The chief mate is second in command to the ship’s master and takes control if the captain should be absent or incapacitated. Their regular responsibilities include safety and security, supervising the deck crew, standing watch, looking after cargo operations and also ensuring the welfare of the crew.

What does a Marine Engineer do?

Depending on their rank and experience, a ship’s engineer is an officer with responsibility for the safe running of the vessel’s auxiliary and propulsion systems. A second engineer will report to the chief engineer, and assist them in managing the engine room. A career pathway in marine engineering will typically run from 3rd assistant engineer upwards, with increasing levels of responsibility.

What do Chief Engineer jobs involve?

The chief engineer or CE is the head of the engine / technical department, and operations. They ensure the engine room machinery is running correctly and are responsible for repair and maintenance being carried out. They also ascertain the amount of fuel, oil and lube needed for a voyage and ensure the correct quantities are on board.

What is a Ship Master’s job?

The master or the captain as they are also known, assumes the ultimate command over a vessel. They are accountable for making sure the ship operates efficiently and within the remit of the various laws and regulations. They also ensure that both crew and cargo are kept safe at all times. This includes marine security and safe navigation down to the vessel’s seaworthiness. The master is also responsible for keeping the ship’s documents and certificates safe.

How to get a job at sea

We hope that these brief summaries have given you a little more insight into the types of jobs at sea you might want to eventually include on your maritime resume.

Of course, once you’ve finished your maritime training, you’re going to need to know exactly how to find vacancies for seamen.

That will include everything from knowing where to search for seafarer jobs to understanding how to organize that job search so you’re lining up contracts one after the other.

And if you’re starting out in your career and applying for entry level cargo ship jobs, you’re also going to need to know how to impress a potential employer, both with your maritime resume and at an interview to win that job!

Meanwhile, if you’re reading this and you’re already a qualified seaman, take a look at our seafarer job vacancy board. Seen something you’re interested in? If you already have an account with Martide, simply click the Apply button in the job advert.

No account yet? Not a problem - register here for free, create your profile, and apply. It doesn’t take long and it’s simple to do.

You should download our free mobile app too. That way you’ll have your profile, account, and vacancies for seamen at your fingertips no matter where in the world you are! It makes lining up your next contract easier than ever before.

Search for Martide on the Apple App Store or Google Play today!

Previous article in this series: Your Guide to Maritime Training for Jobs at Sea

Next article in this series: This is Where You Can Find the Best Seafarer Jobs

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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