Printer Friendly

Water transportation occupations.

Before there were motors, trade depended on the wind. The least expensive way to transport goods was by water Now, we ship material by train, plane, and truck, as well as by ship. But rivers and oceans still carry a great deal of cargo and do it at the lowest cost, although relatively few additional workers will be needed for these occupations in coming years.

The safe shipment of goods from port to port is the task of water transportation workers. They operate and maintain deep sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, research vessels, and other water-bome craft on the oceans and the Great Lakes, in harbors, on rivers and canals, and on other waterways. Some operate and tend bridges, canal locks, and lighthouses.

As shown in the accompanying diagram, crew members on a ship can be in three departments: Deck, engine, and steward's. A modem, automated deep sea merchant ship has a captain, three deck officers or mates, a chief engineer and three assistant engineers, plus six or more seamen. Smaller vessels operating in harbors, on rivers, or along the coast, may have just a captain and one deckhand; a captain, several seamen, and an oiler or engineer; or a captain, a mate or pilot, an engineer, and seven or eight seamen, depending on their size and the work they do. Large vessels also have a full-time cook and a helper On small ones, a seaman cooks part time. Ships in the merchant marine also have an electrician, deck/engine room mechanics, and a radio officer. Their duties are generally the same aboard ship as in other locations. No matter how large or small the vessel, the captain is in charge of it. Nature of the Work

Captains or masters supervise the operation of a vessel and the work of the other officers and the crew. They set the course and speed, maneuver to avoid hazards and other ships, and determine the ship's position, using navigation aids, celestial observations, and charts. They signal or command crew members to steer the vessel, operate engine's, signal to other vessels, attach lines, or operate towingor dredging gear. They insure that proper procedures and safety practices are being followed, check that machinery and equipment are in good working order, and oversee the loading and unloading of cargo or passengers. They also maintain logs and other records of the ship's movements and cargos.

On large vessels, captains are assisted by deck officers, or mates. Mates stand watch for specified periods, usually 4 hours on and 8 off, overseeing the operation of the vessel. On other vessels, there may be only one mate, called a pilot on some inland vessels, who alternates watches with the captain,

In addition to these deck officers, ships often rely on pilots, who guide ships in and out of harbors and straits and on rivers and other confined waterways where a familiarity with local winds, tides, currents, and hazards such as reefs and shoals is critical. Pilots on river and canal vessels usually are regular crew members, like mates. Harbor pilots are generally independent contractors, who are assigned to vessels entering or leaving port. They may pilot many ships in a single day.

Engineers or marine engineers operate, maintain, and repair propulsion engines, boilers, generators, pumps, and other machinery. Merchant marine vessels usually have four engineering officers: A chief engineer and a first, second, and third assistant engineer Assistant engineers stand periodic watches, overseeing the operation of engines and machinery. Deck/engine room mechanics and maintenance workers help keep the engines operating. Older ships have marine oilers, who lubricate gears, shafts, bearings, and other moving parts of engines and motors; read pressure and temperature gauges and records; and may repair and adjust machinery.

Seamen, also called deckhands, particularly on inland waters, help navigate the vessel, operate deck equipment, and keep the nonengineering areas in good condition. They stand watch, looking out for other vessels, obstructions in the path of the ship, and aids to navigation; measure water depth in shallow water, turn the wheel on the bridge to steer the ship; maintain, and operate deck equipment such as life boats, anchors, and cargo-handling gear; handle lines when docking or departing; and repair lines, chip rust, and paint and clean decks and other areas. Seamen may also load and unload cargo. On vessels handling liquid cargo, they hook up hoses, operate pumps, and clean tanks. Deckhands on tugboats or tow vessels tie barges together into tow units, inspect the units periodically, and break them apart when the destination is reached. They also handle ropes when maneuvering large oceangoing vessels. Larger vessels have a boatswain, or head seaman.

Earnings and Working Conditions

Water transportation workers who worked year round had median eamings of $29,000 a year in 1987. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,000 and $46,000. The top 10 percent, most of whom probably were captains or harbor pilots, eamed more than $52,000. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $14,000.

Merchant mariners are away from home for extended periods but earn long leaves. Most are hired for one voyage, with no job security after that. At sea, they usually stand watch for 4 hours and are off for 8 hours, 7 days a week. Those on Great Lakes ships who are fully employed usually work 60 days and have 30 days off, but do not work in the winter, when the lakes are frozen over Workers on fivers and canals and in harbors are more likely to have year-round work. Some work 8- or 12-hour shifts and go home every day. Others work steadily for a week or a month and then have an extended period off. When working, they are usually on duty for 6 or 12 hours and are off for 6 or 12 hours.

People in water transportation occupations work in all weather conditions and face injury or death from fire, collision, sinking, or falling overboard, or working, with machinery, heavy loads, and dangerous cargo. Newer vessels are air-conditioned, soundproofed from noisy machinery, and have comfortable living quarters. Nevertheless, some find the long periods away from home and the confinement aboard ship difficult.

Almost all merchant marine officers and seamen belong to unions.

Qualifications and Training

Entry, training, and educational requirements for most water transportation occupations are established and regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard, but differ somewhat between the merchant marine and others.

Merchant marine. Deck and engineering officers must be licensed. Tc qualify for a license, applicants must have graduated from the US. Merchant Marine Academy or one of the six State academies and pass an exam, or have 3 years of appropriate sea experience and pass an exam. Since seamen may work 6 months a year or less, it can take 5 to 8 years to accumulate the necessary experience. It is difficult to pass the exam without substantial formal schooling or independent study. The academies offer 4-year bachelor's degree programs (one offers a 3-year associate program) in nautical science or marine engineering to prepare students to be third mates or third assistant engineers. With experience and passing of additional exams, third officers may qualify for higher rank. Because of the competition, however, some officers may have to take jobs below the grade they are qualified for.

For employment as an unlicensed seaman, a merchant mariner's document, issued by the US. Coast Guard, is needed. No experience or formal schooling is required; however, training at a union-operated school is helpful. Beginners are classified as ordinary seamen and may be assigned to the deck or engineering department. With experience at sea and, perhaps, formal training, they can advance to able seaman or become deck/engine room mechanics who are qualified members of the engineering department. Physical and written exams are required.

Merchant marine officers and seamen (experienced and beginners) are hired for voyages through union hiring halls or directly by shipping companies.

Harbors, rivers, and other waterways. Harbor pilots usually serve an apprenticeship with a shipping company or a pilots' association. Entrants may be able seamen or licensed officers.

No training or experience is needed to become a seaman or deckhand. Newly hired workers generally learn skills on the job. With experience, they are eligible to take a Coast Guard exam to qualify as a mate, pilot, or captain. Substantial knowledge, gained through experience, courses in seamanship schools, and independent study are needed to pass the exam.

Employment and Outlook

Water transportation workers held about 53,000 jobs in 1986. More than 40 percent were seamen and marine oilers, about 30 percent were captains and pilots, more than 10 percent each were engineers and mates, and about 5 percent were bridge, lock, and lighthouse tenders. About 3,000 of the captains and pilots were self- employed, operating their own vessels, or were pilots, who are independent contractors.

Almost 30 percent (16,000) worked on board merchant marine ships or U.S. Navy Military Sealift ships operating on the oceans or Great Lakes. (Many merchant marine officers and seamen worked only part of the year; the total number who worked some time during the year was substantially greater than 16,000.) Almost half worked on tugs, towboats, ferries, dredges, and other watercraft in harbors, on rivers and canals, and on other waterways, Others worked in water transportation services such as cargo handling facilities; canals; boatyards and marinas; boat chartering; piloting services; marine construction, salvaging, and surveying; and for govemments operating bridges, locks, and lighthouses.

Overall, employment in water transportation occupations is projected to decline through the year 2000, but will vary by sector.

Deep sea. Employment in deep sea shipping is expected to continue its long-term sharp decline-as U.S.-manned ships carry an even smaller proportion of international cargo, (In 1985, only about 4 percent of our imports and exports were carried on U.S.manned ships.) Only new Federal legislation and subsidies will stop the decline, and these are not likely

This decline in jobs has created competition for jobs, with many experienced merchant mariners unable to find jobs or having long periods without work. As a result, unions generally have not accepted new members. Also, many merchant marine academy graduates have not found licensed shipboard jobs in the US. merchant marine. Most do find other related jobs. All US. Merchant Marine Academy graduates and many State academy graduates are commissioned as ensigns in the US. Naval Reserve, and many go on active duty in the Navy Some find jobs on tugboats or other watercraft or on foreignflag deep sea vessels, or take jobs as seamen on U. S. flag ships. Some take land-based jobs with shipping companies, insurance companies handling marine insurance, manufacturers of boilers or related machinery, electric power industries which operate machinery similar to that found aboard ships, civilian jobs with the US. Navy, or other related jobs.

Unless the number of people seeking merchant marine jobs declines sharply, the present keen competition is likely to continue.

Rivers, canals, Great Lakes, and other domestic waterways. Vessels on rivers, canals, and the Great Lakes carry bulk products such as coal, ore, petroleum, sand and gravel, grain, and chemicals. Shipments of these products are expected to grow moderately through the year 2000, but with some productivity increases, little employment growth is likely Employment in water transportation services is also likely to remain level. Despite the lack of growth, some jobs should become available to replace those who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Sources of Additional Information A pamphlet, Information Concerning Employment and Training in the U.S. Merchant Marine, is available from

Maritime Administration U.S. Department of Transportation Washington, DC 20590.
COPYRIGHT 1989 U.S. Government Printing Office
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Hecker, Daniel
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1989
Previous Article:To market, to market: job opportunities in marketing.
Next Article:Rail transportation workers.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters