What Is a Deckhand?

A deckhand is a crew member on a maritime vessel who performs a variety of important tasks to ensure the smooth operation of the vessel. Deckhands are involved in a wide range of duties that can vary depending on the type of vessel and its operation. Deckhands must have a strong knowledge of maritime safety procedures, be physically fit, and be able to work in a variety of weather conditions and sea states. The role can serve as an entry point for individuals looking to start a career in the maritime industry, with opportunities for advancement to higher positions on board.

Deckhand Job Duties

The types of tasks a deckhand handles on a daily basis may vary greatly depending on the needs of the vessel, the length of the journey, and other factors. A deckhand's duties may include:

  • Maintaining and inspecting deck equipment
  • Ensuring effective operation
  • Keeping a watch out for any obstructions or other vessels
  • Assisting with the steering of the ship
  • Measuring water depth
  • Operating anchors and cargo-handling equipment
  • General safety and security tasks
  • Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and painting decks

Typically, most deckhands will start performing basic maintenance work to keep the ship clean and functioning properly. Some deckhands may be given more serious responsibilities after they have gained additional experience.

How Much Training Does a Deckhand Require?

While deckhands can have a range of different responsibilities, most employers prefer more than a high school diploma alone. Most individuals seeking to become a qualified deckhand for a reputable ship will go through training from a labor union or even an industry school. Union programs can be expected to include around 12 weeks of classroom training and 3 months of practical vessel experience. 

For deckhands seeking to fit into a specific role, additional training may be provided on engine, deck, or steward duties. Employers often provide new deckhands with on-the-job training when they arrive as well. This typically includes first aid instruction and firefighting practices. The on-site training period can last around three months.

If a deckhand wants to work on a U.S. ship that weighs over 100 tons, they must obtain a Merchant Mariner’s Document (MMD) or Z-Card issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. They may also need additional training throughout their career. As you can see, being a deckhand requires skills and training. Those who wish to pursue a career in this area must commit to putting in the hard work to develop as an offshore professional. 

For more information and help after an accident or injury as a deckhand, contact Arnold & Itkin. We represent injured seamen nationwide.

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