Offshore InjuryBlog

What Is a Deckhand?

Considering a career in the maritime industry? Have a loved one who works as a deckhand? Understanding more about this important role can give you a better idea of what to expect on the job. Ships and vessels of all sizes require all types of workers to help maintain effective operations. Some of the most key members of a crew are deckhands. These individuals perform a number of essential tasks to help keep a vessel on track and afloat.

What Will a Deckhand Do on the Job?

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. Deckhands have some of the broadest responsibilities, including:

  • 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 the Job Require?

While deckhands can have a range of different responsibilities, most employers prefer more than just a high school diploma. 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 weights 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 to complete 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.

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