Barge Captains

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Barge Captains

Barge Captains - Working Conditions

In a typical work setting, ship captains and mates:

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Are very responsible for the work done by their crew.
  • Are responsible for the health and safety of their crew and passengers.
  • Have a high level of social contact as a captain. Mates have lower levels of social contact.
  • Sometimes are placed in conflict situations in which others may be rude or angry.
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  • Communicate with others primarily by face-to-face discussions and over the telephone. They also use e-mail but less frequently.
  • Nearly always work as part of a team.

Physical Work Conditions

  • Often work outdoors. May work indoors below deck when doing administrative or mechanical repair.
  • Are exposed to loud and distracting sounds and noise levels on a daily basis.
  • Are regularly exposed to contaminants.
  • Wear protective and safety attire on a daily basis.
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  • Are regularly exposed to extremely bright or low light.
  • Are often exposed to hazardous equipment, conditions, and situations that may result in cuts, burns, and scrapes.
  • Are sometimes exposed to very hot or very cold temperatures while working outdoors.
  • Sometimes experience whole body vibration when on the job.
  • Occasionally must get into awkward positions to reach cramped work places.
  • Occasionally are exposed to high places.
  • Sometimes wear a special uniform.
  • Often work physically near others while performing tasks.

Work Performance

  • Must fully complete and be exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger the crew.
  • Repeat the same physical and mental activities.
  • Must set their pace based on the speed of the equipment they operate.
  • Regularly make decisions that strongly affect others, including coworkers and the outcome of their tasks.
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  • Captains set their daily tasks and goals without seeking input first. Mates usually take some direction before beginning their daily work.
  • Work in a moderately stressful atmosphere in which daily and weekly deadlines must be met.


  • Stand watch for four hours and are off for eight hours while at sea.
  • Work seven days a week while at sea.
  • Work 60 days and have 30 days off, when working the Great Lakes.
  • May not work in winter when the Great Lakes are frozen.
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  • May work year round on rivers, canals, and in harbors.
  • May work eight- or twelve-hour shifts and go home every day, especially if working on rivers.
  • May work every day for a week or month and then have an extended period of time off.
Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.