Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics > Deckhands > Overview

Deckhands - Overview

Deckhands help operate and maintain ships and their equipment.

Deckhands work under the supervision of the ship's officers. They handle the lines that connect the ship to the dock when docking or departing. They stand watch to look out for other ships or objects in the ship's path.

Deckhands steer the ship. When the ship is traveling through shallow water, they measure the water depth to make sure the ship does not run aground. They maintain the ship's logs, which are records of information such as weather conditions and the distance traveled.

Deckhands maintain and operate deck equipment such as:

  • Lifeboats
  • Anchors
  • Cargo-handling machinery

Deckhands clean the ship. They:

  • Repair lines
  • Chip away rust
  • Paint and clean decks

Deckhands may load and unload cargo. With liquid cargo, they hook up hoses, operate pumps, and clean tanks.

Deckhands are called seamen on oceangoing ships. Beginning deckhands are called ordinary seamen. Those with more sea experience are called able seamen. Able seamen may direct other staff in cleaning or repairing the vessel.

Some deckhands work in the steward's department, where they are responsible for food service or laundry. They are called chief cook, stewards, or steward utilities.

The size of the crew varies by the type of ship and the type of work they do. A typical deep-sea merchant ship has six or more deckhands. Ships that operate in rivers or harbors may have only one deckhand, or they may have up to ten people on the crew.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.