What Are the Different Types of Seaman Jobs?

K. Kinsella

Seamen are people who are employed either by a national government or a private company to work on ships and other marine vessels. In many countries, some members of the Navy are officially referred to as seamen. Beyond the military, other seaman jobs are found on merchant ships that transport goods between nations. On commercial ships, seaman jobs include cleaning, maintenance, and engineering.

There are employment opportunities on cargo ships.
There are employment opportunities on cargo ships.

In the United Kingdom and other commonwealth countries, such as Australia, the lowest ranking members of a Navy ship or frigate are known as seamen. They are the lowest paid members of the Navy and aside from military duties, the seamen normally have to carry out unskilled tasks such as cleaning and laundry duties. In the United States Navy, there are two ranks of personnel below seaman, although the seamen are not classed as officers in the U.S. Navy. Junior ranking seamen must stay below deck during rough weather, whereas more experienced and high-ranking seamen perform various tasks above and below deck regardless of the weather. Seamen in the military are often posted overseas for long periods of time and often remain at sea for extended periods on patrol boats even during peacetime.

A seaman in a nation's navy may be tasked with maintaining a vessel's weapons or engineering systems.
A seaman in a nation's navy may be tasked with maintaining a vessel's weapons or engineering systems.

In the commercial arena, the term seaman is used to refer to anyone who works aboard a ship, although the ship's captains and other officers are usually referred to by their rank rather than as seamen. Junior seamen are usually responsible for cleaning the deck, maintaining the ship's flag, cooking, and performing other unskilled tasks. Experienced seamen operate cranes and winches that are used for moving cargo containers at ports and harbors. Most ships have a deck manager who oversees the seamen above board and ensures that safety regulations are complied with.

An ordinary seaman may perform manual labor on board a vessel.
An ordinary seaman may perform manual labor on board a vessel.

Cargo ships also have employment opportunities for people seeking more specialized seaman jobs. Mechanics must conduct regular maintenance checks above and below board. The mechanics are usually responsible for repairs and maintenance on cranes and winches. On small ships, the mechanic may also handle repairs in the engine room. Large ships usually have an engineer whose primary responsibilities are keeping the engine running and conducting repairs as they are needed, and having an engineer on board enables major ships to stay at sea without having to return to port to resolve mechanical problems.

Seaman perform a variety of tasks associated with operating a vessel.
Seaman perform a variety of tasks associated with operating a vessel.

In some countries, seaman jobs often involve operating small vessels to transport people between islands or nearby nations. These seamen often own and operate their own ships. Goods are sometimes transported by seamen traveling on small boats and taken to larger ports to be exported to Europe or North America.

A merchant seaman generally undergoes formal training and an apprenticeship before being hired to work as an employee on a vessel.
A merchant seaman generally undergoes formal training and an apprenticeship before being hired to work as an employee on a vessel.
Those who enlist in the U.S. Navy may go on to to become crew of one of several types of submarines, including the Ohio class submarine.
Those who enlist in the U.S. Navy may go on to to become crew of one of several types of submarines, including the Ohio class submarine.

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