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The Average Salary of Workers on Deep Draft Vessels

by Rick Suttle

It takes plenty of workers to operate deep water vessels in oceans, large rivers and the Great Lakes. Captains oversee all the ships' operations, while sailors, marine oilers and deckhands do most of the physical labor and maintenance. If you work on a deep water vessel, your salary will vary depending on your title -- between $39,000 and $76,000 -- according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ship Engineers

Ship engineers earn the highest salaries of all deep draft vessel workers. Their average annual salaries were $75,480 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. If you were among the top 10 percent in earnings, you'd make over $118,050 per year. Ship engineers operate the propulsion systems of deep water vessels, including the engines, generators, boilers and pumps. They also maintain inventory and supplies on ships and calculate the fueling requirements. To become a ship engineer, you need a bachelor's degree from a maritime college, such as the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Maine Marine Academy or Florida Institute of Technology.

Captains, Mates and Pilots

In 2012, the average salary for captains, mates and water pilots was $73,760, according to the BLS. Top pilots can earn over $125,930 per year. You would also need a bachelor's degree from a maritime college to become a captain, mate or ship pilot. Your primary duties as a captain would be supervising all officers and crew, ensuring proper safety standards, logging all the ship's movements and activities and interacting with passengers. Mates monitor the ship's position and ensure cargo is loaded according to specifications. If you work as a pilot on a ship, you'd be responsible for steering the ship into the harbor or through rough currents.

Sailors and Marine Oilers

Sailors and marine oilers earned average salaries of $39,760 per year in 2012, based on BLS data. You'd make over $59,970 if you were among the top paid in the industry. Training for sailors and marine oilers is mostly on the job. The duration is usually contingent on the size of the ship, with larger ships requiring more training. As a sailor or marine oiler, your training would likely last anywhere from several months to one year. Sailors load and unload cargo, clean the insides of ships and keep watch for other vessels, buoys and lighthouses. Marine oilers lubricate gears, shafts, bearings and various engine parts.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects a 21 percent increase in jobs for sailors and marine oilers in the next decade, which is faster than the 14 percent growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for captains, mates and pilots should also grow at an above-average pace of 20 percent, while ship engineers will experience an average number of job opportunities between 2010 and 2020. Demand for these deep draft vessel workers should remain strong if the economy continues to improve.

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