Deckhand Ringa Paparahi

Deckhands may take care of passengers and assist in the operation of vessels such as harbour ferries and charter boats, or cast and haul in nets, lines or pots, and process fish on inshore or deep-sea fishing vessels.

Deckhands may do some or all of the following:

  • assist with berthing, casting off and anchoring vessels
  • assist with operating, maintaining and cleaning vessels and equipment such as nets and ropes
  • cast and haul in fishing nets, lines and pots
  • process and pack fish
  • help passengers on and off vessels, and look after cargo or passengers' baggage
  • prepare and serve food and drink
  • provide information and commentary for passengers
  • carry out emergency drills and procedures.

Physical Requirements

Deckhands need to have good hand-eye co-ordination, a good level of fitness and must be strong.

Useful Experience

Depending on the industry you want to work in, useful experience for deckhands includes:

  • manual labour
  • experience as a hospitality crew member at sea
  • customer service work, especially in tourism or related areas
  • experience at sea, such as pleasure boating or volunteering for the coastguard.

Personal Qualities

Deckhands need to be:

  • able to work well as part of a team
  • disciplined, with good attention to detail
  • alert, and able to remain calm under pressure and in an emergency.

Skills

Depending on the type of boat they work on, deckhands need to have knowledge of some or all of:

  • rope handling and the use of knots and lashings on a vessel
  • mending nets and splicing wire and rope skills
  • how to maintain equipment and machinery
  • the journey, destination and tourist attractions to provide information to passengers
  • how to cast and haul in nets, and fish processing skills such as gutting and filleting
  • safety at sea, first aid and emergency procedures, including firefighting, abandoning ship and emergency navigation.

Conditions

Deckhands:

  • usually work shifts, including early mornings and late evenings, weekends and public holidays. Fishing deckhands on inshore boats may spend up to a week at a time at sea. Those on deep-sea fishing boats can spend 40 to 50 days at sea, working six hours on, six hours off
  • work on deck or below deck on fishing boats, ferries or charter boats. Deep-sea fishing deckhands also work in the on-board factory processing fish
  • work in all types of weather conditions, including hazardous, very rough seas
  • may travel to different ports around New Zealand. Those working on deep-sea fishing boats may fish in the South Pacific or Southern Ocean.

Deckhands can earn around $44K-$55K per year.

Pay for deckhands varies depending on what type of vessel they work on and their experience.

Pay for fishing deckhands

Fishing deckhands are paid a wage and/or a percentage of the worth of each trip's catch.

  • Inshore fishing deckhands can expect to earn between minimum wage and $55,000 a year.
  • Deep-sea fishing deckhands usually earn between $45,000 and $85,000.
  • Highly qualified and experienced deep-sea fishing deckhands can earn $90,000 or more.

Pay for ferry and charter boat deckhands

Deckhands on vessels such as ferries and charter boats usually earn minimum wage or a little more a year. They may earn more than this with overtime and allowances.

Source: Maritime New Zealand, 2020.

Deckhands who gain relevant qualifications can progress into positions of more responsibility, such as leading hand or bosun, first mate and eventually skipper or ship's master. They may also progress to working on larger, more complex vessels.

Deckhands may specialise in a number of roles including:

Able Seafarer Deckhand
An able seafarer deckhand is a further advanced deck watch rating, and performs more advanced navigational watch tasks.
Bosun
A bosun is in charge of all deck crew on board a vessel and reports directly to the master.
Commercial Inshore Vessel Deckhand
Commercial inshore vessel deckhands assist inshore launch masters in the operation of vessels such as harbour ferries and charter boats.
Deck Watch Rating
As well as regular deckhand duties, the watch rating is part of the navigational watch.
Fishing Deckhand
Fishing deckhands shoot (cast) and haul in the nets, lines or pots on inshore and deep-sea fishing vessels. They may also process fish.
Maritime Tourism Deck Crew
Tourism Deck Crew host tourists and assure the safety and entertainment of those on board.
Superyacht Crew
A superyacht is a yacht that is 24 metres or longer, the crew follow orders of the captain and can do any job on board, from cleaning and hospitality roles to looking after passengers, as well as assisting in casting off and anchoring the vessel.

Years Of Training

There are no specific entry requirements to become a deckhand as you gain skills on the job. Most employers require you to pass maritime medical, eyesight and drug tests. 

Hours at sea may count towards gaining a Qualified Deck Crew (QDC) Certificate. To work towards further qualifications such as the Advanced Deckhand-Fishing (ADH-F) Certificate you need to first pass a maritime colour vision test.   

Deckhand

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