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Deck hand

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Summary of occupation

Deckhands carry out a range of basic duties essential to the running and maintenance of a boat or ship. The exact duties of a deckhand can vary depending on the type of vessel they work on. Those working on sailing ships may have to climb tall masts and work in the ship's rigging, while those working on a charter boat or ferry may spend more time taking care of passengers, sometimes serving drinks and food. Regardless of the vessel, all deckhands assist in keeping the vessel clean and seaworthy, keeping lookout, steering and adjusting the course as directed and dealing with any emergencies that occur.

ANZSCO description: Performs maintenance and lookout tasks aboard a ship.
Alternative names: Seafarer
Specialisations: Barge Hand, Ferry Hand, Tug Hand
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A deckhand needs:

  • an awareness of maritime safety issues
  • to be able to work as part of a team
  • to be physically fit
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • a neat and tidy appearance if working with members of the public.
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Working conditions

Many deckhands only spend short periods of time at sea, however, with experience and greater training they may spend weeks or months at a time away from land. They work as part of a team and must follow safe work practices to minimise the risk of danger to themselves, other crew members and passengers. They often work outdoors, in a range of weather conditions, though even when working indoors they may be exposed to rough weather conditions, which can be unpleasant. Hours of work can vary greatly depending on the type of vessel and the season, with longer shifts generally required in summer months. Some deckhands may work shifts, which can include nights and weekends.

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Salary details

On average, deck and fishing hands can expect to earn approximately $680 per week  ($35 355 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As a deck hand develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Deckhands use ropes and knots for a variety of purposes, including berthing vessels and tying down cargo. They may also use navigational instruments and radio equipment, usually under the supervision of a senior crew member. Safety equipment is very important and can include fire-extinguishers, life jackets and inflatable life rafts. They may also use standard cleaning equipment and hand tools to carry out general maintenance duties.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To work as a deck hand you must obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). 

The relevant qualification,Certificate I in Maritime Operations (General Purpose Hand Near Coastal), must be completed through an AMSA approved registered training organisation. 

​Visit the AMSA website for a list of approved training providers. 

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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