This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
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 with less experience or working on smaller vessels usually earn
$33K-$55K per year
Experienced deckhands or those working on deep-sea vessels usually earn
$45K-$90K per year
Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand.
Pay for deckhands depends on what type of vessel they work on and how experienced they are.
Pay for ferry and charter boat deckhands
Deckhands on vessels such as ferries and charter boats usually earn between minimum wage and $42,000 a year. They may earn more than this with overtime and allowances.
Pay for fishing deckhands
Fishing deckhands are paid a wage and/or a percentage of what each trip's catch is worth, called a catch share.
- Inshore fishing deckhands usually earn between $35,000 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.
Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
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.
Skills and knowledge
Depending on the type of boat they work on, deckhands need to have some or all of the following:
- knowledge of rope handling and the use of knots and lashings on a vessel
- skill mending nets and splicing wire and rope
- knowledge of how to maintain equipment and machinery
- knowledge of the journey, destination and tourist attractions to provide information to passengers
- knowledge of how to shoot (cast) and haul in nets, and fish processing skills such as gutting and filleting
- knowledge of safety at sea, first aid and emergency procedures, including firefighting, abandoning ship and emergency navigation.
- 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 high-seas 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. Conditions at sea can be very rough and the work can be hazardous at times
- may travel to different ports around New Zealand. Those working on high-seas fishing boats may fish in the South Pacific or Southern Ocean.
What's the job really like?
Paul Boyce - Bosun
What is a typical day on the job?
"In the 12 hours on/12 hours off I would do a complete trip from port to port. Tie the vessel up at the wharf, discharge the cargo, reload the ship, sail again for Wellington. During the crossing the crew have set roster duties, checking everything is secure and closed, maintenance jobs on board and someone would be the lookout on the bridge. We do whatever needs to be done. As the bosun I oversee everybody in the deck crew and help with all the maintenance, cleaning, painting and chipping."
Challenges for a deckhand/bosun?
"Managing the crew, because there is a large variety of ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. Also the variety of things that pop up, you never know what's going to happen and sometimes those problems can be quite interesting – and sometimes it's just hard work."
What makes a good deckhand?
"Anyone who is prepared to get in and get dirty, and will carry their share of the jobs."
What is the best part of the job?
"The two weeks off! Equal time on and off is pretty awesome. The time I get to spend with my family is dedicated time so that’s the pay-off."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a deckhand as skills are learned on the job. Maritime jobs can often be entered with no experience, and hours at sea may count towards gaining a qualified deck crew licence.
Fishing companies usually ask prospective employees to undergo medical, eyesight and colour vision and drug testing – so being drug-free is essential.
A good way of improving your chances of getting a job as a deckhand is to do a pre-employment course.
Deckhands receive on-the-job training and can work towards further qualifications such as the Advanced Fishing Deckhand qualification. This qualification can improve chances of getting work on deep-sea fishing vessels. More information is available from Maritime New Zealand.
- Maritime New Zealand website - guidelines for Deck and Ratings Certification
- Maritime New Zealand website - information about Seafarer Certification
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a deckhand; however, NCEA Level 1 English and maths may be preferred by some employers.
Deckhands need to be:
- able to work well as part of a team
- disciplined, with good attention to detail
- alert, able to remain calm under pressure and in the event of an emergency.
I look for someone who can get along with all kinds of people and someone who is willing to get in and get dirty.
Paul Boyce - Bosun
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.
Deckhands need to have good hand-eye co-ordination, a good level of fitness and must be strong. Those serving the public must have a neat and tidy appearance.
Find out more about training
- Maritime NZ
- (04) 473 0111 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.maritimenz.govt.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Job chances best on deep-sea fishing boats
Opportunities for finding work as a fishing deckhand are best on deep-sea fishing boats. This is because the hard work and long periods spent away from home means some deep-water fishing deckhands do not stay long in the job. People with an Advanced Fishing Deckhand qualification may have a better chance of finding work on deep-sea fishing vessels.
Work experience can improve your chance of employment
Depending on what kind of deckhand you want to be, you can improve your chances of employment by:
- directly approaching a fishing company or skipper with your CV, as many jobs are not formally advertised
- work as an at-sea/onshore seafood processor, which is a good step towards getting work as a fishing deckhand on a deep-sea vessel
- doing a pre-employment course
- looking for maritime hospitality crew work in spring before the busy summer season.
Employers of deckhands vary
Deckhands may work for:
- small passenger ferry companies
- container and cargo shipping companies
- inshore and deep-sea fishing companies.
- Boyce, P, bosun, Strait Shipping, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Thorp, D, vessel operations, Sanford Deep-water Division, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2011.
- Walker, K, manager, International Maritime Institute of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2015.
Progression and specialisations
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:
- 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.
Last updated 12 June 2017