What do Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels Do?
Captains and mates are responsible for the day-to-day operations of water vessels. They ensure that the vessels are in good working order and that crew members are well-trained and performing their duties. Pilots use their expert knowledge of a particular port or harbor to help visiting vessels avoid possible hazards to navigation.There is expected to be a 14 percent increase in the number of jobs available for captains, mates and pilots of water vessels over a 10-year period. That adds up to over 2,000 new job openings each year for this occupation.
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels Skills and Abilities
Captains, mates and pilots all need to have knowledge of shipboard safety equipment and procedures, as well as general vessel operations. They need to have the ability to monitor both the big picture situation and the minutest details. Situational awareness and problem sensitivity are vital qualities for all of these positions. Captains and mates need to have mechanical abilities, as well as people skills. They are team leaders as well as technical experts. Pilots must have detailed knowledge of the body of water on which they work. Charts and maps quickly become outdated due to shifting winds, sands and currents, so a pilot needs to have real local knowledge that is updated on a regular basis.
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels Duties
As captain of a water vessel, you will have many duties, starting with general oversight of everyone and everything onboard. Depending on the size of the vessel and crew, a captain may delegate some responsibilities, but should always remember to inspect work that has been done. Some specific captain’s duties include:
- Navigating by means of radar, global positioning system (GPS), charts, depth finders, local landmarks, lighthouses, numbered buoys and lights
- Monitoring the onboarding of passengers and cargo
- Docking and undocking safely and per the relevant right-of-way rules
- Keeping an eye on supply levels and equipment conditions
- Arranging for purchases of new equipment, as well as arranging repairs, provisioning and refueling
- Hiring crew and making sure crew members are up-to-date on certifications and other necessary documentation
- Keeping ship’s logs updated and accurate
- Signaling other vessels as needed
- Communicating with the Coast Guard and other authorities when necessary
A mate serves as the captain’s right hand, and is customarily in charge of crew training and performance. The mate is usually a watch leader, making sure that the vessel operates smoothly when the captain is not on duty. A mate’s specific duties may include:
- Conducting emergency drills to prepare for medical emergencies, weather emergencies, abandon ship procedures and man overboard scenarios
- Communicating with personnel in upcoming ports to arrange dockage and other necessities
- Training both new and experienced crewmembers
- Acting as a liaison between captain and crew
- Inspecting gear for wear, and repairing or replacing it as necessary
- Supervising maintenance projects
- Navigating along the course set by the captain
Pilots generally work out of one geographic location instead of remaining on the same vessel for the duration of a voyage. Therefore, pilots must have precise knowledge of their specific port or harbor, and must understand the operations of various types and sizes of vessels. Specific duties include:
- Docking and undocking
- Advising captains regarding shoals, unusual wind patterns and other hazards unique to a particular geographic area
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels Tools and Technology
Tools and technology that you will use as a captain, mate or pilot include communications systems, maritime signaling systems, cables, chains and windlasses. You may use specialized software to keep your log book updated, and navigation software to plot your course.
Education and Training for Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels
Many captains, mates and pilots earn a Bachelor’s degree from a maritime school or academy, but several months at sea and countless hours on duty are required to really learn your role and to qualify for licensing by the Coast Guard. Sea time can be earned on many different types of vessels operating various types of training programs. Once adequate sea time has been earned, you will be able to take a licensing test.
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels Salary
Most captains, mates and pilots earn between $36,400 and $128,300 per year, with the median annual salary being $72,300. On an hourly basis, that’s a range of $17.49 to $61.70 with a median rate of $34.78.
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels Jobs by Geography
Texas, Louisiana and California have the highest numbers of working captains, mates and pilots and are each expecting a growth rate of over 14 percent over a 10-year span. If you want to work in one of these roles, remember that the most jobs are in the states with the busiest commercial ports.