What are Workers on a Ship Called? [Explained]

When it comes to understanding ships and just how they work there’s actually quite a bit that you want to take a look at. And one of those things is about the people who work on the boat or ship. There’s a lot to understand about these individuals and if you want to be one of them you’re going to have even more to learn.

What are Workers on a Ship Called?

The workers and crew on a ship are called sailors or seamen. The term sailor came about when sailboats were the main form of ocean transportation. The more modern term, seamen, is just for men who work at sea. Women who work at sea would be sea women.

Still, the most common terms that you’ll hear are sailors or crew used to refer to the people who work on a ship. These terms are considered acceptable for either male or female members of the workforce and can be used to refer to groups of either or both. The individual terms of seamen and sea women are not as common and you’re not likely to hear someone referred to in these ways. 

How Do You Become a Ship Crew?

If you’re talking a naval crew you would go and get recruited at a Navy office near you. If you want to be part of a civilian vessel you can apply to a company that does work at sea. If you live somewhere where private crews are used on ships you can ask at a marina or harbour to see if anyone is hiring.

Becoming part of a ship’s crew will generally require some experience onboard a ship and you will likely need to start from the very bottom before you’ll be able to become a full part of the crew. While benign a deckhand is technically a part of the crew, many won’t feel that they are ‘part of the team’ until they get a little higher on the hierarchy. This will require you to work your way up and continue to gain experience in the different areas of running the ship as you do.

What is the Hierarchy on a Ship?

On merchant ships, the hierarchy is fairly straightforward. At the top is the Master, followed by a Chief Officer, Second officer, and Third Officer if the crew is large enough. Anyone below that if the crew is large enough would be considered a Deck Cadet. Other positions include the AB, who will assist the officer on watch, the OS who will maintain the cleanliness of the ship, and the boatswain who will oversee these lower positions.

Keep in mind that on civilian vessels there may not be so many positions or the positions might not seem quite as high-powered or official. Many of the crew members on a smaller ship have set titles but may be responsible for far more positions or tasks than their job role actually specifies. Don’t be surprised if you’re responsible for some tasks that might seem ‘beneath’ your title. 

What is the Lowest Position on a Ship?

Following the idea that you will be applying for a merchant crew ship the lowest position on the vessel would be the OS. This person is considered an apprentice in most situations. Not only do they maintain the vessel’s appearance and cleanliness they will also assist in any other situation as deemed necessary by the officers.

The people who are lowest on the hierarchy for a ship are responsible for a lot of what’s considered the ‘grunt work.’ This means a lot of the menial tasks that the rest of the crew doesn’t want to do. They will generally be responsible for a lot (if not all) of the cleaning and making sure that everything is running smoothly. They may be used as a gopher to get items and bring them back and forth for other members of the crew as well. 

What is the Highest Rank on a Ship?

The highest-ranking position on a merchant ship would be the Master. This person acts as a captain of the vessel, overseeing the crew, cargo, travel of vessel, and communication with both the ownership company, other vessels, and regulatory groups.

The highest level position on the ship is responsible for running the ship and making sure that everything is done the way that it should be. They are responsible for keeping everyone else on task and making sure that each member of the crew is accounted for. Not only that but they must oversee the cargo and the trip itself as well as any passengers that might be on the ship to make sure everyone is safe. 

Where Do Crew Sleep on Ships?

The crews of ships sleep in what is called cabins. This usually happens even when a ship is docked for up to two weeks. The cabins are beneath the deck and can be located anywhere on the ship, although they may be in places that are considered undesirable for passengers or unsavory for cargo recovery like at the extreme bow, front, of the ship.

Crew members are responsible for their own cabins and this is a part of their overall responsibilities while on the ship. These cabins may be quite crowded as many of them will have several crew members in each. Each crew member will have a bed or bunk and perhaps a small amount of space for storing their belongings however that may be all that they have and there is generally very little or no privacy on the ship. This means that crew members are always around at least a few of their fellow crew members. 


There are many different parts of the crew and many different people who are responsible for making sure that the ship runs smoothly and efficiently. For those who want to be part of a ship’s crew, it’s generally easy to get started, but you have to be willing to work your way up from the lowest levels to get to the middle or anywhere close to the top. 

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