Merchant mariners are responsible for operating the watercraft that ply rivers, lakes and open oceans. These sailors operate tugboats, cargo vessels, cruise ships and other craft. During wartime, members of the Merchant Marine become an adjunct of the U.S. Navy and can be asked to transport troops and military cargoes. Their responsibilities vary greatly, as do their salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports income as hourly and yearly wages, so all monthly figures given here are extrapolated from these statistics.
Captains and First Mates
The highest-ranking officer aboard any merchant vessel is the captain, followed by the first mate. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there were about 30,450 of these workers in 2009, earning a mean salary of $5,895 per month. The lowest 10 percent of earners made $2,563 per month, while the highest 10 percent earned $9,560. The median 50 percent of these workers made $5,353 a month in 2009.
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Motorboat operators drive and operate motor-driven vessels between ships and other vessels, transporting people and cargo. The mean salary for these workers in 2009 was about $3,199 per month, according to the BLS, with the top 10 percent earning $4,993 a month, and the lowest 10 percent earning $1,725. The median 50 percent of motorboat operators made an average of about $2,768 per month in 2009.
Sailors and Marine Oilers
Sailors perform the daily tasks aboard ship, from standing watch to performing maintenance work and emergency procedures. The average monthly salary for these workers in 2009 was $2,609, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent of earners made $4,613, while the lowest 10 percent made about $1,803. The median 50 percent of sailors earned $2,984 in 2009.
Merchant marine engineers are responsible for ensuring the ship runs properly. They coordinate cargo operations, maintain engines and vital systems and repair problems when they arise. Ship engineers earned a mean monthly salary of $5,785 in 2009, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent of earners made $9,109, while the lowest 10 percent made $2,919. The median 50 percent of engineers earned about $5,303 per month in 2009.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Water Transportation Occupations
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: 53-5021 Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: 53-5011 Sailors and Marine Oilers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: 53-5031 Ship Engineers