Work at Sea: How to Get a Freighter Job

You can work at sea in a freighter job, working your way to almost anywhere in the world, without money, short hair, applications, experience or references - all you need is a passport and a vaccination certificate.

| May/June 1971

  • Learn how to work at sea with no real-world experience using these helpful tips.
    Learn how to work at sea with no real-world experience using these helpful tips.
    Photo by Fotolia/il-fede
  • 009-088-01

    Photo by Charles Zabielskis

  • Learn how to work at sea with no real-world experience using these helpful tips.
  • 009-088-01

Learn how to get a freighter job and work at sea with no real-world experience.

Work at Sea: How to Get a Freighter Job

I'm here to tell you that — contrary to popular belief — you can still work your way to almost anywhere in the world on a freighter. You don't need money, short hair, experience or references. You won't even have to fill out an application! All you'll need is a passport and a vaccination certificate.

There are two good ways for the complete novice to get a job on a freighter. One is by going from ship to ship and asking each captain if he needs (a) a deckboy or (b) a workaway. A deckboy is part of the crew and gets paid (although very little) and a workaway gets no wages at all but swaps labor for his passage. Although few companies now accept workaways, some captains will still take one in place of a paid crew member.

Don't waste your time with United States vessels when going from ship to ship unless you're already in the American union (in which case, you probably wouldn't be using this method of locating a job anyway). If you're not a union member, don't bother trying to join; they'll just put you on a waiting list. I was about No. 200 when I first applied and, one year later, they had taken only ten people into the union. Now that the war in Asia is winding down, there are a lot of unemployed sailors — and too many union members. So concentrate on foreign vessels.

The second easy beginner's entry to a freighter job is through the Scandinavian Shipping Office. There are only two of these offices in the United States: One is on Pier 29 in San Francisco and the other is at Hansen Place in Brooklyn. When the captain of a Scandinavian ship in our waters needs crew members he calls one of these two offices, and the chances of getting a job this way are probably better than by going ship-to-ship.

The Scandinavian Shipping Office in San Francisco, where I hired on, gives out jobs at 10 a.m. each weekday. Members of the Scandinavian unions are given first preference, experienced nonunion people get second choice and anyone else present can then apply for jobs still unfilled on a first come first served basis. basis.

8/7/2018 10:42:48 PM

I want to move to New Zealand. I want to do it by freighter with a job on board. How many stopovers are there from Vancouver to Auckland? I would like to know so that I don't get stranded in an exotic place like Pago Pago in American Samoa.

8/7/2018 10:42:47 PM

I want to travel to New Zealand via freighter while working on the vessel so that I can at least do something instead of doing nothing the entire voyage. Anyone know how many stopovers there are before New Zealand? I am coming from Canada. That is why I am asking that question.

9/10/2017 6:25:15 AM

I have finished the school for navigation how to apply for a job



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