Career Development

What Does a Ferry Captain Do?

Find out what a ferry captain does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a ferry captain.

Ferry captains are responsible for the safe operation of water vessels. They’re often in charge of a crew of deckhands, engineers, and other staff who help to ensure that all passengers reach their destination safely.

Ferry captains must be able to read maps and charts as well as understand tidal patterns and currents. They also need to know how to operate all equipment on board their vessel, including engines, pumps, navigation systems, etc.

Ferry Captain Job Duties

Ferry captains have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Monitoring navigation systems to ensure safe operation of the vessel
  • Operating ferry equipment, including steering the vessel, monitoring engines, and communicating with other vessels and port authorities by radio or radar
  • Supervising the loading and unloading of cargo and passengers according to established schedules
  • Reporting any mechanical problems to maintenance staff and making minor repairs when possible
  • Performing safety checks to ensure that all safety requirements are being met
  • Reporting accidents or other issues to supervisors
  • Communicating with other crew members regarding operational details
  • Maintaining logs of daily activities, such as operating time and speed of the vessel, fuel consumption rates, and weather conditions
  • Ensuring that all passengers follow safety guidelines

Ferry Captain Salary & Outlook

Ferry captains’ salaries vary depending on their level of experience, the size of the vessel they captain, and the company for which they work. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of overtime.

  • Median Annual Salary: $66,500 ($31.97/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of ferry captains is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

The need to replace ferry captains who leave for other jobs or retirements will result in some job growth. However, the number of new ferryboats being built is expected to decline, which will limit the overall need for ferry captains.

Ferry Captain Job Requirements

Ferry captains typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: Ferry captains are typically required to have a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED). Some captains may have an associate or bachelor’s degree in marine science or another related field. These degrees can help captains qualify for higher-paying positions and give them an advantage over other candidates.

Training & Experience: Ferry captains are required to have at least five years of experience as a deckhand before they can apply for the position. They can gain this experience while working on a ferry or on a cruise ship.

Ferry captains can also receive training through the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard offers a course called the Master or Mate Unlimited that provides training in navigation, rules of the road, piloting, meteorology, first aid and more. The course is available in both classroom and online formats.

Certifications & Licenses: Ferry captains need a captain’s license to operate a ferry. Each state has different requirements for getting a license. Most require you to have experience as a mate on a commercial vessel and for you to pass an exam.

Ferry Captain Skills

Ferry captains need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are essential for ferry captains, as they must be able to communicate with passengers, crew members and other professionals. Ferry captains must be able to communicate clearly and concisely to ensure that their passengers understand their instructions and that the crew members understand their requests. Ferry captains must also be able to communicate with other professionals, such as law enforcement, to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members.

Navigation and charting: Ferry captains use navigation and charting skills to ensure their vessels travel safely and arrive at their destinations on time. They use these skills to read maps, charts and other navigation tools to identify hazards and other obstacles that may affect their vessels. They also use these skills to determine the fastest and safest routes for their vessels.

Problem-solving skills: A ferry captain’s job involves navigating a vessel through various weather conditions and other obstacles. They need to be able to identify and solve problems quickly and effectively. This can include identifying mechanical issues, making quick decisions about changing routes or finding alternative routes when weather conditions are unfavorable.

Leadership skills: A ferry captain’s leadership skills are important for ensuring the safety of their crew and passengers. They may also use their leadership skills to ensure the ferry runs smoothly and on time. Captains may also use leadership skills to train new crew members and ensure they understand their duties.

Technical knowledge: A ferry captain needs to have a basic understanding of the mechanics of the vessel they operate. They need to know how to operate the vessel’s controls and understand the different systems that keep the vessel running. This includes knowledge of the electrical, hydraulic and propulsion systems. They also need to understand the different types of vessels and the differences between them. This includes knowing how to operate a vessel safely and efficiently.

Ferry Captain Work Environment

Ferry captains work on large boats that transport passengers and vehicles across bodies of water. They typically work long hours, including weekends and holidays, and are on call 24 hours a day. Ferry captains must be able to work in all weather conditions and be able to respond quickly and calmly in emergency situations.

Ferry Captain Trends

Here are three trends influencing how ferry captains work. Ferry captains will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Flexible Work Schedules

As the economy becomes more competitive, businesses are looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition. One way that they are doing this is by offering more flexible work schedules to their employees.

This trend is having a significant impact on the ferry industry, as captains are in high demand and can often set their own hours. By learning how to manage their time effectively, captains can take advantage of this trend and find success in the workplace.

The Importance of Customer Service

As customers become more demanding, the importance of customer service has become increasingly clear. This is especially true for those in the transportation industry, where customers rely on drivers and captains to get them where they need to go safely and on time.

Ferry captains who are able to provide excellent customer service will be in high demand, as they will be seen as professionals who can be trusted with important tasks. In order to be successful in this field, captains will need to be able to communicate effectively with customers and understand their needs.

More Collaboration Between Shipping Companies and Ports

As shipping companies and ports collaborate more, the role of the ferry captain will change.

In the past, ferry captains were responsible for navigating ships between ports. However, as shipping companies and ports collaborate more, the captain’s role will shift towards providing additional services, such as delivering cargo or helping with customs clearance.

This shift will require captains to have strong communication skills and an understanding of the shipping industry. It will also require them to be familiar with the ports where they operate, so that they can provide the best possible service to their clients.

How to Become a Ferry Captain

A career as a ferry captain can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s important to consider all the factors that will influence your success in this field, including your experience level, training, and personal attributes.

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for a career as a ferry captain is to gain experience on the water. This could mean working as a deckhand or mate on a commercial vessel, or volunteering with a local ferry service. You should also take advantage of any opportunities to attend training courses related to marine navigation and safety.

It’s also important to have a strong understanding of the rules and regulations governing maritime transportation. This can be achieved by studying up on international and national shipping laws, as well as attending workshops on best practices for safe navigation.

Advancement Prospects

Ferry captains typically start their careers as deckhands or mates before being promoted to captain. Some captains may also start their careers as mate on a larger vessel before being promoted to captain of a ferry. To be promoted to captain, you must have a license from the United States Coast Guard. To become a mate, you must have a license from the United States Coast Guard as well as a mate’s license.

Ferry Captain Job Description Example

We are looking for an experienced and licensed Ferry Captain to join our team. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 5 years’ experience as a Captain on a Ferry, as well as a valid Captain’s license. He or she will be responsible for the safe operation of the Ferry, as well as the safety of the passengers and crew. The Captain will also be responsible for the maintenance of the Ferry, and will be required to keep a log of all maintenance and repairs.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Operate the vessel in a safe and efficient manner in accordance with company policies and procedures
  • Maintain constant vigilance while underway, monitoring all aspects of the vessel’s operation and the surrounding environment
  • Make decisions regarding the safety of the vessel and its passengers, using sound judgment and experience
  • Handle mooring lines and docking maneuvers when arriving at and departing from port
  • Oversee the loading and unloading of vehicles and passengers, ensuring that all are done in a safe and orderly fashion
  • Conduct passenger counts and vehicle inventories as required
  • Monitor the behavior of passengers and take appropriate action if necessary
  • Keep an accurate log of the vessel’s movements, maintenance, and any incidents that occur during the voyage
  • Communicate with other vessels, shoreside facilities, and traffic control centers using radio or other means as required
  • Prepare the vessel for inclement weather and other potential hazards
  • Train new crew members in vessel operations and safety procedures
  • Perform routine maintenance and repairs on the vessel as needed

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • USCG Master’s License or higher
  • STCW95 Certification
  • 5+ years experience as a Captain on passenger vessels
  • Proven leadership and management skills
  • Extensive knowledge of maritime law, regulations, and safety standards
  • Ability to maintain a cool head in emergency situations

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • 10+ years experience as a Captain on passenger vessels
  • Familiarity with the waters around New York City
  • Working knowledge of New York Harbor Pilots Association rules and regulations
  • Experience working with the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish)


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