Frequently Asked Questions about Seafaring

What is a seafarer?

Seafarers are people who work in the maritime sector, most often on commercial or merchant ships. Seafarers are also known as “sailors” or “merchant marines”. A career in seafaring is demanding, but rewarding, with good pay and benefits. Seafarers are essential to the operations of marine vessels. These men and women perform a wide range of tasks to ensure the ship arrives and departs port safely, and on schedule. Seafarers’ duties include a variety of tasks from serving up hot meals in the ship’s galley, to performing deck maintenance like cargo handling, and working in the engine room on electrical and mechanical equipment. The training and skills gained at sea are also transferable to other industries outside of the marine industry. For Canadian seafarers, life at sea means a stable and safe work environment, and the opportunity to see the world and make lasting friendships as part of a true brotherhood of the sea

What are the different jobs classified under "seafarer"?

Positions vary depending on the vessel but here are some examples: Deckhands, Ordinary Seamen, Watchkeeping, Engine room, Mechanical Assistant, Cargo Handler, Oiler, Chief Cook and 2nd Cook.

What is the salary of a seafarer?

Generally, entry level positions pay a minimum of $5500 per month gross salary. Salary increases as you are promoted to higher positions.

What is the SIU of Canada?

The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) is the only voice advocating for merchant mariners across the country. The SIU represents the majority of unlicensed sailors working aboard vessels on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, on the East and West Coasts. We are affiliated with the Seafarers’ International Union of North America, serving unlicensed sailors since 1938.

Why should I join the SIU?

The SIU will always work to ensure that the labour rights of its members are upheld by the shipping companies they work for. Collective bargaining agreements with our shipping companies stipulate the high standards, wages, benefits and pension plans available to our members.

Becoming a member of the SIU means that workers never have to worry about their worker rights. We always stand up for Canadian seafarers.

As a member of the SIU, what is my benefits package?

Our Seafarers enjoy a standard benefits package which include drugs, vision and dental coverage.

Is there a pension plan?

SIU Members have the best pension plan in the industry. Our partnership with Manulife offers Members the ability to control their own financial future, with experts who will help every step of the way at your fingertips!

What are the working hours of a seafarer?

Seafarers are required to work eight hours per day, seven days per week, but may work up to 16 hours per day.

Am I paid overtime?

Anything above and beyond an eight hour workday will include overtime pay. If you work more than eight hours per weekday, you will receive time and a half. Anything over eight hours per day on weekends requires double time pay, and if you work holidays, you are paid double time and a half.

How long are seafarers away on a ship at one time?

Generally, seafarers are on board a ship for various lengths of time, but could range from 30 to 90 days at a time, followed by one month off. This varies depending on the job and contract.

Do I have to pay union dues?

Yes, all dues are taken from SIU members’ paychecks while working and members are obligated to maintain union dues during time off the vessel to remain in good standing.