Barge Deckhand Salary: How Much Does a Barge Deckhand Make?

barge deckhand salary

We may not realize it, but maritime transport is the core of the international trade industry. Barges transport some 1,500 tons of cargo during each trip, accounting for $150 billion in economic output each year and generating roughly 650,000 jobs in the United States alone.

Of the most common jobs on the barge is the deckhand. Responsible for a variety of tasks on deck from cleaning to loading to safety protocol implementation and more, the deckhand is the backbone of maritime transport. But what’s a barge deckhand salary like? The numbers might surprise you.

Typical Barge Deckhand Salaries in the United States

How much does a barge deckhand make? Well, salaries for barge deckhands are not set in stone. That means that their wages can fluctuate based on a number of factors including their employer, their level of experience, their location, and the kind of cargo they deal with.

Typically, a barge deckhand can make anywhere between $11 and $31 per hour.

Average hourly salary rests at $17.

Deckhands on a barge tend to do better off than deckhands on fishing boats especially since there are peak seasons for the fishing trade. That is, when there’s no fish, there’s no work. That’s contrary to the barge deckhand’s situation that allows work any time of the year.

Annually, a barge deckhand can make as much as $69,000, but those are top earners with several years or even decades in the industry. The average annual salary for a barge deckhand sits at around $47,023.

Another thing to consider is that salaries for barge deckhands tend to change depending on the state where they’re employed. Here are some examples of hourly wages for deckhands across the US:

  • Kentucky - $15.44
  • Mississippi - $12.50
  • Virginia - $22
  • Texas - $25.32
  • Wyoming - $23.00
  • Indiana - $22.00
  • California - $27.00
  • Arkansas - $21.00
  • Alaska - $28.00
  • Michigan - $13.23

How Much Do Barge Deckhands Make in the UK and Australia?

While deckhands make just enough in the United States, they receive quite a handsome compensation elsewhere around the globe. UK and Australia in particular are known for their high regard for labor-intensive jobs like barge deckhands, which is why they tend to pay more compared to US rates.

In Australia, a deckhand can expect an average salary of up to $98,770 a year. In the United Kingdom, deckhands on barges receive up to $77,893 a year. Compared to US-based barge deckhands that average just a little over $47,000 a year, it’s easy to see that barge deckhands abroad stand a better chance at more comfortable wages.

Most Popular Cities for Deckhand Jobs

barge deckhand in rotterdam netherlands

Needless to say, there are localities that offer better salaries for barge deckhands especially if maritime cargo transport is big business in that area. For instance, a landlocked country might not be able to pay too much to a barge deckhand if they don’t see a lot of cargo transported via sea into their ports.

On the other hand, there are cities that provide wonderful opportunities for individuals looking to start a career as a barge deckhand. Some include:

Rotterdam, Netherlands

As a major port city in Europe, Rotterdam generates thousands of jobs for deckhands who want to lend a hand in their lively maritime cargo and trade industry. The city pays an average of €29 per hour, which translates to $34.04.

Santa Clara, California, USA

Santa Clara in California provides a barge deckhand salary that’s up to 21% higher than the national average. They pay $27.35 hourly, making them one of the best places to work for this type of maritime professional.

Antwerp, Belgium

This port city sees an energetic maritime cargo transport industry. They pay an hourly rate of over $26 for their barge deckhands, and provide a range of benefits to sweeten the deal.

What Does a Barge Deckhand Do?

While the pay and benefits might definitely be enticing, a barge deckhand’s job is anything but easy. These guys quite literally make up the workforce of the entire maritime transport industry. So they do a lot of the heavy lifting - really.

Some of the responsibilities of a barge deckhand include:


It’s important to keep things as clean and dry as possible. Deckhands are responsible for clearing out any clutter, and mopping up the floors to minimize the risk of accidents.

Looking Out

The deckhand usually takes on the role of lookout especially when the captain needs eyes on the surroundings while he maneuvers the boat. The deckhand works hand in hand with the pilot of the barge to make sure they move seamlessly in and out of docks and between other vessels in the area.

Loading and Unloading

Perhaps the most physically demanding part of the job, deckhands will manually carry cargo when necessary. They also guide other heavy machines that might lift and load cargo onto the barge.

Maintaining and Repairing

While they’re not engineers, barge deckhands are expected to be able to perform minor repairs and maintenance tasks on existing machines and tools on board.

Tips on Becoming a Barge Deckhand

Thinking about changing careers and joining the action on a barge? Here are a few tips to help improve your chances of landing a gig on a barge:

Get Fit

The job of a barge deckhand is perhaps one of the most physically demanding on the planet. In fact, most companies will put applicants through a physical fitness check to make sure they’re ready to take on the challenge.

Invest in Certification

While the educational requirements for a barge deckhand aren’t too high, companies place value on applicants who have completed any sort of maritime training program.

Learn Safety Basics

In case of an accident, a deckhand should be able to provide necessary critical care. Any sort of training for basic life support and first aid can help boost your chances of getting hired.

An Exciting New Career Option

Definitely, life on a barge isn’t for everyone. The demanding workload, restrictive hours, and the fast-paced environment can be overwhelming if you’re not cut out for the job. But hey, if that handsome overseas barge deckhand salary doesn’t seem to shabby, and you feel that you’re a fit for the job, then it might be time to contemplate that career change.

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