What Does a Bosun Do? (Salary, Job Description, and More)
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What Does a Bosun Do? (Salary, Job Description, and More)

A bosun (also known as a boatswain) is a skilled worker on board a ship.

This position requires many different skills and various types of responsibilities associated with this position, depending on the needs of the vessel or fleet in question. 

You may work as an independent contractor or for the government in some circumstances, but this role tends to be highly specialized, so there’s no one-size-fits-all job description. 

Here’s everything you need to know about this career opportunity, from its basic requirements and duties to how much money you can expect to make in this role.

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What Is a Bosun

A bosun is an unlicensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship. 

This word comes from the Middle English boatswain and originally from the Old French bocelin. 

A bosun is responsible for supervising the work of other deck hands and ensuring that it is carried out correctly and efficiently. 

They are also responsible for maintaining and repairing the ship’s rigging, sails, anchors, moorings, and hulls. 

In addition to these duties, they may be required to stand watch or act as a helmsman when necessary. 

The position of bosun is an important one on a ship, and the salary reflects this. To qualify for a job in this role, you must have at least five years of experience in marine engineering. 

You will also need to pass examinations that assess your technical knowledge and general seamanship skills.

What Does a Bosun Do?

They are responsible for safety aboard their ship. The bosun will monitor all watertight doors, deal with emergencies such as fires or sinking vessels, and coordinate rescue operations. 

They must also ensure that the vessel is well stocked with provisions such as food and fuel. 

They might be called to supervise loading cargo onto ships or unloading them when they reach port. 

A ship’s bosun will ensure that no one is left on board after everyone has disembarked. 

When the ship is ready to leave, the bosun will signal any tugboats or other assisting boats by firing three short blasts from a whistle. 

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Bosun Job Duties

Some duties of a bosun include

  • Monitoring the stability of mooring lines and dockside cranes
  • Make sure any deck machinery is operational
  • Inspecting fittings for wear and tear
  • Arranging transport of cargo; issuing orders to officers in charge of particular areas of responsibility
  • Performing emergency repairs
  • Maintaining tools used in his or her trade
  • Cleaning decks, equipment, corridors, stairs and toilets as required.

In addition to their regular duties, bosuns also need to be able to handle emergencies such as fires, man overboard drills, and medical emergencies. 

They also need to be familiar with maritime law and regulations.

Skills Required

Being a bosun requires excellent leadership skills as you will be responsible for managing a team of deckhands. 

Good communication skills are crucial as you must relay information clearly and concisely. 

Organization and time management skills are essential to keep the deck running smoothly. 

Finally, being physically fit is a must as the job can be very physically demanding.

Job Description of a Bosun

A bosun is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a ship. This includes painting, repairs, mooring lines, and general maintenance. 

A bosun may also handle the sails and rigging and supervise the deck crew. 

The salary of a bosun depends on the size of the vessel and the experience of the bosun.


A bosun’s salary depends on the size of the vessel they are working on, their experience, and the company they are working for. 

Most bosuns make between $50,000 and $1300,000 a year. 

Bosun Work Environment

The work environment for a bosun is on board a vessel at sea. The job is physically demanding as it requires being able to stand for long periods and working in all weather conditions.

There is lots of climbing involved as bosuns often have to go up into the rigging. 

Bosuns typically work long hours with shifts that can last up to 12 hours. They also have to be on call 24 hours a day in case of emergencies. 

The job can be dangerous as bosuns often deal with heavy machinery and equipment.

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In short, a bosun is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a ship. This includes everything from cleaning and painting the hull to mooring the vessel.

A bosun typically works under the chief mate or captain and can earn a decent salary. 

If you’re looking for an exciting and challenging career at sea, then a job as a bosun might be right for you.