Bonus & Extra Income Opportunities for Seafarers On Board

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Salary, Seaman's Life | 0 comments

Aside from the regular salary we receive every month, some ships provide extra income opportunities for their crew.

People are motivated by money and these bonuses are a good way to boost their morale, especially during inspections like the vetting process.

But not all companies have this kind of policy. Here, we will discuss some legitimate and legal extra income possibilities some of our seafarers are lucky to have.

Extra Income Opportunities On Board

1. Excess Overtime (OT)

Work overtime cannot be avoided on board. Our rest hours and working hours are totally different from that on land. We can be called for duty at any time of the day or night.

But is this something we don’t like?

For some yes. However, if our excess overtime is paid handsomely, then most of us would be very happy to work even during Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Extra hours mean extra income.

Many years ago, I experienced this in a vessel that was running on a time charter contract. The voyage was very short- mostly 6 hours of navigation and 3 to 8 hours of pilotage.

Our working hours were pretty much over the limit. But at the end of the month, we were given an excess overtime of more than 120 hours.

Sometimes, our senior officers add more if they are satisfied with our performance. Pa-kunswelo kumbaga.

Now if your overtime rate is 3.52 USD per hour (that’s I think for Ordinary Seaman), then you would have an extra income of USD422.4.

Not bad eh, mate? Imagine that with the other ranks.

2. Vetting Bonus

On some types of ships like tankers, there is a scrutinized survey from oil companies called a Vetting Inspection.

A Vetting Inspection is conducted by oil companies on a particular ship. The whole process is focused on the safety aspect to determine if the vessel complies with all the rules and regulations.

In short, this is the ship’s ticket to get voyage contracts and earn money.

If the ship fails the inspection, those companies won’t charter the vessel because they see it as unsafe or dangerous.

Or the ship could still possibly get some voyage but the charter hire could be very low.

The ship's crew escorting a vetting inspector.

Why the Bonus Prize?

The ship’s crew is the key to passing the inspection.

Preparation is very arduous since a single observation, finding or mistake could make the ship unfit for charter.

To pass the vetting process, the whole crew must gear up and keep the vessel on the highest safety standard as they can. It’s a team effort.

Luckily, some companies motivate their crew to give the best cooperation by rewarding a prized money called a vetting bonus. This is one of the best extra income opportunities in maritime that’s exclusive to tankers.

Others even double the amount if the ship got zero observation, especially from oil majors.

In my experience, we were given $100.00 to $150.00. Though the preparation was stressful, we were compensated very nicely.

3. Shipyard/ Drydock Bonus

One of the busiest segments of a ship’s life is when she is in the shipyard. Even before the vessel enters the yard, preparation is made on board so the work can start immediately when docked.

Once inside the yard, unusual tasks are carried out like dismantling of mooring winches, the ship’s crane, main engine, auxiliary engines, pumps, valves, and the like.

Cargo holds cargo tanks, fuel tanks, chain lockers, ballast tanks, cofferdams, and all others are also opened, checked, and inspected. Repairs are made whenever applicable.

Shipyard personnel and technicians are presently doing some repairs too.

The ship’s crew, on the other hand, could be very busy with so many different jobs. They have to finish all those on the jobs list before sailing.

Tasks that cannot be made while the ship is at sea are done here. 

This includes chipping and painting in cargo tanks, inside ballast lines, chain lockers, winches, dismantling some pumps, and more.

For tanker ships, hot work may be made on deck.

A vessel in a wet dock inside the Damen Shipyard in Rotterdam.
Vessel in Shipyard but in a lay-by berth only.

Fortunately, some companies reward their crew with a shipyard or dry dock bonus.

Its a compensation in the form of money given at the end of the month or when the ship finishes her repairs in the yard.

The compensation varies from $100.00 to $500.00, or even more.

4. Sale Bonus

Sometimes, shipowners decide to sell a particular vessel in their fleet.

It could be that the ship is old and they’re having difficulty finding charterers.

Another reason could also be that they are experiencing financial difficulty and selling some of their ships could help make the company afloat.

Secondhand vessels still cost millions of dollars when sold depending on the size, condition, and age.

Thus, some companies generously give or reward their crew when they sell a certain ship. The sale bonus may only apply to the crew of that vessel being sold.

An amount of $300.00 to $1000.00 could be given depending on the rank of the crew.

However, the crew could be unemployed for an indefinite period after selling the ship.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) defines some provisions for this kind of event.

5. Scrapping

We have so many unused junk or scraps on board.

Old mooring ropes, metals, stainless steel, wires, hoses of different kinds, old/ expired pilot ladders, valves, broken/ expired liferafts, immersion suits, pallets, and many others are often stored on board for many years.

In some ports, the ship pays when they throw these junks. Other shore facilities don’t allow disposal of them. It has to be kept on board.

It has to be kept on board until the ship visits a certain port that receives these types of garbage.

However, some countries especially in Asia and several parts of Africa buy scraps from ships. When your ship sails to these places, then you are in for a good treat!

An old mooring rope that is 100 meters (or more) long may be valued at $50.00 to $100.00. Old cargo hoses and broken valves also have price tags on them.

Even expired safety equipment can be sold too.

If you happen to store so many junks in your ship and manage to sell them, each of the concerned parties could receive an extra $100.00 or more.

6. Tank Cleaning Bonus

This kind of bonus usually applies to any ship, especially tankers.

The presence of cargo tanks, ballast tanks, fuel tanks, cofferdams, or any other enclosed tanks creates a possibility that a tank cleaning bonus is given.

There are various reasons why we need to wash tanks.

For cargo tanks, it is a preparation made so that it can be loaded with the next cargo without the danger of contamination.

Inspection, maintenance, or preparation for the shipyard can be a good subject on why we perform this.

Tank Washing Machine and an open tank dome in a tanker ship.
Deck of a tanker vessel.

Companies are paying extra compensation to the crew involved in tank cleaning. The payment could be on a per-tank basis or a lump sum depending on the agreement.

Each crew could get $100.00 after a successful tank cleaning procedure.

However, not all companies provide this benefit to their crew. Even in my decade at sea, I haven’t experienced this type of extra income opportunity.

But I know many of my fellow seafarers enjoy this now and then.

7. Hold Cleaning Bonus

Hold cleaning is similar to tank cleaning only this time, it is performed in bulk carriers or general cargo ships.

Cargo tanks are for tankers while cargo holds are for bulk carriers.

The same idea is applied when it comes to holding cleaning operations- to prepare cargo holds for loading the next cargo.

Bonus is given when the cargo surveyor approves the holds as fit for loading. However, it still depends on the company if the crew is entitled to extra pay.

8. De-slopping

Slops are oily water mixtures stored in a tank designed for such. They may be wash water waste from tank washing operation or when you pump inside an oily mixture from the deck.

Since dirty water with oil is not allowed overboard, they are stored in tanks called slop tanks. They have other names too like retention tank, residual tank, wash water tank, and drain tank.

If your voyage is mostly in Europe, the vessel usually pays the shore facility or the barge when discharging slops.

But when you are in some ports in Asia, there are some companies buying these slops on a per-cube basis.

What’s dirty for us is gold to them so they pay the ship for it.

Again, the amount given to the concerned party depends on many factors to which only the Master and Chief Mate can decide. 

But $50.00 to $100.00 cash would be a very nice extra cash for the deck crew.

9. De-sludging

Slops may be for the deck department but the engine personnel also have their own “extra income” exclusive of their own.

This is mostly through de-sludging. Sludge is dirty oil waste in the engine room stored in a separate tank called the sludge tank.

Since it’s an oil waste of many kinds, they are actually more expensive than slops. Slops contain more water than oil and buyers only want the oil part.

Would you be happy to receive an extra cash of $100.00 after a de-sludging operation?

Tank vents from the engine room. Sludge tank, bilge tank, overflow tank, fuel oil drain tank and lube oil drain tank.
Tank vents of engine room tanks leading out to the deck.

10. Squeegee Bonus

One of the most high-paying extra income-generating jobs on board is pushing operation or squeegee bonuses.

Some types of ships carry cargoes that require heating throughout the voyage. A certain temperature is maintained to prevent it from solidifying inside the tank.

During discharging operations, these cargoes can’t be 100% discharged without the help of manual manpower.

Cargoes are trapped in some areas of the tank unable to slide to the suction side due to its viscosity.

For this reason, crewmembers are asked to go inside the tanks and “push” these cargoes so it slides to the bilge well, enough for the pump to suck it out.

A squeegee is used to do this hence the term squeegee bonus. The remaining cargo is “pushed” and when your crew mate says something about pushing, he is referring to this job.

Although this is one of the best and high-paying extra income opportunities out there, it’s also one of the most dangerous and tiring.

Hard Job and Hard-Boiled Eggs

However, this is not easy money. Remember that the cargo is heated to a certain temperature enough to keep it in a liquid state.

Inside the tank would be very hot. Not to mention that it’s dark and very noisy.

But the reward for this job is very good since you are paid on a per-tank basis. If your ship carries ten tanks with this cargo, imagine how much you’d get after the pushing operation.

11. Passing High-Risk Areas (HRA)

High-Risk Areas or HRA are specific sea areas that are infested with pirates, armed robbers, and terrorists that pose security and safety threats to ships passing these regions.

We’ve seen the movie “Captain Philips” and that is the worst that every ship might get into when passing.

Hence, to reward the crew for passing such areas, the company provides them with an HRA bonus.

HRA bonus is usually based on your basic pay per day.

So if you pass a pirate-infested area for ten days, your basic pay per day will be multiplied by ten days and that’s your extra income on top of your regular on-board salary.

Not All Ships Have This So…

Remember that not all ships or companies provide their crew with these kinds of extra income opportunities. You have to ask the Officers if such pay is given or not.

One reason is that these jobs are part of your duty on board so it’s not necessary that they pay you extra.  When they do, enjoy the good times. It doesn’t last forever.

But for those who have and are paid big with these extra income opportunities, here are ways you can send this money to your families if ever the need arises.

May the winds be in your favor.



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