Apply for Wheelsman Regular Job in Montreal, Canada

Who is a Wheelsman in Canada

A Wheelsman in Canada is a specialized crew member aboard a ship, particularly responsible for steering the vessel and ensuring its safe navigation. The role is crucial in the maritime industry, given Canada’s extensive coastline and numerous inland waterways, which are essential for both domestic and international trade. Below is an in-depth exploration of the wheelsman’s duties, qualifications, training, working conditions, and the significance of this role in Canada’s maritime sector.

1. Introduction to the Wheelsman Role

The wheelsman, also known as a helmsman, is tasked with steering the ship under the direction of the ship’s officers. This role is vital for the safe and efficient operation of the vessel, whether it’s a cargo ship, ferry, or other maritime vessel. The wheelsman must be adept at handling the ship’s wheel or autopilot system and maintaining the course as set by the ship’s navigator.

2. Historical Context

Historically, the role of the wheelsman has been integral to maritime navigation. Before the advent of advanced navigation technologies, the wheelsman relied heavily on physical steering and visual cues. Over time, while the fundamentals of the job have remained the same, technological advancements have significantly transformed the tools and methods used in navigation.

3. Key Responsibilities

The primary responsibilities of a wheelsman include:

Steering the Vessel:

  • Manual Steering: Handling the ship’s wheel to navigate through various sea conditions.
  • Autopilot Systems: Operating and monitoring the ship’s autopilot systems, making adjustments as needed.
  • Course Corrections: Making necessary adjustments to maintain the prescribed course.

Navigational Assistance:

  • Bridge Team Coordination: Working closely with the officer on watch to ensure the ship’s safe passage.
  • Situational Awareness: Maintaining awareness of the ship’s surroundings to avoid collisions and navigational hazards.

Safety and Compliance:

  • Adhering to Regulations: Ensuring compliance with maritime laws and regulations.
  • Emergency Response: Participating in emergency drills and being prepared to take action in case of emergencies.

4. Qualifications and Training

Becoming a wheelsman requires specific qualifications and training. These typically include:

Educational Background:

  • Basic Education: A high school diploma or equivalent is often required.
  • Maritime Training: Formal training at a recognized maritime academy or institution.


  • Transport Canada Certification: Obtaining certification from Transport Canada, which involves passing exams and meeting sea service requirements.
  • STCW Certification: Compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers, which sets minimum qualification standards.

Practical Experience:

  • Sea Time: Gaining practical experience through sea time, which is a prerequisite for certification.
  • Apprenticeships: Participating in apprenticeships or cadet programs to gain hands-on experience.

5. Skills and Competencies

A successful wheelsman must possess a variety of skills and competencies, including:

Technical Skills:

  • Navigation: Proficiency in navigational techniques and the use of navigational instruments.
  • Mechanical Aptitude: Understanding the mechanics of steering systems and autopilot technology.

Cognitive Skills:

  • Attention to Detail: Keen attention to detail to ensure accurate course adjustments.
  • Problem-Solving: Ability to quickly assess and respond to navigational challenges.

Physical Fitness:

  • Stamina: Physical stamina to handle long hours and demanding conditions.
  • Coordination: Excellent hand-eye coordination for precise steering.

6. Working Conditions

The working conditions for a wheelsman can be demanding and varied:

Work Environment:

  • Onboard Ship: Working primarily on the bridge of the ship.
  • Extended Periods: Spending extended periods at sea, often for weeks or months at a time.

Weather Conditions:

  • Variable Weather: Exposure to a wide range of weather conditions, from calm seas to severe storms.
  • Night Shifts: Working night shifts and maintaining alertness during late hours.

7. Career Progression

A career as a wheelsman can lead to further advancement within the maritime industry:

Higher Ranks:

  • Mate: Progressing to the rank of third, second, or chief mate, with additional responsibilities.
  • Captain: Eventually becoming a ship’s captain, commanding the entire vessel.
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Specialized Roles:

  • Pilotage: Transitioning to a pilot role, guiding ships through challenging waters.
  • Tugboat Operations: Working on tugboats, assisting larger vessels with maneuvering.

8. Challenges and Rewards

While the role of a wheelsman is challenging, it also offers significant rewards:


  • Isolation: Dealing with long periods away from family and friends.
  • Stress: Managing the stress of navigating through dangerous waters.


  • Satisfaction: The satisfaction of contributing to the safe and efficient operation of the ship.
  • Travel Opportunities: Opportunities to travel and see different parts of the world.

9. The Role of Technology

Technological advancements have greatly influenced the role of the wheelsman:

Navigation Systems:

  • GPS and Electronic Charts: Utilization of GPS and electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) for precise navigation.
  • Automation: Increasing automation in steering and navigation systems, though human oversight remains crucial.

10. Future Prospects

The future of the wheelsman profession looks promising, with continuous advancements in maritime technology and an ongoing need for skilled navigators:

Technological Integration:

  • AI and Machine Learning: Potential integration of AI and machine learning to enhance navigational accuracy.
  • Sustainable Practices: Adoption of sustainable practices and green technologies in shipping.

Job Demand:

  • Consistent Demand: Steady demand for skilled wheelsmen due to the global reliance on maritime transport.
  • Career Stability: A stable career with opportunities for growth and advancement.

11. The Canadian Maritime Industry

The wheelsman plays a pivotal role in the Canadian maritime industry:

Economic Impact:

  • Trade and Commerce: Essential for the smooth operation of trade routes and commerce.
  • Employment: Providing employment opportunities in coastal and inland regions.

Regulatory Framework:

  • Transport Canada: Governed by Transport Canada regulations, ensuring high standards of safety and professionalism.
  • International Conventions: Adherence to international maritime conventions and agreements.

Salary Opportunities

The salary of a wheelsman in Canada can vary widely based on factors such as experience, the type of vessel, the employer, and the specific region. Below is a detailed breakdown of the factors influencing the salary and the general salary ranges for a wheelsman in Canada.

Factors Influencing Wheelsman Salary

1. Experience:

  • Entry-Level Wheelsman: Those just starting their careers generally earn less than their more experienced counterparts.
  • Mid-Level Wheelsman: With several years of experience, wages typically increase as skills and expertise grow.
  • Experienced Wheelsman: Highly experienced wheelsmen can command higher salaries, reflecting their extensive knowledge and reliability.

2. Type of Vessel:

  • Cargo Ships: Salaries might differ depending on whether the wheelsman is working on a bulk carrier, container ship, or tanker.
  • Passenger Vessels: Wheelsmen on ferries or cruise ships might have different pay scales compared to those on cargo ships.
  • Specialized Vessels: Working on specialized vessels, such as icebreakers or research ships, can also affect salary levels.

3. Employer:

  • Private Companies: Pay can vary significantly between private shipping companies.
  • Government Employment: Wheelsmen working for government agencies, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, might have different salary structures.
  • Unionized Positions: Unionized roles often come with standardized pay scales and benefits.

4. Region:

  • Coastal Areas: Salaries in major coastal regions, such as British Columbia, Atlantic Canada, and the Great Lakes, can differ due to the concentration of maritime activity and the cost of living.
  • Remote Areas: Positions in more remote locations may offer higher salaries to attract skilled workers.

General Salary Ranges

Based on the aforementioned factors, here are the general salary ranges for a wheelsman in Canada:

Entry-Level Wheelsman:

  • Annual Salary: CAD $45,000 to $60,000
  • Hourly Wage: CAD $22 to $30

Mid-Level Wheelsman:

  • Annual Salary: CAD $60,000 to $80,000
  • Hourly Wage: CAD $30 to $40
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Experienced Wheelsman:

  • Annual Salary: CAD $80,000 to $100,000+
  • Hourly Wage: CAD $40 to $50+

Additional Benefits

In addition to base salaries, wheelsmen may also receive various benefits, including:

Health and Dental Insurance: Comprehensive health and dental plans are often provided by employers.

Retirement Plans: Contributions to retirement savings plans or pensions.

Bonuses: Performance-based bonuses or incentives.

Paid Leave: Paid vacation days, sick leave, and sometimes additional leave for long voyages.

Travel Allowances: Reimbursement for travel expenses or allowances for working in remote areas.

Industry Trends and Future Prospects

Increasing Demand: The demand for skilled maritime professionals, including wheelsmen, is expected to remain steady due to the importance of maritime transport for trade.

Technological Advancements: As technology advances, wheelsmen may need to adapt and acquire new skills, which could potentially lead to higher wages for those who stay updated with the latest navigation technologies.

Union Influence: The influence of maritime unions can also play a role in negotiating better pay and working conditions for wheelsmen.

Pros and Cons of  a Wheelsman Regular Job in Canada

Working as a wheelsman in Canada offers a unique and rewarding career path with both advantages and disadvantages. Here is a comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of a regular job as a wheelsman in Canada:

Pros of Being a Wheelsman

1. Job Stability and Demand:

  • Steady Employment: The maritime industry is crucial for global trade and domestic transportation, providing steady employment opportunities.
  • High Demand: Skilled maritime professionals, including wheelsmen, are in demand due to the specialized nature of the job.

2. Good Salary and Benefits:

  • Competitive Pay: Wheelsmen can earn a good salary, especially with experience and on larger or specialized vessels.
  • Benefits: Many employers offer comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leave.

3. Travel Opportunities:

  • Global Travel: Working on ships allows wheelsmen to travel to different parts of the world, experiencing diverse cultures and places.
  • Adventure: The job can be adventurous, with the opportunity to see unique marine environments and wildlife.

4. Skill Development:

  • Specialized Skills: Wheelsmen develop specialized skills in navigation and ship handling, which are valuable and respected in the maritime industry.
  • Career Advancement: There are clear pathways for career advancement, such as progressing to the rank of mate or captain.

5. Professional Fulfillment:

  • Sense of Achievement: Successfully navigating a vessel and ensuring the safety of the crew and cargo can be highly fulfilling.
  • Teamwork: Working closely with other crew members fosters a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork.

Cons of Being a Wheelsman

1. Long Periods Away from Home:

  • Extended Voyages: Wheelsmen often spend weeks or months at sea, which can be challenging for family and personal life.
  • Isolation: Long periods away from home can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

2. Demanding Working Conditions:

  • Physical Demands: The job can be physically demanding, requiring good stamina and coordination.
  • Stress: Navigating through storms, heavy seas, and other challenging conditions can be stressful.

3. Irregular Work Hours:

  • Shift Work: Wheelsmen typically work in shifts, including night shifts, weekends, and holidays, which can disrupt regular sleep patterns and social life.
  • Unpredictable Schedule: The maritime industry often requires flexibility, with schedules that can change based on the needs of the vessel.

4. Safety Risks:

  • Hazardous Environment: Working at sea involves certain risks, such as rough weather, mechanical failures, and the potential for accidents.
  • Emergency Situations: Wheelsmen must be prepared to respond to emergencies, which can be high-pressure and dangerous.

5. Regulatory Requirements:

  • Certification and Training: Obtaining and maintaining the necessary certifications requires ongoing training and adherence to strict regulatory standards.
  • Continuous Learning: Staying updated with new technologies and regulations can be demanding.
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How to Apply for Wheelsman Regular Job in Canada

Applying for a regular job as a wheelsman in Canada involves several steps, including obtaining the necessary qualifications, certifications, and practical experience. Here’s a detailed guide on how to pursue a career as a wheelsman in Canada:

Step 1: Educational Background

1. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required as a minimum educational qualification.

Step 2: Maritime Training

1. Enroll in a Maritime Training Program:

  • Attend a recognized maritime academy or institution that offers courses in navigation, seamanship, and marine safety.
  • Some well-known maritime institutions in Canada include the Canadian Coast Guard College, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), and Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).

2. Complete Relevant Courses:

  • Courses may include navigation, marine communications, ship operations, and safety training.

Step 3: Certification and Licensing

1. Obtain Necessary Certifications:

  • Transport Canada Certification: You need to obtain certification from Transport Canada, which includes passing exams and fulfilling sea service requirements.
  • STCW Certification: Ensure you meet the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers, which sets international qualification standards.

2. Required Certifications:

  • Bridge Watch Rating Certificate: This certification is essential for wheelsmen and requires a combination of education, training, and sea service.
  • Marine Basic First Aid: Certification in basic first aid and CPR.
  • Marine Emergency Duties (MED) Training: This includes courses on safety and emergency procedures.

Step 4: Gain Practical Experience

1. Accumulate Sea Time:

  • Gain practical experience by working on ships. Sea time is a crucial requirement for certification and further career advancement.
  • Entry-level positions, such as deckhand or ordinary seaman, can provide valuable experience.

2. Participate in Apprenticeships or Cadet Programs:

  • Many maritime institutions and shipping companies offer apprenticeships or cadet programs that provide hands-on training and mentorship.

Step 5: Job Search

1. Research Potential Employers:

  • Look for job opportunities with shipping companies, ferry operators, cruise lines, and government agencies such as the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • Some major shipping companies in Canada include Algoma Central Corporation, Seaspan, and BC Ferries.

2. Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter:

  • Highlight your education, certifications, sea time, and relevant skills.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific job and company you are applying to.

3. Apply for Job Openings:

  • Online Job Portals: Use online job portals like Indeed, Workopolis, and Job Bank Canada to search for wheelsman positions.
  • Company Websites: Check the career sections of shipping companies and maritime employers’ websites for job postings.
  • Maritime Industry Networks: Join maritime industry associations and networks to stay informed about job openings and opportunities.

4. Attend Job Fairs and Industry Events:

  • Participate in maritime job fairs and industry events to network with potential employers and learn about job opportunities.

Step 6: Interview Preparation

1. Prepare for Interviews:

  • Research the company and understand their operations and values.
  • Be ready to discuss your experience, skills, and how you can contribute to the company’s success.

2. Demonstrate Your Knowledge and Skills:

  • Highlight your knowledge of maritime navigation, safety procedures, and any specialized training you have received.

Step 7: Continuous Learning and Development

1. Stay Updated with Industry Trends:

  • Keep up with advancements in maritime technology, regulations, and best practices.
  • Participate in additional training and professional development courses to enhance your skills and qualifications.

2. Renew Certifications:

  • Ensure that all your certifications and licenses are current and renew them as required by regulatory authorities.

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