The Ship Hierarchy and Ship Life

All vessels are comprised of three Departments: Deck Department, Engine Department and Steward’s Department (Galley)

– On the deck side there is a Captain, mates, able body seamen, often a boatswain and deckhands

– On the engine side there is a Chief Engineer, assistant engineers, handymen, qualified members of the engine room, oilers, and/or wipers

– The galley consists of a steward and often a second cook

While working on the vessels, employees are usually on board for extended periods.  Crew members typically work 7 days a week, 8 hours per day at a minimum.  On-duty schedules vary depending on service requirements and additional daily overtime is required if necessary.


All qualified applicants must possess a Merchant Mariner’s Credential (MMC) and Transportation Worker’s Identification Card (TWIC).

Information on how to obtain these documents and what working on the Great Lakes is like can be found under:

TWIC Application
Great Lakes Maritime Careers
How to obtain a Merchant Mariner Credential

Mates and Masters sailing in the Great Lakes are required to have their Great Lakes Pilotage, Radar Observer, and Radio Operator Permit (FFC) in addition to those documents.

Engineers (and Chiefs) are required to have an unlimited horsepower motor and/or steam endorsement with the rating to cover the different positions from Third Assistant Engineer to Chief Engineer.

Galley Personnel (Stewards and Second Cooks) are required to obtain their ServSafe License in addition to those documents.


Your Safety and Well-being Is our Primary Concern

As is stated in our Safety, Quality, and Environment tab, safety is the first concern for all members of the Keystone team.  To further support employee wellness, we have initiated a Health and Wellness Programs on many of our ships to support the busy work schedule of our employees.  Some initiatives include healthy eating and wellness programs, that establish healthy meal options and exercise equipment onboard.  In addition, all of our Great Lakes employees are provided support in a variety of life challenges through our Employee Assistance Program with Sand Creek.


Benefits of working as a mariner with Keystone

Our employees play a critical role in the Keystone family, and we believe in attracting and retaining top talent to work efficiently and safely.  To do so, we offer our employees several opportunities:

  • Competitive pay and benefits (i.e. paid vacation, medical, and educational benefits).
  • No education needed for entry-level positions besides licensing (MMC & TWIC).
  • Promotions, and upgrades to higher positions are possible and supported by the company.
  • Job security in a versatile career that enables you to experience the different regions
  • Ability to live anywhere while at sea, with transportation paid for.
  • Excellent Safety Record.
  • Well maintained vessels in quality condition. (ongoing maintenance, modern equipment).
  • Onboard quality of life including AC, and Wi-Fi internet.
  • Continuous improvement initiatives by the company to create a healthy work-life balance.

If you are interested in learning more information about seagoing opportunities with Keystone, inquiries can be handled at the following numbers:

Deep Sea:

Bala Cynwyd: (610) 617 – 6800

Great Lakes:

Duluth: (218) 723 – 2413


Union affiliation

All of our shipboard positions are affiliated with unions in the Maritime Industry. To learn more about them, please visit their websites.


AMO – American Maritime Officers

Great Lakes Fleet:

  • Licensed Employees: Deck Officers, Engine Officers and Steward (Galley)


MEBA – Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association

Deep Sea/Commercial:

  • Licensed Employees: Deck Officers & Engine Officers


MMP – Intl. Org. of Masters, Mates & Pilots

Great Lakes Fleet:

  • Licensed Employees: Deck Officers


SIU – Seafarers International Union

Deep Sea/Commercial:

  • Licensed Employees: Deck Officers & Engine Officers
  • Unlicensed Employees: Deck, Engine, & Galley

Great Lakes Fleet:

  • Unlicensed Employees: Deck, Engine, & Galley


USW – United Steelworkers UnionLocal 5000

Great Lakes Fleet:

  • Unlicensed Employees: Deck, Engine, & Galley

 Each union must be contact separately.


Maritime Academies

Other access points to jumpstarting a career in maritime, are four-year maritime academies.  Keystone recruiters travel annually and provide informational sessions at:


Keystone Shipping News & Announcements

At Keystone Shipping we are proud of our accomplishments. Our unwavering dedication to excellence has allowed us to thrive and excel in the maritime community.

View All News

Fall Safety Line – 2018

The fall issue of the Safety Line from Keystone Shipping is here!  We touch on Hurricane Florence, 2018 Boat of the Year nominations, and more! Read the full 2018 Fall Safety Line.

Learn More

Summer Safety Line – 2018

The summer issue of Keystone Shipping’s Safety Line Newsletter is here, with a retirement tribute to Mr. Rod Neale, a highlight of one of our “Faces of the Fleet”, and a report on Operation Nautical Horizon. Read the full 2018 Summer Safety Line.

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Nurturing the Passions of a Pint Sized Boatnerd

Key Lakes deck officer Ellora Martin meets a young female maritime enthusiast to help inspire passions of a career in maritime on the Great Lakes. Read the full article in the Duluth Seaway Port Authority Spring Magazine.

Learn More