Employment of water transportation workers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.
Employment of sailors and marine oilers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024. Employment of captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels is projected to grow 10 percent. Employment of ship engineers is projected to grow 7 percent.
The rising demand for bulk commodities such as iron ore, grain, and petroleum should increase the need for these workers. Job growth is likely to be concentrated on inland rivers and the Great Lakes. As domestic oil production continues to increase, more oil tanker ships and barges may be called upon to deliver raw crude to refineries, which are typically located near waterways. In addition, the need to supply offshore oil platforms will contribute to some supply ship growth.
However, growth in domestic waterways freight may be limited because of strong competition from pipelines, railways, and trucks. Pipelines are the most efficient mode used to transport oil, and new systems are expected to be built to meet the growing demand. For other products, rail is a more direct route from the Midwest to a coastal port, which saves time and money.
Jobs in deep-sea shipping should remain stable because federal laws and subsidies ensure that there always will be a fleet of merchant ships with U.S. flags. Keeping a fleet of merchant ships is considered important for the nation's defense.
The popularity of river cruises as a type of vacation is growing. This trend may lead to more opportunities for workers on inland rivers such as the Mississippi or Ohio River. However, most oceangoing cruise ships go to international destinations, and these ships generally do not employ U.S. workers.
Employment of motorboat operators is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024. Demand for these workers will be driven by growth in tourism and recreational activities, where they are primarily employed.
Job prospects should be favorable for most water transportation workers. Many—especially sailors and marine oilers—leave these occupations, because recently hired workers often decide that they do not enjoy spending a lot of time away at sea.
High regulatory and security requirements may limit the number of applicants for all types of jobs.
Water Transportation Workers
Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24
Water transportation workers
Total, all occupations
Transportation and material moving occupations
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program