Pumpman: The Hero of Tanker Operations

07 December 2023

Pumpman: The Specialist of the Deck Department on Tankers

Every seafarer knows that life at sea is filled with unique roles, each with its own set of challenges and rewards. One such role is that of a Pumpman. It is not a term you hear every day, but the Pumpman holds a pivotal position on tankers, especially oil tankers. They are the backbone of the deck department, ensuring the smooth operation, maintenance, and repair of the ship's liquid cargo transfer system.

While the Pumpman might not always find themselves in the limelight, their role is of great significance. Many a time, they are entrusted with critical decisions that directly affect the ship's operation. In this regard, they often serve as an extension of the senior officers, executing plans and ensuring tasks are completed on time. Their contributions are, without a doubt, invaluable.

Role & Responsibilities

As a specialist role in the deck department, the Pumpman holds an array of duties. The primary responsibility involves the operation and upkeep of the cargo pumping systems. However, the job description doesn't end there. They take care of a myriad of other tasks including maintenance of cargo equipment, managing the piping on deck, and looking after valves.

During the operation of a tanker, which includes loading and discharging, the Pumpman takes up the mantle as the chief officer's right hand. This role is one of immense responsibility as it involves the execution of numerous tasks simultaneously, from opening and closing valves to significant participation in discharging the vessel.

Moreover, they also maintain the connection manifolds and cargo lines, along with room heating systems and ballast systems. These tasks require a high level of technical proficiency and practical knowledge. The Pumpman, despite not being an officer, often serves as a central figure in operations, making their role pivotal to the functioning of the ship.

However, the responsibilities do not cease here. At times, the Pumpman might also have to undertake additional work assigned by the bosun or the chief officer. In such situations, flexibility and adaptability become key skills. As part of their routine, the Pumpman ensures the efficient flow of cargo oil by removing blockages and resolving any issues in the liquid cargo system.

Another crucial aspect of the Pumpman's role is their involvement in drills and emergency situations. Here, their knowledge and understanding of safety policies and practices are tested. Their role in these circumstances becomes all the more critical, often requiring swift decision-making and practical problem-solving abilities.

Required Certifications, Training & Sea Time for Promotion

Becoming a Pumpman is no easy feat. It requires an Able Seaman certification as a prerequisite, along with additional training. The role doesn't have a special certificate on a tanker, making it crucial for the candidate to earn the trust of the company regarding their capabilities.

While experience is often the most valued asset, having relevant qualifications and certifications can provide an edge. In an industry where safety and efficiency are paramount, a Pumpman needs to showcase both practical knowledge and technical expertise. Thus, obtaining additional training and gaining ample sea time can greatly aid in enhancing one's prospects for this role.

It's also worth noting that while a certificate can lay the foundation, the journey to becoming a proficient Pumpman heavily relies on hands-on experience. This field-based knowledge significantly contributes to understanding the practical aspects of the role, enabling Pumpmen to handle real-world challenges with greater ease.

In essence, the path to becoming a Pumpman is a blend of formal education, certifications, and practical experience. Aspiring seafarers aiming for this role must be prepared to invest time and effort in both learning and field experience.

Career Path & Professional Development Opportunities

Often filled by an experienced Able Seaman, the Pumpman role is a specialist position that offers a path divergent from the more managerial roles like bosun. It might be misconstrued as a "dead-end" role due to the niche specialisation; however, this couldn't be further from the truth.

The unique challenges and opportunities that come with being a Pumpman offer significant scope for learning and growth within the maritime industry. From gaining in-depth knowledge about cargo pumping systems to developing a keen understanding of tanker operations, the role of a Pumpman equips an individual with a distinctive skill set.

For those who have a passion for mastering a particular craft and revel in meeting challenges head-on, the Pumpman role can provide a fulfilling and rewarding career path.

Daily Physical & Mental Challenges

Being a Pumpman is not just about the technical aspects; it's also about resilience and fortitude. The role involves dealing with complex pumping systems, navigating cargo hazards, and enduring long hours of work, especially during operations.

One of the primary challenges a Pumpman faces is the requirement to work independently. This demands strong self-motivation and mental fortitude. The nature of the work, the high level of responsibility, and the pressure to maintain efficiency can put significant stress on the individual.

Apart from these, a Pumpman must be prepared for long periods away from home. The dynamics of a diverse crew can also present interpersonal challenges, and these are just as crucial to navigate as the technical aspects of the role. All these factors underscore the need for resilience, adaptability, and mental strength in a Pumpman.

Leadership & Team Management

While the Pumpman primarily works independently, there are instances when they might be required to work with an assistant or a team. This necessitates a different set of skills, such as effective communication, the ability to delegate tasks, and team coordination.

The Pumpman role might not require traditional leadership skills like those needed for a Sea Captain, but it does require an elevated level of responsibility. They must be able to effectively communicate and report to the Chief Officer, ensuring that all necessary information is accurately and promptly conveyed.

Furthermore, team management skills can come in handy, especially during emergency situations. A Pumpman might be required to coordinate with different members of the crew and efficiently execute emergency procedures. So, while not a 'leader' in the conventional sense, the Pumpman definitely plays a leading role in ensuring the smooth operation of the tanker.

Impact of Technology & Advancements on the Role

In the face of rapid technological advancements, continuous learning has become an essential requirement for a Pumpman. With modern cargo handling systems, the nature of the work has evolved, making it necessary for a Pumpman to keep up with the latest developments in equipment and cargo handling procedures.

The Pumpman's role is unique in that it marries deck crew responsibilities with engineering and cargo handling tasks. With advancements in technology, the knowledge requirement for the role is expanding. Whether it's the introduction of automated systems or improvements in safety protocols, a Pumpman must continually adapt to these changes.

The impact of technology on the maritime industry is vast and all-encompassing. As a part of this industry, a Pumpman's adaptability to technological advancements plays a crucial role in their efficiency and effectiveness.

Compliance with Regulations & International Maritime Laws

The role of a Pumpman goes beyond technical skills and physical strength. A vital aspect of the job is the adherence to safety and environmental regulations during cargo operations. In line with international maritime laws, the Pumpman must ensure all operations are carried out without compromising safety standards or causing environmental harm.

There is an additional challenge of managing resting hours carefully during operations that can often extend beyond 36 hours. Fatigue is a real concern in such scenarios, and it's imperative that rest is managed effectively to ensure safety and avoid errors.

Failure to comply with these regulations can have serious consequences, including accidents, injuries, and environmental damage. Hence, understanding and adhering to regulations is as crucial as the technical aspects of the Pumpman role. Interested readers can learn more about maritime regulations in our EMSA Report.

Coming up next, we'll delve into the demand and supply trends in the job market for Pumpmen, the average salary, frequency of shore leaves, and work-life balance in this role.

Demand & Supply Trend in the Job Market

The demand for Pumpmen in the shipping industry is intricately linked with the size of the tanker fleet. As the number of tankers grows, so does the need for Pumpmen. However, the supply of Pumpmen with the right experience is generally low, leading to an imbalance between demand and supply.

Some companies, particularly those operating large tankers with less frequent operations, may prefer to hire experienced Pumpmen. Such companies value the expertise of Pumpmen who can assist officers who may not have had frequent opportunities to gain experience due to infrequent discharging. For those considering a maritime career, a role like a Pumpman can offer great prospects, especially given the current demand-supply trend.

Average Salary, Frequency of Shore Leaves & Work-Life Balance

The salary of a Pumpman can vary significantly depending on the ship type and the company. However, it is generally competitive, reflecting the specialist nature of the role and the high level of responsibility it carries.

Typically, a Pumpman's contract duration is around 6 months. During this period, they may work on one or more ships, depending on the company's needs. The frequency of shore leaves can also vary and is largely dependent on the ship's operations and schedule.

The work-life balance for a Pumpman can be challenging, given the nature of the work. Long hours, physically demanding tasks, and periods away from home can take a toll on one's personal life. However, many seafarers find that the unique experiences and the sense of adventure that come with a maritime career outweigh the challenges.

Liveseas' Role

Liveseas is a valuable resource for those pursuing a maritime career, including Pumpmen. Through our platform, seafarers can connect with shipping companies and find opportunities for career development.

Even if you're currently employed, having a private Liveseas profile can open doors to new opportunities. By showcasing your skills, experience, and qualifications, you can attract potential employers who are looking for candidates like you. It's like having a personal marketing team working for you around the clock. You never know when a better opportunity might come knocking!

In addition to job matching, Liveseas offers a range of resources to help seafarers at different stages of their career. From articles on the role of an Able Seaman to information on training and earnings for a Chief Engineer, Liveseas is a one-stop-shop for all things related to a maritime career.

In the next section, we will be discussing role-specific risks and liabilities associated with being a Pumpman, along with the emergency responsibilities that the role carries. We will also be talking about the differences in the role of a Pumpman depending on the ship type and industry.

Role-Specific Risks, Liabilities & Emergency Responsibilities

The role of a Pumpman is not without its risks. Working with hazardous cargo and complex pumping systems means there's always the potential for accidents and errors, which can lead to serious consequences such as spills or pollution incidents. Therefore, a Pumpman's role demands acute attention to detail and strict adherence to safety protocols.

Emergencies onboard can arise without warning, and the Pumpman, like other crew members, has a vital role to play. Duties during emergencies can include firefighting, managing cargo leaks, and participating in life-saving operations. Familiarity with the vessel's safety systems and evacuation procedures is essential, similar to the responsibilities of an Able Seaman.

Despite these risks and the high level of responsibility involved, the ultimate responsibility for any mishaps lies with the Chief Officer and Captain. They are the ones who have to ensure that all operations are carried out safely and efficiently, and that all crew members, including the Pumpman, are well-trained and equipped to handle emergencies.

Differences per Ship Type/Industry

While the Pumpman role is critical in tankers carrying liquid cargoes, not all types of vessels employ a Pumpman. For instance, gas tankers generally do not have Pumpmen on board. Instead, they employ specialised gas engineers who handle the complex operations associated with gas transfer.

The role of a Pumpman also varies in other shipping industries. For example, in offshore drilling operations, a Pumpman might be responsible for operating the drilling mud systems. Regardless of the specific industry or ship type, the role of a Pumpman remains crucial in ensuring the safe and efficient transfer of liquid cargoes.


In conclusion, the Pumpman role presents a unique mix of challenges and rewards, requiring a blend of technical skills, experience, and personal qualities. It is not a job for everyone, but for those who thrive in challenging environments, and seek specialisation in their maritime career, the role of a Pumpman can offer a fulfilling path.

Whether you're a seasoned seafarer looking to specialise in tanker operations or a novice interested in embarking on a maritime career, consider the role of a Pumpman. It's a rewarding position that plays a crucial role in global trade, ensuring that precious liquid cargoes are safely and efficiently transported across the world's oceans.

Remember, opportunities for advancement and learning are aplenty in the maritime industry. So, equip yourself with the right knowledge and skills, stay updated on industry trends, and embrace the challenges. You can find more insights on seafarer roles, responsibilities, and career paths in our article on Ranks: Deck Cargo Ship. Here's to your success in navigating the thrilling world of maritime careers!