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Crewing at Sea FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Here you can find FAQs and what to expect as a potential crew member.

Crewing Opportunities with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

What to consider before applying:

What is the minimum time commitment for volunteering at sea?

We ask that you commit a very minimum of three months for volunteering at sea. It takes some to train new crew members and then to acclimate onboard.  As you can imagine, changing crew too frequently can be disruptive to the overall mission.

Do I have to pay for my own airfares and other travel expenses?

Yes. You will need enough funds for airfares, ground transportation and lodging to get yourself to and from any port. When you are onboard a place to sleep and three vegan meals each day is provided. Anything beyond that (extra food, entertainment, wiFi, phone calls) are your responsibility. Having $2000 in your bank account when joining to cover any unforeseen circumstances is recommended.

Do I need a US Visa?

You may need to acquire an appropriate visa. If you are joining a ship in a US port and are not a US or Canadian citizen, you will most likely be required to obtain an ESTA or B1B2 Visa. Sometimes crew members are asked to join a ship operating in another country where visas may not be needed or are easier to obtain.

Can I apply for specific dates?

You can specify on your application a date range or ‘open availability’. When a position becomes available, we search for crew available during that period. The larger your window of availability, the more likely an opportunity will come up in that time frame. When we have a suitable space available, you may be contacted you for an interview.

Can I apply for a specific role?

Yes, if you are a qualified in one of the specific roles onboard such as Bridge, Engineering or Galley.  If not, then this is ok too.

When we are looking to fill a volunteer position, we search for crew members with a specific skill set. We do our best to utilize your skills and place you in the most appropriate role on board. For example, if you are a chef, it’s unlikely we will ask you to work in our engineering department. You will be offered a position on the ship where you will most benefit the campaign.

What if I have no previous seafaring experience?

Sea Shepherd accepts volunteers with all sorts of backgrounds. Many of our volunteers have never worked on a ship before joining us! They learn everything they need to from veteran crew, professional mariners and those with specialized skills.

General Information:

How many ships are in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Fleet?

We have four vessels in our conservation fleet, The M/V Farley Mowat, the M/V John Paul DeJoria, The M/V Sharpie, and the R/V Martin Sheen.

What are the ships like?

The Farley Mowat, John Paul DeJoria and Sharpie are ex US Coast Guard Cutter motor boats which are approximately 34m in length. The R/V Martin Sheen is our only sailing vessel.

Where are the ships located?

Our ships operate most often in ports and surrounding oceans of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, but we don’t necessarily have any geographical restrictions.

What about the other Sea Shepherd ships?

It is not clear from the outside, but Sea Shepherd is split into two entities as far as ships and crew are concerned. Sea Shepherd Global/Australia runs the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Sam Simon and Ocean Warrior. The application process is separate and also identical. Please make sure you are applying to the entity which operates the ships or geographical area that interests you the most. You can also apply to both.

What campaigns are happening?

You will find information on all current and past campaigns from the Campaigns drop-down menu on the home-page of our website. We don’t announce future campaign plans for various reasons. If you are selected to volunteer, you may spend a significant amount of time onboard helping to prepare the ship for a campaign. Most often, volunteers earn their place on campaign by working in port for months before. It is sometimes possible to directly enter a campaign while in progress.

How often are the ships on a campaign?

The aim to have our ships as active as possible, but a lot of work goes into campaign planning and ship preparation. Having ships actively on a campaign requires a lot of support, so sometimes our ability to start a campaign is restricted to raising the needed funds and required maintenance to the ship.

Can I apply for a specific campaign?

No, not necessarily. You can make a note on your application regarding your interests and skills. If you are selected to volunteer, we would expect you to join the ship where you are needed most and most often that will be in port or the shipyard first.

Can I do an internship, work experience or school training placement through Sea Shepherd?

Unfortunately, we are rarely able to accommodate such requests. Most schools or work placements have set start and end dates and also require reporting based on your experiences. We do not have a strict timeline for campaigns, and plans can change unexpectedly. Only apply as a volunteer when you are free and able to commit and focus only on being a crew member.

How many crew on are each ship?

The number of crew on board at any one time varies and is also dependent on the ship. You can expect to join anywhere from 5 to 18 other individuals.

Applying for crew:

How do I apply to become a crew member?

The first step in becoming a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew member at sea is to fill out the online crew application form.

How do I pay the application fee?

Once the application form is submitted, the next page directs you to a payment page where the fee can pay with PayPal.

Why is there an application fee to crew?

In the early days, crew application fees were what helped us put fuel in the ship tanks for campaigns! Due to the human resources and time required to process applications, this fee helps us effectively recruit new crew members into service. Furthermore, as all volunteers must arrange and pay for their own travel expenses to and from the ship if the application fee is too difficult to make, the travel expenses maybe even more so. This application also aids us in keeping the non-serious applicants away.

If not selected to crew, can I get a refund?

It is a non-refundable, one-time donation, and hopefully, one you feel is going toward a worthy cause.

Is there a maximum time I can stay on board?

For new volunteers, we usually don’t commit to allowing any service for longer than 3 or 4 months. If things are progressing well, you are welcome to ask your department head, ship manager, or Captain if you may extend your stay.  We do appreciate it when people can stay longer and continue to use the skills they have learned! We always reserve the right to ask people to leave at any time if things aren’t working out.

How do I apply for the Sea Shepherd Global ships?

The first step in becoming a Sea Shepherd Global crew member at sea is to fill out a crew application form. There is a link to the form located near the bottom of our crewing page:

After I submit my application:

Has my request been received?

You should receive a confirmation email immediately after the application is submitted. If you do not receive an email, please follow up with the crewing department by sending an email to

What happens after my application is received?

Once you submit your application, a profile is created on our crewing database, and your name could come up in any number of searches depending on your location, skills and availability. Unless you specifically ask us to ‘retire’ it, your application will remain actively on file with us. If we select you as a candidate, we’ll email you to schedule a video call interview and, if that goes well, invite you to join a ship.

What are the qualities you are looking for in crew?

We love to receive applications from passionate individuals willing to work hard and take on any responsibility onboard to contribute to the campaigns. The more flexible you are on time, the more likely we will have a position become available. Seafaring skills are an asset but not essential, your ability to be committed, follow hierarchy and get along with others means a lot to us as well! We are always looking for qualified, experienced Captains, Officers, Bosuns, Engineers and vegan Cooks to join our team.

Does everyone eventually get selected?

Unfortunately not. We would love to be able to select all applicants, but we receive more applications than there are positions onboard. The selection process is, therefore competitive.

I haven’t heard anything and my specified availability has been and gone?

With the number of applications received and staff in the crew department, we can only contact those whose time and skillset match the role we are recruiting. You can email the crew department to advise new availability or check on the status of your application.

Being accepted as crew:

How will I know what to bring?

If you are selected to join the crew, we will send you a welcome package containing all the information you will need to know, including ship location and crewing policies.

Where will the ship be, and how do I get there?

If you are selected to join the crew, we will communicate individually with you to provide instructions and further information regarding your travel.

How much notice can I expect before joining the ship? 

There’s a possibility that you’ll receive very little notification to join the boat. The crewing needs on our vessels change quickly, so be prepared to pack your bags and be ready to go in a week or less!

What to expect while onboard: 

What are accommodations like?

The crew accommodations are tight; you will be allocated a bunk bed and share a cabin with anywhere from one to seven other people! The cabins are mixed gender. All crew share a unisex shower and toilet.

Will I need to bring my own food?

You can bring your own vegan snacks and treats. Keep in mind you will be fed three nutritious vegan meals per day!

What is the work schedule?

As you can imagine, while you are at sea, the crew work seven days per week with no time off. In port, crew work five and a half days a week.

What about the Internet, Email and Phone calls while onboard?

At sea, the use of the satellite phone is highly restricted. Many ports of call offer a selection of internet cafés and access to phone cards for long-distance calls. It is encouraged to purchase a local network Sim card for the personal use of the internet. Do not rely on an internet connection while onboard. Internet is occasionally available to the crew but cannot be guaranteed.

Will I get arrested?

It is unlikely. We operate a professional organization and work in cooperation with governments and maritime enforcement agencies around the world. However, you need to understand that participating in any Sea Shepherd campaign carries with it some risk of arrest, fines or other consequences.

Are there any other policies and procedures I should know about before applying?

  • Sea Shepherd maintains a zero-tolerance policy to drugs and that anybody in violation of this policy will be removed from the ships immediately.
  • No smoking is allowed on the ship.
  • The ship is not a democracy; you must follow the chain of command.
  • Any dangerous, disrespectful or insubordinate behaviour will result in a crew member departing.

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