Working on Seismic Vessels: A General Overview of Ship’s Crew

Seismic vessels are specialized ships which are used to carry out seismic surveys at sea. They use survey-induced seismic pulses to image subsurface formation. Read here to know more about the types of seismic operations carried out at the sea.

Considering the type of jobs these ships perform at sea, an extremely competent crew is required. In addition to the normal marine crew, seismic vessels also have an additional group of professionals called the seismic crew, who play a major part in the seismic operation.

Seismic Vessel

The seismic team/crew, headed by the Party chief, consists of the following professionals:

  • Processors (geophysicists)
  • Observers
  • Navigators
  • Gun technicians

Do note that these are the most common people present on board a seismic vessel; the number and type of people can vary, depending on the operation the vessel is engaged in and the company’s requirement.

Responsibilities of the Seismic Crew

To be a part of the seismic team, a person should have a strong technical background in electronics, computers and, of course, seismic tools, apart from the basic qualifications and experience required.

Party chief – is the head of the seismic crew. He oversees the overall seismic operation and plans the operation in consultation with the Master. As a company’s or clients representative he submits reports on daily basis regarding the seismic survey or any other matter concerning the operation.

Processors – are the geophysicists onboard. They monitors the survey operation closely, check the quality of data collected and approve the acquisitions to be retained and send ashore for further processing.

Observers –  generally are technicians with good electrical and electronic knowledge. The do maintenance and troubleshooting of problems related to streamer cables, geo phones etc. They keep watch on the data being received from the geophones and also do the preliminary quality check. They also point out the error in real time and co-ordinate with processors to improve the quality and quantity of data acquired.

Navigators – are people who plan and monitor the tracks to be followed for acquiring data. These people also record the the data, which includes the co –ordinates and time of each firing point, estimate the firing time and keep watch on cable depth, and adjust birds accordingly. Navigators closely work with the bridge, plans on the route to be followed and advices on maneuvering the vessel.  However, the ship’s master is the final decision maker, considering the safety of people on board, the environment and the ship.

The navigators and observers also work together in deploying cables and sorting out problems on streamer cables, hydrophones, birds, acoustic etc.

Gun technicians –  they carry out the maintenance of water or air guns on board, deploys gun strings, keep watch on compressors and generators which are used for seismic operation.

Crew calling for investigation

The Marine crew

Just like any other vessel, a seismic vessel also needs to be operated and maintained, which is done by the mariners.The main departments includes – deck, engine and galley departments.

Sometimes during seismic operation, the total people on board can reach up to 50 to 60 and the saloon department therefore has an important role to play, not just for preparing food but also for maintaining high standard of hygiene and proper housekeeping.

In engine room, during acquisition, apart from regular watch keeping duties in the engine control room, the engineers also have to watch and maintain seismic compressors, the hydraulic power packs and other seismic related machinery systems. Taking in to account the number of machineries being operated while acquiring data, a proper housekeeping of the engine room is the duty of the the engine department in order to avoid oil spill or any other accident.

INA Deck machinery

On deck ,the major responsibility of the master and deck officers is to adhere, implement and observe safe working practices on board. Although the people who work on board are well trained and experienced, care must be taken to avoid accidents, taking in to account the total number of person, working schedule and fatigue. Before the vessel sets it sails, all crew including the seismic crew should be familiar with every safety aspect of the ship and this should be recorded.

As a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver (RAM), on deep sea seismic operation, navigation of Seismic vessel becomes easier. But often these operations are held at close proximity to shore and in area of dense traffic and thus extreme caution is required.

With high tech equipment, maintaining vessel on track lines becomes easier, but proper look out is also required to keep a watch on fishing activity, which can damage the seismic equipment, resulting in delay in acquisition.

Information on vessel traffic separation is provided with details of the co-ordinates of the boundaries of the survey area, CPA (closest point of approach ) to be maintained by other vessels, duration of survey etc. Navigators are regularly informed with the prevailing traffic weather and sea condition. Utmost care is also taken while making a seismic vessel turn, which is always larger as sharp turns can damage the streamers and make them part off.

With more than 40 people onboard seismic vessel, a number of high-tech machineries and operations close to shore, these vessels are vulnerable to extreme marine pollution. A high standard of pollution prevention policy is therefore maintained by the companies to avoid spill and other damage to maritime environment.

Over to you..

Do you know more about the seismic crew and it’s responsibilities? Let’s know and we will add it to the article.


The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not state or reflect those of the Marine Insight. Marine Insight has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided in this article. However, we do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article.

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  1. gr8 article….appreciable…….discernible about responsibilities of crew…… ike to gain acquisitive knowledge of other kinds of offshore vessels (drilling, rigging,floating, FPSO vessels)…..plz also clarify what are the qualifications require to get those vessels……..myself is nd engr…….

  2. Gud day sir any vacant for ab exp in ahts dsv osv and psv, 6yrs from offshore. Thaks and god bless

  3. Good day dear all,

    My name is Gheorghe Adrian, I’m a Romanian citizen, holder of Chief Officer CoC / JDPO, DP Advanced courses with
    24 years sea experience on :

    -Large container vessels as a 2nd Officer and Chief Officer Unlimited / SSO.
    -AHTS Bourbon Liberty 222 , with Azimuth thruster propulsion / Navis Radio console DP 2 system.
    RadaScan/ Cyscan / Fanbeam system.
    Towing and anchor handling operation carried out in Mediterranean sea , Egypt under Chevron charterer.

    -PSV Bourbon Viking , with CPP propulsion / DP2 system , Kongsberg KPOS 21 console.
    Supply operation carried out at rig and FPSO in Luanda, Angola under BP charterer.
    Total working on DP2 about 1000 hours.
    Worked as a 2/O & C/O JDPO / DP Advanced Course.

    Chief Mate CoC Unlimited STCW’95 / JDPO.
    C1D US Visa up to 08/2015.

    Looking for a long term employment to achieve my full DP license and Chief Officer promotion.
    Awaiting your reply , hopefully you can help me to continue my career in offshore.

    Phone 00 40 723 687 267

    Sincerely Yours ,

    Adrian Gheorghe

  4. im cook work experience 30 years now ıam free looking for job ı have all docümant ım ready start working october 00905374242744 00905545156624

  5. There can also be quite a few third party crew involved in seismic operations in various parts of the world, in no particular order you generally have client reps – QC you could FLO’S (fishery liaison officers) MMO’S (marine mammal observers) who all can make a major contribution to increase production and make the life of the Master and Party chief easier with contributions in relation to their particular fields of expertise.

  6. Hi! Sir i’m Joseph E. Canseco from San Jose Malino Mexico, Pampanga, Philippines 2021, graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation major in Navigation and Seamanship. I been working on different types of vessel like general cargo, bulk & container for almost 20 years. It has been my dream on working seismic vessels unfortunately it’s hard to get in. Sir, honestly if given the chance i’m willing to undergo the required trainings needed to comply in order to be qualified to work on seismic vessels. Hopefully you’ll give me a chance to work with you. Thank you. May God be with you.

  7. I am g p s / g I s seismic surveyor I am working for Saudi Arabia in deta sad company in g I s seismic surveyor

  8. Dear Sir,

    Nice to read your article. can I have some job description for some positions below?

    Project Manager
    Deputy Project Manager
    Deputy Project Manager on Shore
    Shore Manager
    Project Marine Representative
    Chief QC (Permitted by BP)
    Party Chief
    Assistant Party Chief
    Equipment Manager
    Fleet Manager
    Quality Control Seismologist Chief
    Chief Geophysicist
    Chief Observer
    Senior Mechanic
    Chief Navigator
    Marine Specialist
    Positioning Data Processing Analyst

    I have to do some task due to my paper.

    thanks in advance.

  9. I am g p s / g I s surveyor in onshore and offshore work I am working for Saudi Arabia in deta sad company in g I s surveyor

  10. I’m working as a source gun mechanic looking for job,i have my experience in
    streamer boat and shallow water boat ,different kinds of guns onboard.

  11. Seismic salaries varies from minimal 150000 up to 450000 USD per year.
    Very dangerous job as guns shooting 24/7 and might kill you.

  12. Sorry please I want to know the salary of a mechanic onboard seismic vessel. From The list to highest

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