The average annual salary for a water transportation worker is $48,980, which works out to about $23.55 an hour. That figure is based on a national Bureau of Labor Statistics survey undertaken in 2012 that define merchant marines as water transportation workers.
As merchant marines advance in rank, their salaries also tend to rise. An officer of an American merchant ship earns an average annual salary of $71,760, which translates to $34.50 an hour. The officer rank includes pilots, mates and captains in the merchant marine service, along with selected civil service mariners employed by the U.S. Navy in a delivery capacity.