What is a steering wheel on a ship called?

What is a steering wheel on a ship called?


A steering wheel is an essential component of a ship’s navigation system, allowing the captain or helmsman to control the direction of the vessel. However, the steering wheel on a ship is not called a “steering wheel” like it is on a car or a smaller boat. In the maritime industry, the steering wheel on a ship is referred to as the “helm.”

The Helm: Steering the Ship

The helm is the central control point for steering a ship. It consists of a wheel or a device that allows the helmsman to turn the rudder, which in turn determines the ship’s direction. The helm is usually located on the bridge, the area of the ship from where navigation and control operations are conducted.

Components of the Helm

The helm consists of several components that work together to control the ship’s steering. These components include:

Steering Wheel: The steering wheel, or helm wheel, is the primary component of the helm. It is typically a large wheel that the helmsman uses to turn the rudder. The wheel is connected to the rudder through a series of mechanical linkages or hydraulic systems.

Hydraulic Systems: Many modern ships use hydraulic systems to transmit the steering commands from the helm to the rudder. These systems use hydraulic fluid under pressure to move the rudder, providing precise and efficient control.

Steering Gear: The steering gear is a mechanism that converts the rotational motion of the steering wheel into the linear motion required to move the rudder. It consists of gears, shafts, and other mechanical components that transmit the steering input to the rudder.

Control Systems: The helm is connected to various control systems that monitor and adjust the ship’s steering. These systems include autopilot systems, which can automatically steer the ship based on pre-programmed instructions or input from navigational equipment.

Types of Helms

There are different types of helms used on ships, depending on the size and type of vessel. Some common types include:

Spoke Wheel: The spoke wheel is the traditional type of helm, resembling a large steering wheel with multiple spokes. It is commonly found on smaller ships and recreational boats.

Telemotor System: Larger ships often use a telemotor system, which is a hydraulic steering system. The helmsman controls the ship’s steering by operating a lever or a joystick-like device, which sends signals to the hydraulic system.

Integrated Bridge Systems: In modern ships, the helm is often part of an integrated bridge system, where various navigational and control functions are consolidated into a single console. These systems may include electronic displays, touchscreens, and computerized controls.


The steering wheel on a ship is known as the helm. It is a crucial component of the ship’s navigation system, allowing the helmsman to control the direction of the vessel. The helm consists of various components, including the steering wheel, hydraulic systems, steering gear, and control systems. Different types of helms are used depending on the size and type of the ship.


– Maritime Connector: www.maritime-connector.com
– Marine Insight: www.marineinsight.com
– Britannica: www.britannica.com