This article examines the migration trajectories of seafarers who worked on Belgian merchant vessels departing from the port of Antwerp during the second half of the nineteenth century. Based on the Antwerp seamen’s registry, which recorded information on voyages of seafarers on Belgian merchant vessels departing from Belgium’s main commercial port, this article shows that Antwerp’s maritime recruitment area vastly expanded with the advent of steam. The proportion of low-skilled seafarers who originated from inland areas increased as a result of the creation of new departments aboard ship and the emergence of ocean liners. However, established migration fields remained important for the supply of skilled labour in deck departments, which indicates that there was also continuity. The findings suggest that each department had its own dynamics and therefore old and new patterns co-evolved during a period of transition.