Seafarer's professions and ranks
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Seafarers hold a variety of professions and ranks, and each of these roles carries unique responsibilities which are integral to the successful operation of a seafaring vessel. A ship's bridge, filled with sophisticated equipment, requires skills differing from those used on the deck, which houses berthing and cargo gear, which requires skills different from those used in a ship's engine room, and so on.
The following is only a partial listing of professions and ranks. Ship operators have understandably employed a wide variety of positions, given the vast array of technologies, missions, and circumstances that ships have been subjected to over the years. A ship's crew can generally be divided into four main categories: the deck department, the engineering department, the steward's department, and other.
- 1 Modern ship's complement
- 1.1 Captain/Master
- 1.2 Deck department
- 1.3 Engineering department
- 1.4 Steward's department
- 2 See also
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Modern ship's complement
The captain or master is the ship's highest responsible officer, acting on behalf of the ship's owner. Whether the captain is a member of the deck department or not is a matter of some controversy, and generally depends on the opinion of an individual captain. When a ship has a Third Mate, the Captain does not stand watch.
The captain is legally responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the ship as he is in command. It is his responsibility to ensure that all the departments under him perform legally to the requirements of the ship's owner. The Captain represents the owner and hence is called "Master".
If the master of the ship is incapacitated or absent from the vessel, the Chief officer is in charge of all the operations as he is the executive officer of the ship.
Further details are available from the documented Safety Management Systems (SMS) of shipping companies. If the SMS appoints the Chief officer as second in command, he will assume command.
Chief officer/Chief mate
The chief officer/first mate (often called the chief mate in the United States) is the head of the deck department on a merchant vessel, second-in-command after the ship's master. The chief mate's primary responsibilities are the vessel's cargo operations, its stability, and supervising the deck crew. The mate is responsible for the safety and security of the ship, as well as the welfare of the crew on board. The chief mate typically stands the 4-8 navigation watch. Additional duties include maintenance of the ship's hull, cargo gears, accommodations, the life saving appliances and the firefighting appliances. The Chief Mate also trains the crew and cadets on various aspects like safety, firefighting, search and rescue, and various other contingencies. The chief officer assumes command of the whole ship in the absence or incapacitation of the master.
Second officer/second mate
The second officer (or second mate) of a merchant vessel is usually in charge of navigation and is the next licensed position above third officer and below chief officer as third-in-command, after the captain and first/chief mate. The second mate typically stands the 12-4 navigation watch. That is, the second mate will stand watch from 1200 to 1600 at noon and again from 0000 to 0400 in the nights. The second mate is typically the navigation officer aboard a ship.
Third officer/third mate
The third officer (or third mate) of a merchant vessel is primarily charged with the safety of the ship and crew. The third mate is the next licensed position on board the vessel, as fourth-in-command after the captain, first/chief mate, and second mate. The third mate tends to take the 8-12 watch.
A Deck Cadet is an officer under training in much the same way as in a military context. Cadets receive training in firefighting, first aid and survival techniques. Deck Cadets train in the fields of navigation, ship handling and cargo handling as well as maritime law. A cadet reports to the Chief Officer. His or her role as a trainee is to observe and learn, while helping out where possible, mostly the Chief Officer. As they do not have Certificate of Competency, cadets cannot hold a watch, but will likely assist one of the qualified officers, often with the Chief Officer, with their watch.
A boatswain, often (at least since 1868) phonetically spelled and pronounced bosun, is the most senior among the deck ratings. The boatswain is responsible for all deck works which includes ship maintenance, and repair of deck equipments
In the modern merchant marine, an able seaman (AB) is a member of the deck department and must possess a merchant mariner's document.
James Blackwood earned the rank of Able Seaman whilst serving on the Bibby Challenge.
In the United States Merchant Marine, an ordinary seaman or OS is an entry-level position in a ship's deck department. An OS performs a variety of duties concerned with the operation and upkeep of deck department areas and equipment. Upkeep duties include scaling, buffing, and painting decks and superstructure; as well as sweeping and washing the deck. An OS may splice wire and rope; break out, rig, overhaul, and stow cargo-handling gear, stationary rigging, and running gear. Additionally, the OS secures cargo, as well as launches and recovers boats. The OS may rig and operate hydrographic and other specialty winches; handle and stow oceanographic explosives; and stage and stow beach support equipment.
The chief engineer on a merchant vessel is the official title of someone qualified to oversee the engine department. The qualification for this position is colloquially called a "Chief's Ticket".
The Chief Engineer, commonly referred to as "The Chief", "Cheng", or just "Chief", is responsible for all operations and maintenance that have to do with all engineering equipment throughout the ship.. He may be paid on par with the Captain, although he is never responsible for the action of ship. The Chief Engineer cannot assume command and the command always rests with the deck officers unless it is clearly mentioned within the safety management system.
Second engineer/first assistant engineer
The second engineer or first assistant engineer is the officer responsible for supervising the daily maintenance and operation of the engine department. He or she reports directly to the chief engineer.
On a merchant vessel, depending on term usage, "The First" or "The Second" is the marine engineer second in command of the engine department after the ship's chief engineer. The person holding this position is typically the busiest engineer aboard the ship, due to the supervisory role this engineer plays and the operations duties performed. Operational duties include responsibility for the refrigeration systems, main engines (steam/gas turbine, diesel), and any other equipment not assigned to the second assistant engineer/third engineer or the third assistant engineer/fourth engineer(s). If the engine room requires round the clock attendance and other junior engineers can cover the three watch rotations, this officer is usually a "day worker" from 0630-1830.
Third engineer/second assistant engineer
The third engineer or second assistant engineer is junior to the Second Engineer/First Assistant Engineer in the engine department and is usually in charge of boilers, fuel, auxiliary engines, condensate, and feed systems. This engineer is the third highest marine engineer in rank. Depending on usage, "The Second" or "The Third" is also typically in charge of fueling or bunkering, if the officer holds a valid Person In Charge (PIC) endorsement for fuel transfer operations.
Fourth engineer/third assistant engineer
The fourth engineer or third assistant engineer is junior to the second assistant engineer/third engineer in the engine department. The most junior marine engineer of the ship, he or she is usually responsible for electrical, sewage treatment, lube oil, bilge, and oily water separation systems. Depending on usage, this person is called "The Third", or "The Fourth", and usually stands a watch. Moreover, the Fourth Engineer may assist the third mate in maintaining proper operation of the lifeboats. In the U.S. fleet, it is not uncommon for the Third Engineer to carry the nickname "Turd Third" due to his/her sewage treatment responsibilities.
A trainee engineer officer normally reports to the second engineer. Their role as trainee is to observe and learn, while helping out where possible. As they have no 'ticket' a cadet can not hold a watch, but will likely assist one of the qualified engineers with their watch. Typical duties may include preparing the engine room log or preparing the tea and coffee at breaks (if asked) for the engineering team. The Engineer Cadets epaulette is purple, as with the other engineers, however has only one gold horizontal strip (UK system).
The chief steward directs, instructs, and assigns personnel performing such functions as preparing and serving meals; cleaning and maintaining officers' quarters and steward department areas; and receiving, issuing, and inventorying stores. The chief steward also plans menus; compiles supply, overtime, and cost control records. The Steward may requisition or purchase stores and equipment. Additional duties may include baking bread, rolls, cakes, pies, and pastries. A chief steward's duties may overlap with those of the Steward's Assistant, the Chief Cook, and other Steward's Department crew members. Although he wears an officer's uniform and is an officer by courtesy in order to head a department, he is not a licensed Merchant Marine officer. He eats and lives with the unlicensed crew, and his insignia is different from that of the ship's officers and engineers.
The chief cook is the senior unlicensed crew member working in the Steward's department of a ship. His position corresponds to that of the Bosun in the Deck Department, the Pump man in an oil tanker, and the Electrician in the Engine Department of a container ship or general cargo ship. He can be regarded as equivalent to a chief petty officer in the Navy.
The chief cook directs and participates in the preparation and serving of meals; determines timing and sequence of operations required to meet serving times; inspects galley and equipment for cleanliness and proper storage and preparation of food.