Deck Crew Department Structure On Board Merchant Vessels

Jack Prot

Life aboard of a vessel is very different from any other shore located jobs or organization. Each and every crew member has got a specific grade and holds certain responsibilities in order to sustain the ship operations successful.

Mainly, the vessel’s crew has two types of seafarers: officers and ratings. Both these crew members can perform either on deck or in the engine room.

The Deck department the ship navigation, watch keeping, managing the ship’s hull, cargo, gear and accommodation, looking after the ship’s life saving and firefighting appliances. The deck department is furthermore the one in charge with receiving, discharging and looking after cargo. According to the vessel’s hierarchy, the deck officers are the following: Master, Chief Officer, Second Officer, Third Officer and Deck Cadet (deck officer to be).

The supreme authority on board a merchant vessel is the Master. The whole crew is under his authority. He is responsible for the safety, use and preservation of the vessel and ensures that every crew member carries out his work correctly. He is also responsible for the following: payroll, ship’s accounting, inventories, custom and immigration protocols, and the ship’s documentation. In order to become Master, a seafarer must firstly have a number of years of experience as a deck officer and also as Chief Officer.

According to the vessel’s hierarchy, the first deck officer and head of the deck department after the Master is the Chief Officer or Chief Mate. He is responsible with the ship navigation, watch tasks, charging and discharging operations. The Chief Officer furthermore directs all the other officers on deck, makes and posts watch assignments and implements the Master’s orders in order to maintain safe operations and maintenance of the vessel.

Second Officer or Second Mate is the following in rank after the Chief Mate and the ship’s navigator, working on making the ship’s passage plans and maintaining charts and publications up-to-date. Besides from watch keeping, the Second Officer can also be designated to train the cadets on the ship or to fulfill the rank of security, safety, environmental or medical officer.

The Third Officer or Third Mate is the 4th deck officer in command and is commonly the Ship’s Safety Officer, responsible with ensuring the good performing of the fire-fighting equipment and life saving equipments. He undertakes bridge watches and studies how to become a Second Officer.

A Cadet aboard a merchant ship receives structured training and experience on board and gets to know how to become a deck officer.

Apart from the officers, the deck department crew also is made up of ratings, like AB (Able Body Seaman), OS (Ordinary Seaman) and Boatswain.

The AB is part of the deck crew and has tasks such as: taking watches, steering the vessel, assisting the Officer on watch, mooring and un mooring the ship, deck maintenance and cleaning up. The AB also secures and un secures the cargo and takes deck and accommodation patrols.

OS is the crew member whose central obligation is to manage the cleanliness of the whole vessel and serves as assistant for the AB. To be an OS is regarded as an apprenticeship, a period identified as “sea time” so that you can be capable to take courses and training for AB.

Both the AB and OS are usually monitored by a Boatswain, who is actually also a rating, in charge with examining the cargo-handling gadgets and lifesaving equipment as well. The Boatswain usually holds an AB certificate as well.

The configuration for the deck department on merchant vessels is primarily the same on all vessel categories.

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