Deck department

The deck department is an organisational team on board naval and merchant ships. The department and its manning requirements, including the responsibilities of each rank are regulated within the STCW Convention.[1] The department is led by deck officers, who are licensed mariners and they are commanded overall by the ship's captain. Seafarers in the deck department work a variety of jobs on a ship or vessel, but primarily they will carry out the navigation of a vessel, from the bridge. However, they are usually also responsible for supervising and monitoring any maritime cargo onboard, as well as ensuring maintenance of the deck and upper hull structure, monitoring the stability of the ship including loading and discharging ballast water, carrying out mooring operations and finally anchoring a ship.

Container lashing with rods
The deck department is responsible for safely receiving, discharging, and caring for cargo during a voyage.
3ABs aloft
The ship's bosun, an able seaman (AB) day worker, and a watchstander AB are seen here working aloft aboard a U.S. freighter to maintain cargo rigging.

Merchant shipping

The deck department is divided into deck officers and ratings. All ranks in the deck department are required to have undertaken training in accordance with the STCW Convention.[1] For officers this involves the passing of an exam to receive a certificate of competency, the level of understanding and certification varies according to ship size. All ranks are required to have undertaken generic maritime training, which usually involves time at sea and time in an approved college. International standards under the STCW Code set out the minimum requirements for training, however individual nations also have their own maritime training regulations. For example, in the United Kingdom the Maritime and Coastguard Agency ensure that the deck department receive training and examinations in order to assume the responsibilities of their rank at sea.[2] All seafarers of the deck department are also required to have undertaken a series of short course training, in various elements under the STCW Convention.[3] This includes general security, safety and lifeboat training, as well as vessel-specific training, such as operations in the polar regions and on tankers.[3]

While the master or captain is in overall command of the ship, the chief mate is the head of the deck department. This involves administrative tasks such as scheduling work, quality control, coordinating with other departments, and conflict resolution. The chief mate also compiles supply, overtime, and cost control records, and requisitions or purchases stores and equipment. Depending on the number of officers carried, he may or may not be a watch officer. If the ship carries a second mate and two third mates, he will be a dayworker, with a duty day from 0800 to 1700 ship's time. If only one third mate is carried, he will stand the 4 to 8 watch in addition to handling his executive duties.

The ship's other deck officers, generally a second mate and third mate, are also members of the deck department. Each watchstanding officer is responsible for the unlicensed crewmen on his watch.

In a four-mate ship where the chief mate is a dayworker, the second mate will stand the 4 to 8 watch, because sunrise and sunset usually fall on that watch. In the days before satellite navigation systems, the second mate shot morning and evening star fixes to determine the ship's position. The second mate is also responsible for maintaining the ship's charts and navigational publications, the ship's gyrocompass, and all navigational gear. He also keeps the log extract for each voyage used by company management as a short form "howgozit" sheet, covering time at sea, time under pilotage, time in port, and types and tonnages of cargoes moved.

The two third mates are often called the senior third and the junior third. The senior third mate stands the 12 to 4 watch, the junior third the 8 to 12 watch. While on duty, they are responsible for handling the ship and fixing its position by shooting sun lines, taking hourly fixes from the satellite navigation gear, and piloting the ship in coastal waters; and the senior third will prepare the noon position slip for the use of the captain and chief engineer.

Naval usage

See also: First lieutenant § U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard

In the military, the deck department comprises sailors who perform a variety of functions depending on ship type and size.

Examples include maintenance and upkeep of the ship, handling of the ship's rigging and ground tackle, coordination of underway replenishment operations, conductance of minesweeping operations, maintenance and operation of the ship's boats, supervision of diving and salvage operations (including towing), and serving as shipboard seamanship specialists. Undesignated seamen, or those who have not selected a rating (e.g. job or vocation), are normally the most junior sailors on board and are usually sent to the deck department for their first assignment.

See also


  1. ^ a b Standards of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping’ (STCW) Convention. International Maritime Organization. 2010.
  2. ^ "Certificates of Competency". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "STCW 2010 Manilla Requirements". Warsash Maritime Academy. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
Able seaman

An able seaman (AB) is a naval rating of the deck department of a merchant ship with more than two years' experience at sea and considered "well acquainted with his duty". An AB may work as a watchstander, a day worker, or a combination of these roles. Once a sufficient amount of sea time is acquired, then the AB can apply to take a series of courses/examinations to become certified as an officer.


A boatswain ( BOH-sən, formerly and dialectally also BOHT-swayn), bo's'n, bos'n, or bosun, also known as a Petty Officer or a qualified member of the deck department, is the seniormost rate of the deck department and is responsible for the components of a ship's hull. The boatswain supervises the other members of the ship's deck department, and typically is not a watchstander, except on vessels with small crews. Additional duties vary depending upon ship, crew, and circumstances.


The German term Bootsmann translates to Boatswain, i.e. the senior crewman of the deck department.

In a military context, Bootsmann (Btsm or B) is the lowest Portepeeunteroffizier (NCO with portepeé) rank in the German Navy. It belongs to the particular rank group Senior NCOs with port épée. It is grouped as OR6 in NATO, equivalent to Petty Officer First Class in the US Navy, and to Petty Officer in the British Royal Navy.

In navy context NCOs of this rank were formally addressed as Herr Bootsmann also informally / short Bootsmann.

The sequence of ranks (top-down approach) in that particular group is as follows:Unteroffiziere mit Portepee

OR-9: Oberstabsbootsmann / Oberstabsfeldwebel

OR-8: Stabsbootsmann / Stabsfeldwebel

OR-7: Hauptbootsmann / Hauptfeldwebel

OR-6a: Oberbootsmann / Oberfeldwebel

OR-6b: Bootsmann / FeldwebelThe abbreviation "OR" stands for "Other Ranks / fr: sous-officiers et militaires du rang / ru:другие ранги, кроме офицероф"!

See also

Chief mate

A chief mate (C/M) or chief officer, usually also synonymous with the first mate or first officer, is a licensed member and head of the deck department of a merchant ship. The chief mate is customarily a watchstander and is in charge of the ship's cargo and deck crew. The actual title used will vary by ship's employment, by type of ship, by nationality, and by trade: for instance, chief mate is not usually used in the Commonwealth, although chief officer and first mate are; on passenger ships, the first officer may be a separate position from that of the chief officer that is junior to the latter.

The chief mate answers to the captain for the safety and security of the ship. Responsibilities include the crew's welfare and training in areas such as safety, firefighting, search and rescue.

Engine department

An engine department or engineering department is an organizational unit aboard a ship that is responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of the propulsion systems and the support systems for crew, passengers, and cargo.

These include the ship engine, fuel oil, lubrication, water distillation, separation process, lighting, air conditioning, and refrigeration.

The engine department emerged with the arrival of marine engines for propulsion, largely during the later half of the 19th century. Due to advances in marine technology during the 20th century, the engine department aboard merchant ships is considered equally important as the deck department, since trained engine officers are required to handle the machinery on a ship.Typically, a ship's engine department is run by the engine officers but manned with other occupational specialties of the seafarer's trade like:

Machinist/Fitter: A rating (or petty officer) who is specialized in fabrication, welding, etc.

Motorman: A, not always, qualified engine rating who stands a watch with the engine officer, as well as performing menial tasks and assisting engine officers during maintenance.

Oiler: A rating who is responsible for ensuring that machinery is adequately lubricated. Performs menial tasks such as cleaning, sounding tanks etc.

Wiper: The lowest rating in the engine room and is tasked with keeping the machinery spaces clean and tidy. Wipers usually go on to become oilers once they are familiar with engine room machinery and specific routines.Defunct positions within the engine department include the fireman, who was a rating responsible for shoveling coal into the boiler furnaces of steam engines, and the coal trimmer, a rating that loaded coal in the bunkers and transported the coal from the bunkers to the firemen.

Nowadays due to the increase in automation on merchant vessels and the increase in the unattended machinery spaces (UMS) aboard them, the number of seafaring engine officers has decreased drastically on board merchant ships. Today, the engine department usually consists of the following number of engine officers and ratings:

(1) Chief engineer

(1) Second engineer

(1) Third engineer

(1-2) Fourth engineer

(0-1) Engine Cadet

(2-4) Motorman

(0-2) Oiler

(0-1) WiperAdditionally, many vessels also carry a specific type of engine officer known as an electro-technical officer.

First lieutenant

First lieutenant is a commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces and, in some forces, an appointment.

The rank of lieutenant has different meanings in different military formations (see comparative military ranks), but the majority of cases it is common for it to be sub-divided into a senior (first lieutenant) and junior (second lieutenant) rank. The NATO equivalent rank for land force officers is OF-1 rank. In navies, while certain rank insignia may carry the name: "lieutenant", the term may also be used to relate to a particular post or duty, rather than a rank.


A lieutenant (abbreviated Lt, LT, Lieut and similar) is a junior mostcommissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police and other organizations of many nations.

The meaning of lieutenant differs in different militaries (see comparative military ranks), but is often subdivided into senior (first lieutenant) and junior (second lieutenant and even third lieutenant) ranks. In navies it is often equivalent to the army rank of captain; it may also indicate a particular post rather than a rank. The rank is also used in fire services, emergency medical services, security services and police forces.

Lieutenant may also appear as part of a title used in various other organisations with a codified command structure. It often designates someone who is "second-in-command", and as such, may precede the name of the rank directly above it. For example, a "lieutenant master" is likely to be second-in-command to the "master" in an organisation using both ranks.

Political uses include lieutenant governor in various governments, and Quebec lieutenant in Canadian politics. In the United Kingdom, a lord lieutenant is the sovereign's representative in a county or lieutenancy area, while a deputy lieutenant is one of the lord lieutenant's deputies.

Lieutenant (navy)

Lieutenant (abbreviated Lt, LT, LT(N), Lt(N), Lieut and LEUT, depending on nation) is a commissioned officer rank in many nations' navies. It is typically the most senior of junior officer ranks. The rank's insignia usually consists of two medium gold braid stripes and often the uppermost stripe features an executive curl.

The now immediately senior rank of lieutenant commander was formerly a senior naval lieutenant rank. Many navies also use a subordinate rank of sub-lieutenant. The appointment of "first lieutenant" in many navies is held by a senior lieutenant.

A navy lieutenant ranks higher than an army lieutenant; the navy rank of lieutenant is a NATO OF-2 (US grade O-3) and ranks with an army captain.

Maritime transport

Maritime transport is the transport by water of people (passengers) or goods (cargo). Freight transport by sea has been widely used throughout recorded history. The advent of aviation has diminished the importance of sea travel for passengers, though it is still popular for short trips and pleasure cruises. Transport by water is cheaper than transport by air, despite fluctuating exchange rates and a fee placed on top of freighting charges for carrier companies known as the currency adjustment factor (CAF).

Maritime transport can be realized over any distance by boat, ship, sailboat or barge, over oceans and lakes, through canals or along rivers. Shipping may be for commerce, recreation, or for military purposes. While extensive inland shipping is less critical today, the major waterways of the world including many canals are still very important and are integral parts of worldwide economies. Virtually any material can be moved by water; however, water transport becomes impractical when material delivery is time-critical such as various types of perishable produce. However, water transport is highly cost effective with regular schedulable cargoes, such as trans-oceanic shipping of consumer products – and especially for heavy loads or bulk cargos, such as coal, coke, ores or grains. Arguably, the industrial revolution took place best where cheap water transport by canal, navigations, or shipping by all types of watercraft on natural waterways supported cost effective bulk transport.

Containerization revolutionized maritime transport starting in the 1970s. "General cargo" includes goods packaged in boxes, cases, pallets, and barrels. When a cargo is carried in more than one mode, it is intermodal or co-modal.

Navy Enlisted Classification

The Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) system supplements the rating designators for enlisted members of the United States Navy. A naval rating and NEC designator are similar to the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) designators used in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps and the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) used in the U.S. Air Force.

The U.S. Navy has several ratings or job specialties for its enlisted members. An enlisted member is known by the enlisted rating, for example, a Machinist's Mate (or MM or by the enlisted rate, for example Petty Officer First Class (or PO1). Often Navy enlisted members are addressed by a combination of rating and rate. In this example, this machinist's mate petty officer first class may be addressed as Machinist's Mate 1st Class (or MM1).

However, the NEC designator is a four-digit code that identifies skills and abilities beyond the standard (or outward) rating designator. According to the Military Personnel Manual (MILSPERMAN) 1221-010, the NEC designator facilitates personnel planning, procurement, and selection for training; development of training requirements; promotion, distribution, assignment and the orderly call to active duty of inactive duty personnel in times of national emergency or mobilization.

For example, a person holding the MM-3385 is a nuclear-trained machinist's mate for surface ships, and a person with an MM-3355 is a nuclear-trained machinist's mate for submarines.

In the U.S. Navy's officer ranks, the naval officer designator serves a similar purpose.


An officer is a person who has a position of authority in a hierarchical organization. The term derives from the late Latin from officiarius, meaning "official".

Ordinary seaman

An ordinary seaman (OS) is a naval rating of the deck department of a ship. The position is an apprenticeship to become an able seaman, and has been for centuries. In modern times, an OS is required to work on a ship for a specific amount of time, gaining what is referred to as "sea time". For centuries, the term ordinary seaman was used to refer to a seaman with between one and two years' experience at sea, who showed enough seamanship to be so rated by their captain.An OS is generally not required to stand watch, but must pass examinations on watchstanding skills such as performing lookout duty and being a helmsman. Thus an OS will often be found on a ship's bridge after working hours taking a turn at the ship's wheel or being familiarized with bridge equipment.

During the apprenticeship, an OS performs a variety of duties concerned with the operation and upkeep of deck department areas and equipment. These duties vary with the type of ship, the type of voyage, the number of crewmembers, the weather, the supervisor, and any number of other variables. However, in most cases, one can expect an ordinary seaman to clean, to perform maintenance, to work with deck equipment, and to undergo on-the-job-training under the supervision of senior deck department members.


A pumpman is an unlicensed member of the Deck Department of a merchant ship. Pumpmen are found almost exclusively on tankers, and on oil tankers in particular. Variations on the title can include chief pumpman, QMED/pumpman, and second pumpman.A pumpman performs all work necessary for the safe and proper operation of the liquid cargo transfer system. This includes but is not limited to: liquid cargo transfer pumps, liquid cargo stripping pumps, liquid cargo coalesces and separators, strainers, filters, associated piping, valves, fittings, and deck machinery directly related to the transfer of liquid cargo.


A sailor, seaman, mariner, or seafarer is a person who works aboard a watercraft as part of its crew, and may work in any one in a number of different fields that are related to the operation and maintenance of a ship.

The profession of the sailor is old, and the term sailor has its etymological roots in a time when sailing ships were the main mode of transport at sea, but it now refers to the personnel of all watercraft regardless of the mode of transport, and encompasses people who operate ships professionally or recreationally, be it for a military navy or civilian merchant navy. In a navy, there may be further distinctions: sailor may refer to any member of the navy even if they are based on land; while seaman may refer to a specific enlisted rank.

Sea captain

A sea captain, ship's captain, captain, master, or shipmaster, is a high-grade licensed mariner who holds ultimate command and responsibility of a merchant vessel. The captain is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the ship and its people and cargo, including its seaworthiness, safety and security, cargo operations, navigation, crew management, and legal compliance.

Seafarer's professions and ranks

Seafaring is a tradition which encompasses a variety of professions and ranks. Each of these roles carries unique responsibilities which are integral to the successful operation of a seafaring vessel. A ship's crew can generally be divided into four main categories: the deck department, the engineering department, the steward's department, and other. The reasoning behind this is that a ship's bridge, filled with sophisticated navigational equipment, requires skills differing from those used on deck operations – such as berthing, cargo and/or military devices; which in turn requires skills different from those used in a ship's engine room and propulsion, and so on.

However do note that 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.

There are some notable trends in modern or twenty-first century seamanship. Usually, seafarers work on board a ship between three and six years. Afterwards they are well prepared for working in the European maritime industry ashore. Generally, there are some differences between naval and civilian seafarers. One such example is nationality on merchant vessels, which is usually diverse and not identical like on military craft. As a result, special cross-cultural training is required – especially with regard to a lingua franca. Another notable trend is that administrative work has increased considerably on board, partly as an effect of increased focus on safety and security. A study shows that due to this development certain skills are missing and some are desired, so that a new degree of flexibility and job sharing has arisen, as the workload of each crew member also increases.

Second mate

A second mate (2nd Mate) or second officer (2/O) is a licensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship holding a Second Mates Certificate of Competency, which is issued by the administration. The second mate is the third in command (or on some ocean liners fourth) and a watchkeeping officer, customarily the ship's navigator. Other duties vary, but the second mate is often the medical officer and in charge of maintaining distress signaling equipment. On oil tankers, the second mate usually assists the chief mate with the Cargo operations.

The Navigator's role focuses on creating the ship's passage plans. A passage plan is a comprehensive, step by step description of how the voyage is to proceed from berth to berth or one port to another. The plan includes undocking, departure, the en route portion of a voyage, approach, and mooring at the destination.

The GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) officer role consists of performing tests and maintenance, and ensuring the proper log-keeping on the ship's Global Maritime Distress Safety System equipment. Safety equipment includes Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons, a NAVTEX unit, INMARSAT consoles, various radios, Search and Rescue Transponders, and Digital Selective Calling systems.

Third mate

A third mate (3/M) or third officer is a licensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship. The third mate is a watchstander and customarily the ship's safety officer. The position is junior to a second mate. Other duties vary depending on the type of ship, its crewing, and other factors.

Duties related to the role of safety officer focus on responsibility for items such as firefighting equipment, lifeboats, and various other emergency systems.

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