What Are The Different Kinds of Seafarer Ranks & Duties?

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Want to become a seaman? That’s great! There’s tons of work that you can do inside the ship. With the right courses (like doing basic training for a seaman) and the necessary paperwork, you’ll be able to reach your goal in no time.

While you’re at it, it’s good to get familiar with the roles that exist inside sailing ships. Read our quick guide below to know which is which!

Deck Department

Master/Captain

This role is for the highest commanding person on the ship. They have power over all ranks, can rightfully dismiss any crew member under reasonable circumstances and other leadership tasks.

Chief Mate/First Mate

This role is the second-in-command and responds to the Captain. He/she also handles the cargo operations and assumes command of the ship in the absence of a Captain.

Second Mate

This role is mainly in charge of the ship’s navigation. A Second Mate updates the charts makes passage plans and handles all other aspects of ship navigation.

Third Mate

This role mainly focuses on ship safety by inspecting and maintaining life-saving and fire-fighting equipment. A third mate is responsible for drilling operations and emergencies.

Deck Cadet

This role is for Navigational Officer trainees who are currently doing sea time and taking exams to get an OICNW certification.

Bosun/Boatswain

The bosun is the highest position for unlicensed roles (rating) in the deck department. This role usually carries out instructions given by the chief mate and oversees the ABs & OBs.

Able-Bodied Seaman (AB)

This rating is responsible for more physically demanding tasks such as working mooring lines and operating deck gear. An AB may also stand watch to assist the duty officer.

Ordinary Seaman (OS)

The OS is the lowest rating in the deck department. An OS must carry out any tasks given to them by anyone ranked higher than them.

Engineering Department

Chief Engineer/First Engineer

This role oversees the engine department of the ship. A Chief Engineer will delegate orders to operate and maintain all machinery and equipment throughout the ship.

Second Engineer

This role handles the daily maintenance and operations in the engine department.

Third Engineer

This role manages the boilers, fuel, auxiliary, & condensate, and feed systems.

Fourth Engineer

This role assists the third engineer.

Motorman

This rating heads the maintenance and repair of the engine department. A motorman has an Able Seafarer Engine Certificate STCW A-III/5.

Oiler

This rating mainly checks the lubrication of ship machinery. An oiler has an Able Seafarer Engine Certificate STCW A-III/5.

Wiper 

This rating is the lowest rank in the engine department. A wiper usually has an Engine Room Watch Rating (ERWR) Certificate STCW A-III/4.

Catering/Steward’s Department

Chief Cook/Steward

The Chief cook or steward is the highest unlicensed role in the steward department. A chief cook or steward usually oversees the menu planning, meal preparing, and meal serving for the whole crew. They also delegate tasks in terms of cleaning officer quarters and department areas and doing store inventory.

Steward

This rating is the lowest rank in the steward’s department. A steward usually responds to the orders given by the chief cook/steward.