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Grooming Junior Deck Officers to Command Ships.

written by: Manu • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 3/13/2009

In a previous article, I detailed the progression at sea from a cadet to a junior officer. What next? How does the officer’s career progress from here?

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    Duties of Junior Deck Officers

    Soon after you get your first Certificate of Competency, you will get your first maritime job as an officer and be employed on board a cargo ship as a Third Officer. Note that your certificate entitles you to sail as a Second Officer, and it is likely that you will be promoted to that rank as soon as you display that you are practically competent to do so. Salaries depend on nationality, and are very generous.

    As a junior officer, whether Second or Third, your duties are split up into three parts

    - In port, cargo watches where the Second Officer and the Third Officer work under the supervision of the Chief Officer, and look after all aspects of cargo loading, stowage, lashing (securing the cargo), stability (to avoid the ship capsizing and for safety) and ballast (pumping in and out of seawater in tanks to help stability)

    - Additional duties: Both these ranks help the Master and Chief officer in administrative duties. In addition, the Second Officer is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all navigational equipment, charts and navigational publications. Equally importantly, he is responsible for planning the passage from one port to another, although under the supervision of the Master or Captain. He is also the communications officer on most ships these days. The Third Officer, similarly, is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all firefighting and lifesaving equipment on board. Deck officers also have to keep up with the latest health, safety, international regulations and environmental developments, and comply with them. And they must be ready to handle emergencies at any time of the day or night, anywhere.

    - At sea The Chief, Second and Third Officers keep sea watches, four hours ‘on’ and eight hours ‘off’, on a twenty four hour basis. During this time, they will be on the bridge, navigating the ship, taking positions to verify safe passage, using the radar and satellite systems, echo sounder, compass and a horde of other equipments designed to ensure safe navigation of the vessel. During their watch, they will be incharge of the navigation and movement of the vessel.

    The deck department also has other ‘Ratings’ or ‘Seamen’ that steer the ship, act as lookouts, maintain the ship and its equipment and assist the officers in their duties.

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    Examinations and career progression

    After approximately eighteen months to two years of sailing as a Junior Officer (depending on Nationality and the country where the competency exams are being appeared for), one is ready to appear for the next set of examinations- The First Mate or Chief Officer’s certificate of competency. Like other nautical examinations, this will test your knowledge and skills in diverse subjects like navigation, chartwork, meteorology, ship stability, international regulations, seamanship and electronic navigation. Not only that, passing percentages required are very high; quite a few do not clear these examinations at the first attempt.

    However, when you do, this will entitle you to sail as a Chief Officer, the Second in Command on board. You are now one step away from getting Command of a ship, as a Captain.

Sea Cadets- the future Marine Masters

How are sea Captains made? What is their career path? How does a raw cadet start his journey towards being trained for this high pressure job? Over the next couple of weeks, I will explain how this happens.
  1. Sea Cadets - The Future Marine Masters. Part I: Training
  2. Grooming Junior Deck Officers to Command Ships.
  3. The Second in Command on Ships at Sea - The Chief Officer
  4. Sea Captain: Master of the Ship