What is a Cadet?
The merchant navy is the backbone of international trade. More than ninety percent of cargo in the world is transported by sea. Trained people are essential in this demanding field.
A cadet starts at the bottom of the maritime job ladder. Much like in the armed forces, a cadet is, simply put, a future officer under training. Although rules about training and certification (the examinations a cadet and later, an officer takes regularly to be eligible for a higher rank) vary from country to country, the basics are the same.
The Deck officers
Deck officers are in charge of the navigation of the ship. In addition, they are incharge of the cargo that a ship carries.
The Captain or the Master of the ship is the overall in charge. He is responsible for the safe navigation of the vessel and is incharge of the ship, all the officers and crew, the safety its crew and the cargo. He has, working under his command, the first mate, second mate and third mates, all of whom have navigational and cargo duties. The Chief Engineer and the Engine Department also report to him for all operational matters, and so do all other Departments on board.
The First Mate / Chief officer is the second in-command. He is incharge of cargo, maintenance of the Deck Department and crew discipline.
The Second Mate / Second officer, assistant to the First Mate is in-charge of navigational equipment and charts. He is the ‘Navigating Officer’. He reports to the Chief Officer on cargo matters.
The Third Mate / Third officer is responsible for keeping lifeboats, liferafts and other safety and firefighting equipment in order. He reports to the Chief Officer on cargo matters and assists the Second Officer in the upkeep of nautical publications.
Trainees, or cadets, must join the ‘Deck’ or Navigation department to progress towards a Master’s (Captain’s) rank. Typically, he or she must have twelve years of formal school/college education with at least Physics and Mathematics among the subjects at the end of Grade 12. English is also essential. In addition, age limitations apply and excellent eyesight is required.
The options the student who wants to join the merchant navy as a deck cadet will include either
– a 3 year degree course in Nautical Science for (10+2) students . After completing of the 3-year course, a student is awarded a Degree in Nautical Science and is required to go on board ship for sea training or around a year or in some cases a little more..
–a 3 month course for Deck Cadets for (10+2) students. After completion of the course, the student has to get sea training for anything between eighteen months and 3 years, depending on the country.
The student will be usually paid a stipend while under sea training in either case. Room and board is free, of course, and medical benefits and some others are common.
What do the studies and training involve?
Amongst the many subjects which he must excel in, a cadet will learn terrestrial and celestial navigation, chartwork, meteorology, maritime law, maritime management, instruments, cargo work and seamanship. He will also learn about the plethora of international regulations that cover all aspects of shipping.
In addition, sea training will involve bridge and port watchkeeping, shiphandling, practical use of instruments, navigation and chartwork and training in hundreds of tasks which must be carried on on board by the Deck or Navigation department. He will be an understudy to an officer for at least part of the time.
What happens after the sea training?
After the requisite sea training is complete, the student can appear for the for 2nd Mates competency exams conducted by various governments. As soon as he is successful in the examinations, he will be employed as an officer on board one of the thousands of ships that ply the oceans.
He is now an officer. His next goal: the Chief Officer’s examinations.
Texas Maritime Academy