Hierarchy of Merchant Navy

Hierarchy of Merchant Navy
Epaulettes

Merchant Navy is one of the most respectful and renowned careers to pursue. But did anyone know what does this name mean? It means “fleet of commercial ships”. Unlike the military purpose shipping, the ships and crew in merchant navy are part of nation’s commercial shipping. The name not just resonates challenging and adventurous stream but more often it requires very tough training and deep knowledge and experience regarding the maritime industry.

Nowadays, as shipping industry is on the way of advancement, the ships and vessels are becoming more technical and equipped. This development needs smart and responsible managers to handle the operations in a wise manner. Merchant Navy provides excellent career opportunities in different departments and ratings. Rating is a term often used to subject the seafarers with variant skills and here, rating is like a separate department with these kinds of seafarers. These departments and ratings are:

  • Deck Department
  • Engine Department
  • Deck Rating
  • Engine Rating

These departments with rating and also with saloon department completes the crew on the ship. The crew is responsible for ship’s and passenger’s maintenance and safety. To serve in these departments and ratings, the one need to satisfy the eligibility criteria set by the respective organizations.

Deck Department

To join deck department and rating, the basic qualification needed is B.Sc. in Nautical Science. It is a 3-year undergraduate program that deals with technical knowledge regarding navigation and safety operations on ships traversing from one port to another. In three years, this course is further divided into six semesters each of six-month duration. After completion of course, one should undergo sea service at least for a year. The deck department itself consist of a hierarchy. That is, it has a system of respectful ranks each with some responsibility. As the self-honor increases with ranks, so does the responsibilities with even better expectations. The different ranks of deck department and rating are: Captain, Chief Officer, Second Officer, Third Officer, Boatswain, Able seamen, Ordinary Seaman and at last but not the least, Cadet.

  • Captain:

Captains, otherwise called Masters, supervise entire operations onboard the ship. They keep track of goods and safety of the people on their vessel. Captains should have good mechanical and electrical knowledge. They are also responsible for hiring, promoting and expelling workers and staff. They should know about each and every activity occurring on the ships. A master’s personality is as important as the designation. The most important quality a captain should possess is the ability to deal stress. They know how to keep their mind cool in variant situations. Apart from these, a Captain should be efficient enough in his/her communication skills also they should take a scheduled report from coast guards regarding the weather conditions.

  • Chief Officer/ First Mate: –

After Captain, the Chief Officer is in-charge of all the responsibilities of the ship. The Chief Officer ensures proper co-ordination within the deck crew and they are also responsible for the safety of the ship and crew. A Chief Officer is always answerable to the Captain of the ship regarding the vessel’s condition. To be a Chief Officer, experience of 5 to 8 years is required. It is mandatory to qualify the examinations comprising questions regarding radio, electronics, safety, cargo, etc. to attain the post of Chief Officer/ First Mate.

  • Second Officer/ Second Mate: –

Second Officers are the successor to the Chief Officers, who are responsible for navigating operations of the ship. The navigation involves, updating and correcting of light house information and navigational charts, plotting of ship’s course and tracking the ships. For being a Second Officer, an experience of 5-8 years is required along with the fluency in English.

  • Third Officer/ Third Mate: –

After Second Officer, the third officer/ third mate are the fourth in command on ship. The Third officers are mainly responsible for the safety and maintenance of the ship and crew. Specially, lifeboats, fire-fighting and signal equipment are the most prominent things to be maintained under their supervision. To get promoted to the rank of Third Officer, the one should have 2-3 years of experience in any deck rating’s rank along with good English-speaking skills.

Deck Ratings

The deck department is incomplete without the consideration of different ranks of deck ratings.

  • Boatswain/Bosun: –

Here, the first rank comes is of Boatswain. Boatswain are also known as Bosun. Bosun is the head of the deck ratings, who has the responsibility regarding all the deck activities occurring. A Bosun must possess appreciable knowledge in aspects of knots, hitches, bends, whipping, etc. Bosun plans and assigns the work to the deck crew and keeps a check on every assigned work to be fulfilled. The well-experienced Able Seamen are the one who succeed to the rank of Bosun.

  • Able Seamen: –

The rank of Able Seamen is just after the Bosun. Their work and working hours depend on the requirements on the ship. Able Seamen are allotted with certain job duties like measuring of depth in un-familiar waters, looking for obstacles in ship’s path, maintaining visual communication with other ships and many more. For being an Able Seamen (AB), Merchant’s Marine Document (MMD) is mandatory to have and just like others English is desired skill. The Able seamen are there to instruct their subordinates that is Ordinary Seamen and Cadets.

  • Ordinary Seamen: –

Ordinary Seamen are assigned with deck jobs. This post is the entry-level rank in deck department which offers opportunity as a trainee. Ordinary Seamen with a few years’ experience can be promoted as an Able Seamen. Ordinary Seamen’s job includes cleaning of ship, maintenance of deck and sometimes as a standing guard. Though this rank is the first level but it has most menial jobs of the entire category of jobs on ship and that’s why it has been the most appreciated and admired job. This job requires the one who is, both physically and mentally fit with a vigilant and alert attitude along with an experience of few years.

  • Deck Cadet: –

Being a deck cadet is the first step toward the Officer rank. Supplemented by shore-based training and learning, he/she enters an off-shore training of almost 15-18 months. A Deck Cadet is responsible for maintaining a “Cadets Training Record Book”, which needs to be present to the master of the ship at regular intervals of inspection. Their job includes; watch-keeping at sea or anchor, routine maintenance on the deck, preparing necessary paper work, etc. There is no experience requirement for joining as deck cadet.

Engine Department

As deck department is responsible for deck related operations, engine department in merchant navy is responsible for the repairing and maintenance of ship’s engine room machinery. The basic qualification needed for joining engine department is the Bachelor’s Degree of Technology in Marine Engineering. Marine Engineering is 4-year under-graduation course that deals with machineries like motors, electric pumps, winches and other electrical and mechanical equipment. The engine department has different posts/ranks to operate all the functions properly and smartly. These ranks are: Chief Engineer, First Engineer, Second Engineer, Third Engineer and Trainee Engineer.

  • Chief Engineer: –

Chief Engineer is the one who owns all the decision-making power in the engine department.  A Chief Engineer holds all the technical responsibility of the ship. He/she ensures that whether the engine room operations are taking place properly or not, along with this they communicate with other ship departments for better outcomes from various machinery. They are responsible for the distribution of job among the engine room teams, routine discussion with their subordinate engineers for the maintenance of machineries in proper interval of time. They advise and order the engine room teams for improving their performance and efficiency and to work according to the planned maintenance system. However, it should be noted that though Chief Engineer has all the powers of engine department but then also, the overall charge of the engine department lies in the hands of Captain/Master. That is a Chief Engineer is always answerable to the Captain of the ship. Experience of almost 10 years of working as a subordinate to this post as well as fluency in English is required to become a Chief Engineer. The Chief Engineers are then assisted by three subordinate ranks of First Engineer, Second Engineer, Third Engineer.

  • First Engineers: –

First Engineer has the responsibility of maintaining the propulsion machinery and auxiliaries in a safer way. They supervise and train the second engineers and also lead the team working in the engine room. They prepare the schedule for maintenance tasks of the engine crew. They make sure that all the safety measures are to be followed in a proper manner. After First Engineer, Second and Third engineers hold the third and fourth rank on the ship. Second Engineers are succeeded to the post of First Engineer while the Third Engineers to the Second Engineers.

  • Second and Third Engineers: –

Both second and third engineers are responsible for the maintenance and safety of engine room machineries. Usually, both of these rank holders serve as the in-charges for machineries like pumps, motors, propulsion plants and many more. But ultimately, these are answerable to their seniors.

  • Trainee Engineer: –

Now, the last but not the least ranks of the engine department Trainee Engineer and Electrical Officer. The basic job of trainee engineers is to assist their senior engineers in carrying out their daily routine maintenance job in engine room. A trainee engineer is often called as a 5th Engineer on board. There is no experience requirement for being a trainee engineer as it is the basic step for grasping practical knowledge. But for this rank, a trainee engineer must possess a B.Tech in marine engineering and fluency in English. As trainee engineer needs to deal with engine room machinery and safety measures related to it, similarly an Electrical Officer mainly deals with the repairing of electrical equipment malfunctioning. The only requirement for being an electrical officer is that the one should have the basic knowledge regarding electrical equipment.

Engine Ratings

Just like deck department, engine department is also accompanied by engine ratings. Engine Rating consist of certain ranks like Mechanic, Oiler, Fitter, Wiper, and Engine Cadet. Engine Rating do not have any “head” or leader to keep a check on operations rather it is a group of seafarers with specific knowledge and experience in specific stream.

  • Mechanic: –

The first post comes here is of Mechanic. A Mechanic is responsible for inspecting all engine machinery installed on board the ship. He/ She supervises the engine room mechanic’s team for carrying out all the maintenance work regarding the engine room while the Mechanic is responsible for carrying-out mechanical repairs and maintenance of the equipment installed. A Mechanic is a member of the engine room working team. For a Mechanic fluency in English is a must which is the basic necessacity in merchant navy and an experience of 2-3 year is required. After Mechanic, oilers, wipers and fitters hold significant positions on the ship.

  • Oiler: –

An Oiler has the sanitizing responsibility of the engine room. Their job mainly includes welding of deck and engine components, assisting the First Engineer in management of engine room, maintaining the records of all work done in engine department for inspection from Chief Engineer. An Oiler ensures the good condition of all the tools and machinery and familiarize himself with handling of machines and parts like tanks and pipelines. For joining merchant navy as an Oiler, no prior experience is required but the person should hold some knowledge regarding the machinery and equipment. After Oiler, the other two valuable ranks are of Fitter and Wiper.

  • Fitter: –

Shipfitter is the person who makes sure that all the repair works are carried-out in proper manner. These repair works not only include the fitting and joining of parts but also include the maintenance of basic design and structure of the ship with the responsibility to re-create the ship with 100% removal of damages. An engine fitter’s profession is very important as this profession requires terrif amount of technical and fitting skills as engine room fitting are complex. Only the one with a long-term experience can develop sufficient skills to be a fitter. An aspiring Engine Fitter should be, mentally and physically strong enough to serve onboard ships for long time durations.

  • Wipers: –

Wipers, on the other hand, have the responsibilities to keep the engine room machineries and vessels in well maintained conditions. To get recruited as a wiper on the ship, prior experience is not required. After these the final position is of Engine Cadet. It is the basic stage to learn and experience the situation and requirements. Their basic job is to assist and understudy their senior engineers about the engine room and vessels. An Engine Cadet’s onboard training period is of 18-months to 3-years in which they mainly gain structural and technical knowledge.

However, these departments and ratings are responsible for fulfilling all technical requirements onboard the ship in merchant navy , yet also these are incomplete without Saloon Department.

Saloon Department

Saloon Department is often called as a Catering Department because it is responsible for fulfilling all the hospitality requirements. Mainly, Catering Department prepares and serves food for the crew members of the ship. This department offers jobs for different ranks and posts that include Chief Steward, Chief Cook, Second Cook/ Steward, Bakery/Pastry Man, Cleaners and Dishwashers. The basic requirement for having a job in catering department is about knowing how to cook. An aspiring ship’s cook should have necessary degree from recognized institute or university in culinary arts. Along with that, the person must have prior experience as a cook or chef either in a restaurant/hotel or onboard ship. Experience is must to have factor here, because the one will be required to prepare meal for a large number of people which is itself a challenging task.

  • Chief Steward: –

The Catering Department is headed by the Chief Steward, who supervises the entire operations of the department. They are responsible for assigning tasks to the other rank holders of the same department. Their responsibilities include- monitoring of galley utilities, ensuring proper appearance of the staff, training the staff according to the requirements, monitoring the proper sanitization of the ship, they must be always vigilant regarding any event or occasion to be held on the ship. The Chief Stewards are then assisted by Chief Cook.

  • Chief Cook: –

Chief Cooks are responsible for the preparation and the quality of the meal which will be provided to the crew onboard. A Chief Cook’s day starts at 5:30 am as he/she need to prepare breakfast on time. Adherence to time is an important factor to be kept in mind by a chief cook, as every crew member have been assigned with some duty, so they should get their meals on time. He/ She is always responsible for the cleanliness of their galley. Apart from this whenever there is an event on the ship, they have the responsibility to prepare a variety of enjoyable dishes for the crew members which itself is a challenging task for them though they have been provided with second cook or stewards. Chief Cooks never gets an off however if they are sick, they will get a volunteer from the crew, who will work under their guidance until they recover completely. Minimum 5-year experience of serving more than 30 people is required along with the experience of supervision. Along with this, fluency in English is must for both of these posts of Chief Steward or Chief Cook.

  • Second Cook/ Steward: –

Chief Cooks are generally assisted by second cooks/stewards. Their name changes as per the task assigned to them. Usually second cook has the responsibility to assist the Chief Cook in the preparation of the meal with they have the responsibilities like preparing and arranging buffets, lunch, dinner and deserts, storage of leftover food to protect it from contamination, cleaning their workstation, serving as a waiter or bar tender. While as steward, they are responsible for all the cleanliness and sanitation related tasks like cleaning staterooms, linens, common areas of vessel, washing laundry, making beds, etc. The Basic quantity required in a person for becoming a steward on the ship is the confidence to interact with everyone as they have public dealing duties. An aspiring steward must own three qualities of politeness, team spirit and good speaking skills to get recruited for the same. On the other hand, the one who wants to be a second cook needs to own all the qualification just like Chief Cook. There is prior experience required for being a steward but a minimum experience of at least 3 years is required for being a second cook. The remaining three posts of Baker/Pastry Man, Cleaner and Dishwasher have their significant roles on the ship.

  • Baker: –

Baker has its most important role when there is an event or occasion like Christmas or New Year onboard. They have the responsibility to prepare all the bakery dishes like cakes and pastries.

  • Cleaner and Dishwasher: –

Cleaner and Dishwasher have all the responsibility regarding the cleanliness and sanitization of the ship. Especially after the intervention of Covid their responsibilities are even more important for the safety of crew onboard.

On the whole it can be seen that though there are different ranks and post in merchant navy and they have difference in their pay scale but then also every rank, every post has its own importance and value. These all are inter-depend on each other to welcome every challenge while sailing. Failure of any one might ruin everyone’s hard work but attitude to accept any responsibility in every person recruited in Merchant navy never allow to happens so. It is in need to be noted that some posts can be remove or add, according to the requirement of the ship.    

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