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A shipboard organization is similar to the government structure we have in our countries.
Vessels have a world of their own. They are like mini kingdoms having a very small population with each person holding specific duties. The duties vary depending on the crew’s rank.
A normal seagoing merchant vessel is run by 20 strong men on average. They are divided into three departments namely Deck, Engine and Catering. These departments have various tasks during drills, emergencies and security duties.
Knowing the importance of shipboard organizational plan gives you an overview on the way a vessel functions.
Shipboard Organizational Chart
To better understand how the chain of command flows on board, one must look at the vessel’s organizational chart. This chart shows various departments running the ship including their department heads.
Each of the crew functions based on their ranks outlined in their job description. Shipboard organization makes it easy for everyone to identify the degree of responsibility of every person on board.
Lastly, you can tell the level of salary of each seafarer by just looking at the diagram.
On every ship, the overall command goes to the Master. Under him are the three departments: Deck, Engineering and Steward or Catering. The chart shown above best describes this hierarchy.
However, there are companies in which the Catering department is under the umbrella of Chief Officer.
Not only that, there are shipboard organizational structures which considers the Cadet as part of the officers. Others however puts him in the lowest rank just below the Ordinary Seaman or Wipers.
There are no wrong answers here as each company has different policy. As long as the crew runs the ship safely and complies with various rules and regulations, this should not be a problem.
On this article, we shall use the three departments directly under the Master’s umbrella.
On top of every shipboard organization is the Master. He is the overall commander having absolute authority on board.
This absolute authority means he has the overriding decision against the desires of the company and charterers. Of course, his judgement is always based on the safety of the vessel her crew and cargo.
Interchangeably, he is also called the Captain of the ship. Even when there are superintendents, shipowners and inspectors on board, he still has absolute command.
These visitors can not interfere with the ship’s operation without the permission from the Captain.
When there are accidents, incidents or deficiencies, the Master will be deemed responsible for it unless he can prove it otherwise.
This is one reason why he’s paid USD10,000.00 on average!
The Deck department is the unit responsible for navigation, watch keeping, maintenance of ship’s hull, cargo hold preparation, loading and unloading of cargoes.
Additionally, they are also responsible for keeping the lifesaving and fire fighting equipment in good order.
Mooring, un-mooring, anchoring and ballasting operations fall under the care of the deck department.
Generally, the deck crew conducts surface maintenance of the deck including its fittings and equipment.
The Chief Officer is the Master’s second in command. He is the person to take over the control of the ship whenever the Master is incapacitated.
Sometimes called the Chief Mate, First Officer or First Mate, he is primarily responsible with everything related to cargo operations.
He is the training manager, garbage manager, rest hours supervisor, disciplinarian and job administrator.
Some ships have three Junior Officers making the Chief Mate a day worker- 8am to 12 noon, 1pm to 5pm. However, there are still ships with only 2 Junior Officers.
This makes the Chief Mate a 4 to 8 watch keeper (AM/ PM) despite the huge jobs he has. His salary ranges from $6,000 to $12,000.
Typically stands at 12 to 4 watch (AM and PM), the second officer is also called the navigational officer. As what we see on the organizational chart, he is the rank below the Chief Mate and just above the Third Officer.
Since he is the navigational officer, his main duty revolves inside the bridge. He is in charge of fixing the voyage plans, chart corrections and publication updates.
More importantly, he makes sure that all navigational instruments and light signals are working and tested regularly.
The duty of a second mate includes cargo operations, ballasting operation and mooring/ unmooring of the ship. On some ships, he is also designated as the Ship Security Officer (SSO).
His salary is approximately $2,500 to $5,000.
A Third Mate’s watch is from 8 to 12 (AM-PM). He is usually the safety officer on board. This means that his duty involves the care and maintenance of all lifesaving and fire fighting equipment.
Whenever there are on-signers, the third Mate is in charge of familiarizing them by giving a tour of all the safety and fire fighting equipment.
In cooperation with the Chief Mate, his duty also includes updating the Muster list and assigning the crew’s duties and responsibilities during emergencies.
Like the second officer, his job also involves cargo operations, ballasting operation and mooring/ unmooring of the ship.
A Third Mate’s salary is around USD2,000 to USD4,500.
The Bosun is the head of the unlicensed deck department. With direct supervision from the Chief Officer, his main duty is keeping a good maintenance of the ship’s hull.
The Bosun’s job revolves around the deck area. After getting the job order of the day from Chief Mate, he usually delegates the tasks to the deck crew.
He then switches to supervision mode while performing some work that he can manage himself.
The Bosun works closely with the Chief Officer. We mentioned that Chief Officer is also the garbage manager and disciplinarian. Well, that job is designated to the Boatswain too.
Though the Chief Mate is the head of deck maintenance, the hands and feet that actually does the nitty-gritty stuffs are the deck crew headed by the Bosun.
On average, a Bosun earns USD2,000 per month.
You can find the rank of a Pumpman in tanker ships. Sometimes, his salary is equivalent to that of a Bosun. On other companies, his wage is a bit higher by USD100.00 to USD300.00.
A Pumpman assists the Chief Officer during loading, discharging and crude oil washing. Additionally, his duty also involves assisting in ballasting, de-ballasting, inerting, purging, gas-freeing and tank washing.
His responsibilities revolves around the deck area with the cooperation from Bosun and other deck crew.
However, he’s mainly focused on the maintenance of cargo equipment, PV valves, IG valves, deck seal, tank gauging equipment and connecting/ disconnecting of cargo hoses.
Able-bodies Seaman (AB)
The ABs are usually the ones steering the vessel during pilotage. They are either watch keepers or day workers. As watch keepers, they are partnered with the deck officers respectively.
They are the ones doing all the maintenance jobs on deck like chipping, buffing, painting, washing and greasing. Headed by the Bosun, they do the nitty-gritty jobs like climbing and entry into enclosed spaces.
During cargo operations, they too are involved in the deck area as eyes and ears for the deck officers. Their duties include checking the cargo lines for leaks, tendering the mooring lines and watching the gangway.
An Able-bodied Seaman’s salary is about USD1,550.00.
Ordinary Seaman (OS)
An Ordinary Seaman is the entry-level rank in the deck department. His duty is very much like the ABs. However, they require much supervision especially the new ones. Hence, they are partnered with an experienced AB.
Ordinary seaman are not allowed to steer the ship even if they have the necessary certificates. They are also not permitted to perform working aloft and tank entries.
Their main duty is assisting the ABs while learning about the job so they can be ready to get a promotion.
An OS’s salary is about USD1,200.00.
On some shipboard organization, the Deck Cadet is positioned just before the Third Officer. However, some organizational charts place him at the bottom of every department either deck or engine.
A Deck Cadet’s duties depend on the culture of the ship. On some vessels, he spends his time mostly on deck doing maintenance together with the ratings.
Meanwhile, some ships assign deck cadets only on the bridge. Still a few follows the program laid out in their Training Record Book.
The main duty of a Cadet is training. He must learn the different jobs on board. He can achieve this through immersion.
Therefore, his training supervisor assigns him together with the officers. Additionally, he also sends him to the Pumpman and Bosun to get an overview of the various jobs on deck.
A Cadet’s salary is about USD600.00.
Engineering department is the term used referring to the crew working below deck or inside the engine room.
A ship is equipped with various machines, electrical equipment and propulsion system. The engine crews’ job is to keep them running and in good working order.
Their work includes inspection, maintenance and repair of all machineries. These include the main engine which is the heart of the ship.
Additionally, they are also in charge of power generators, air-conditioning plants, sewage system, water distillation units, lighting and electrical fixture and cooling units.
The Engine Department is categorized into two: the licensed members called the marine engineers and the unlicensed crew called engine ratings.
Chief Engineer (C/E)
The head of the shipboard engineering department is the Chief Engineer (C/E). He is the overall in charge of engine room safety, machinery operation, maintenance, bunkering and technical administration.
Specifically, he keeps very much attention to the paper works, checklists and managerial tasks within his departments. He answers directly to the Captain.
Additionally, he is responsible that proper entries are made into the Oil Record Book and Engine Log Book.
The Chief Engineer also monitors the fuel and lube oil consumption. This means that the machineries in operation must achieve good and safe performance with economical consumption.
His salary is about USD7,500 to USD 15,000 depending on the ship type.
Second Engineer (2/E)
Sometimes called First Assistant Engineer (1AE), the Second Engineer is the rank below Chief Engineer. He is the Executive Officer of the ship’s Engine Department.
Since the Chief Engineer is buried with paper works, the Second Engineer does the planning, scheduling, delegating and directing the maintenance plan inside the engine room.
Of course, those jobs must be in consultation with the Chief Engineer.
As the second in command, he earns USD8,000.00 on average every month.
Third Engineer (3/E)
The 3rd Engineer is responsible to the Second Engineer for normal maintenance and watch keeping duties. In other ships, he is also called Second Assistant Engineer (2AE).
He is responsible for the general maintenance of the machinery and equipment. Under the supervision of the 2nd Engineer, he ensures that there are sufficient bunkers in the day tanks.
Additionally, his work includes the upkeep of the main proportion, engines, boilers and the diesel generators as per the Planned Maintenance System (PMS).
A Third Engineer’s salary is between USD2,500 to USD5,000 a month depending on the company.
Fourth Engineer (4/E)
A 4th Engineer’s job includes studying and practicing the 3rd Engr.’s duties. His day starts with a toolbox meeting with the other engineers and crew. The Second Engineer normally gives him the job for the day.
As the lowest engineer ranking on board, some of his duties include the maintenance of purifiers, air compressors, sewage treatment and general maintenance.
His responsibilities may overlap or interchanged with the other engineers due to different company regulations.
In some ships without electrician, he is also in charge with electrical fixtures, water systems and sounding of bilges and tanks.
Sometimes referred to as 3rd Assistant Engineer (3AE), his salary is similar to that of the Third Officer. It is about USD2,000 to USD4,500.
Electrician or Electro-Technical Officer (ETO)
The Electrician is one of the most vital technical ranks on board. Since a ship is mostly run by automation, an ETO plays a major role in keeping them running at all times.
In the vessel’s organizational hierarchy, the electrician reports directly to the Chief Engineer. He normally does not have a watch but is a day worker and can be called any time.
He also works in the deck department especially with the Chief Officer.
An ETO’s job includes UMS tests schedules, alarms tests (fire, smoke, heat), battery checks and refrigeration and air-conditioning units.
But that’s not all. Nearly all sorts of electronics and electrical problems even those found inside the bridge is a job for electrician.
Sometimes called the Electrical Engineer, his pay starts at USD2,000 to USD8,000 depending on the ship type and company.
A Fitter’s job on board is well, fitting a ship. But that’s too broad and too narrow at the same time. Fitters are highly skilled workers and are usually found inside the engine workshop. They are strong and adept in using various of measuring tools.
Their expertise includes riveting, grinding, welding, drilling and the use of lathe machine. They are very good at assembling, disassembling, reassembling and building new parts of a machine which are damaged.
Fitters are under the direct supervision of Second Engineer which means that’s where he gets his jobs. Some of their works include repairs of piping systems, plumbing, fitting and hot works. They also help out the engineers maintaining their machineries.
On average, Fitters earn USD2,000 a month which is similar with the Bosun.
A Motorman or Oiler’s job includes inspection and maintenance of pumps, motors, turbines and condensers on board. His care for these equipment involves greasing, lubricating, de-rusting and painting if necessary.
He keeps a record of his tasks and is directly responsible to the Second Engineer. Like the rest of the deck ratings, he also helps make the engine room clean and in good order. On some ships, his responsibility includes sounding of bilges and bunker tanks.
Both the Oiler and Motorman take part during bunkering operations.
With a salary between USD1,300 to USD2,000, you can’t help notice that they have the same pay and job description with the Oiler.
The Wiper is the Ordinary Seaman’s counterpart in the engine room. His job is that mainly of support to those ranks above him.
In most occasions, he is in charge of the general cleanliness of the engine room, engine work shop and engine control room.
He can be seen assisting the engineers cleaning the purifiers, dismantling motors and doing routine maintenance.
Wipers are expected to study and learn the jobs of Oilers, Motormens and Fitters. With enough knowledge and experience, he can be promoted to those levels.
Like the Deck Cadet, an Engine Cadet’s duty is mainly to learn the different jobs in the Engine department. His training scheme is directly supervise by the Second Engineer.
Because of the various jobs in the engine room, he is normally paired to the Engineers, electrician and even with the ratings.
Cadets are expected to absorb the learning he encounter in his work. He is a trainee to become an engineer even though his rank is placed below the engine department’s organizational diagram.
A Cadet’s salary is about USD600.00.
In most merchant vessels, the Steward department comprises the smallest number of crew in the shipboard organization.
But that doesn’t mean they’re less important. In fact, the Steward Department is the “backbone” of the organizational structure. Let’s take at look at what they do.
Sometimes, they are also called the Galley Catering Department. Their main job is to prepare meals for the crew. Not just ordinary meals but the delicious and healthy ones.
The Messroom is the only place where all the crew are usually gathered. A tasty meal after a hard day’s job often gets the crew inspired for the next day.
A chief steward is the highest ranking member of the galley department. He directs and supervises the planning and preparation of meals. Moreover, he is responsible for cost control and requisition of provisions.
Some ships employ only a chief steward or chief cook but the same person performs both the job of the cook and steward. This scheme is usually part of cost cutting strategy especially on merchant ships where the crew is only small.
A Chief Cook’s job is to prepare and cook the meals for the crew. He maintains the cleanliness and orderliness inside the galley and the provision room.
His duty also overlaps with the Chief Steward. He also bakes bread and cakes for the crew.
Chief Steward and Cook’s salary is about USD1,900.
While the Officers and Engineers are busy with their work, the Messman is the guy in charge of cleaning their cabins.
His area of expertise is inside the Mess hall where he keeps it clean and orderly. Before meals, he sets the table by preparing the plates, utensils, chairs and ensures that the ketchup is not empty.
He is also incharge of washing the dishes and filling the fridge with milk, juice, yogurt, bread and other beverages that the crew needs.
His salary is expected at around USD 1,400.00.
Every ship follows an organizational structure which may be slight different from another. The crew’s job is to adapt to the current system on board.
This isn’t hard to do since the job follows a similar approach with your experience. This article doesn’t cover all of the ranks on board like the Deck Boy, Messboy, Welder, Apprentice Mates and Engineers.
However, you can tell their level of responsibility by looking at the shipboard organizational chart.
May the winds be in your favor.