If you think that a deck cadet is an indispensable part of the shipboard organization, this will disappoint you. They may be an essential solution for the shortage of competent officers but these apprentices are not “must haves” on board.
Sounds ironic? Let’s keep going.
What is a Deck Cadet?
A deck cadet is a trainee nautical officer who is learning the duties of deck officers on board a ship. His role as a seafarer is to train to become the next “mate,” and he does this by completing various tasks under a structured training program.
Simply put, whatever the officers are doing, a deck cadet does them as well. But his training is not limited to the seamen in uniforms.
He also conducts deck maintenance under the supervision of the Bosun. Furthermore, he spends time in the engine room to familiarize himself with the responsibilities of the engineers.
What does a Deck Cadet do?
As mentioned earlier, a deck cadet’s job is to perform the work of the officers. They spend time with the Third Mate, Second Mate, and Chief Mate.
His job includes paperwork, checklists, chart work, navigation, inspections, cargo operations, mooring and unmooring, lookout duties, steering, and a whole lot more!
After his assignments with the officers, he is also sent to carry out various jobs on deck to understand the maintenance aspect of the vessel.
In short, a cadet’s duty is to dip his feet into every facet of a mariner’s job.
But let’s not forget about the Captain. Captains don’t train them directly. Their role is to supervise their learning by asking questions, some of them tough, to test the cadet’s progress.
Duties and Responsibilities
If the cadet is assigned with the third officer, his duties encompass those of the third mate’s job.
Here are some of them:
- conduct inspection of the safety and firefighting equipment like the BA sets, fireman’s outfit, EEBD, lifeboat rations, etc.
- make reports such as safety drills and near misses.
- write logbook entries.
- do inventories of equipment, and order spare equipment if necessary.
- recognize different emergency alarm signals.
When he works with the second mate, his duties shift focus to the bridge such as:
- voyage planning and navigation
- chart and publication corrections
- noon reports
- ETA calculations
- celestial navigation
- bridge equipment testing
Together with the chief officer, his training will be more on cargo-related jobs. Such duties involve:
- cargo monitoring
- creating a loading/ discharge plan
- performing tests on various equipment
- logging entries into record books
- completing cargo calculations
He performs regular deck maintenance when on deck with the bosun and the rest of the deck crew. Suck tasks involve as chipping, painting, greasing, cleaning, sweeping, segregating the garbage, and assisting other crew.
Though he has a variety of duties, the responsibility still lies with the officer in charge, especially his training officer which is the Chief Mate.
Do all ships have deck cadets?
The short answer is a resounding “No!”
These apprentice cadets may be groomed for the continuity of qualified officers but not all vessels employ them.
In fact, it is not mandatory for shipping companies to have them onboard. But there are a few who recognize the importance of training the next generation of officers.
A good example is the shipping giant Maersk. They offer cadetship training program for deserving students who want to take a career at sea.
Some companies who can’t afford to sponsor cadets still try to find the best ones not under any of those scholarships. They go to different accredited maritime schools in the country and conduct assessment to filter promising students. They make an agreement with the one who pass the test that after they graduate, these students can work on one of their ships.
Why are they not mandatory?
Deck cadets are indeed trained to become the next competent and responsible officers. Some companies even invest in their education at an early age. But sending trainee officers on board is not mandatory.
Officers do not only come from the ranks of deck cadets. Any crew on board can become one provided he has completed all the required training and certificates- COP and COC.
ABs, bosuns, OS, and pumpmen have a chance to become Master Mariners if they choose to. Hence, cadets are optional for some companies.
There is also no regulation that requires them to raise cadets on board.
Advantages of being a deck cadet
The main advantage of cadets is the access to hands-on practice everyday on board. Their job is to learn and study. This means they have all the training available as part of their working hours.
Furthermore, the officers are obliged to teach them and not doing so may create a problem once a report reaches the shoreside office.
Now this translates to more learning, understanding, and participation on how to run a ship at an early part of their career. They get to experience a sense of responsibility while performing those duties and this is crucial for building a strong foundation.
Compare this with other ratings who have to sacrifice extra (unpaid) hours to learn an officer’s job. Sometimes, the day’s work could be very strenuous that they rather rest than make this feat.
Another thing is qualification.
In many systems, cadets only have to complete one year of sea service to qualify for a licensure examination. Ratings need to have a minimum of 36 months.
See the distinction? By the time a rating finishes his 36th month, the cadet may already be an officer.
Notice how much of a time difference it makes.
Is there an age limit?
Age limits for deck cadets depend on the company’s hiring policy. Normally, the age requirement is at least 18 years old. But some nationalities allow 16-year-olds to train as cadets on board.
Other than that, there used to be no age requirement when applying for a job on ships for certain positions, including deck cadets, as long as you were of legal age.
However, everything changed due to stricter regulations and an overabundance of readily available crew.
Some scholarships have age limits for their cadetship programs. Applicants who are 24 years old and above may find it difficult to land on this position.
Even if a person is qualified both in skill and knowledge, he may not be qualified for a cadetship if proven beyond the required age.
What companies accept cadets?
Many shipping companies accept cadets aside for their cadetship programs. You can check their Facebook pages or websites to see them.
Companies like NYK, BW Shipping, Eastern Mediterranean, MSC, Wilhelmsen Ship Management, V Ships, Anglo Eastern, Fleet Management, and many others have that structure.
Even cruise ship companies like Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean list job openings for this position.
Today, there is also a surprising growth of female cadets- we call them cadettes, entering in this field. A few have reached the peak of this career and are happily commanding their vessel.
May the winds be in your favor.