The ships are the limbs of the shipping industry which carry out the actual transportation of people and goods. Each vessel is manned with crews that are responsible for guiding the ship and cargo safely through the world’s oceans, from one port to another. To overcome the various challenges during a voyage, teamwork is important and every crew member has clearly assigned responsibilities. The manning of each vessel has a structure that consists of two different departments – the deck department and the engine department.
While the people working in the deck department are responsible for navigating and maneuvering the vessel, as well as for attending to its cargo, the people working in the engine department are responsible for keeping the ship’s engines running, as well as all of the other machinery that can be found on board.
Life at sea follows a clear hierarchy. On every vessel, the captain is at the top of this hierarchy. He/she is responsible for the overall operation of the vessel and has to ensure that the ship is operated safely, efficiently, in an environmentally-friendly way and in accordance with all national and international laws and regulations. Since he/she cannot achieve this task alone, they are supported by different ship officers and ratings.
Ship Deck Officers
The second and third officers assist the first officer with his/her duties. All of them ensure that the vessel is operational and staying on the course for 24/7. Ship officers are responsible to hold a technical certificate of competence. The nautical officers work in the deck department. In most cases there are three of them: The first officer is the second in command after the captain. He/she ensures that the ship, its cargo and the safety equipment are in good condition.
Ship Engineers are responsible for keeping the ship and the entire machinery and operations running. Today, ships are complex units that combine a lot of technology within a small space. This includes not only the engine and the propulsion system, but also for example, the electrical power supply, devices for loading and discharging, garbage incineration and fresh water generators.
All other people without a certificate of competence are called ratings. Ratings assist in all other tasks that can arise during a voyage. This includes for example, mooring, cleaning of the ship and its holds and repairing broken ropes. These are physically challenging jobs since they have to be accomplished in every weather condition.
Depending on the size and the type of the vessel there might be many more. Also, an on board profession today is not considered a dead-end road – it is only a stage in most seafarers’ career paths. Seafarers usually stay between three and six years on board and are then perfectly experienced for working in the maritime industry ashore.