The crew on a ship is divided mainly into two departments; the Deck and the Engine department. The deck department is concerned with the watch keeping on the bridge and maintenance and repair of ship’s cargo gear, accommodation and also the ship’s lifesaving equipment.
Getting confused with all the various ranks and their duties is quite easy, especially for a layman. So in order to understand ranks in the deck department and their job a little better, here is a lowdown of the ship’s deck department.
The highest authority on the ship, the rank of the captain is the most responsible on the vessel. All the key operations and decisions have to be taken with the consent and knowledge of the captain.
The Chief Officer, or Chief Mate as he is often called, is second in position to the Captain. He is in charge of the deck department and also the deck crew. He oversees all the cargo operations including its handling and stability. He is also responsible for training the deck crew in safety and rescue operations besides other emergency procedures. A chief officer generally keeps the 0400-0800 and 1600-2000 watch on the ship.
Second Officer or second mate is responsible for all the navigation and hold his rank below the Chief Mate. A second mate has the responsibility of maintaining the charts and also plots the routes for navigation. Although on various oil tankers a second mate may assist the chief officer for tank cleaning and maintenance as well. A second officer keeps the 1200-0400 at night and 1200- 1600 watch in the evening.
A rank below the Second mate, a Third Mate may not be present on all ships, although all big vessels generally do have this rank onboard. The third mate is responsible for all the safety related operations onboard which include regular maintenance of all the firefighting equipment and lifeboats. He is the most junior officer of the deck department and also keeps the 0800-1200 and 2000-1200 evening watch.
A deck cadet is more of a marine graduate who works directly under the chief mate on the ship. Normally a deck cadet has to complete one full year of training on board under the senior ranks.
A Boatswain, pronounced as Bosun, is in charge of all the deck crew and he supervises the crew on board. Working in association with the chief mate, a bosun plans the tasks for the crew and oversees the work given. A bosun might be the third or the fourth officer on ship and doesn’t keep any of the watches.
ABs, as they are fondly called, are the members of the deck department who keep watches along with the officers on the bridge. While sailing the job of an AB is to carry out all the navigational duties on bridge, like maintaining the course and standing as a lookout during night watch.
The ordinary seaman, or the OS, is the lower rank on the deck side and is responsible for variety of duties on the deck. An OS is often required to wash and sweep the deck besides doing various deck side jobs like painting, scaling and buffing.