Complete Overview of the Different Ranks of Seafarers

– Ranks of Seafarers –

Overview of the Different Ranks of Seafarers: The ship consists ranks such as Master, Chief Mate(also called Chief Officer), 2nd Mate(also called 2nd Officer), 3rdMate(also called 3rd Officer), Deck Cadets, Chief Engineer,2nd Engineer,3rd Engineer,4th Engineer, Engine Cadets etc. Keep reading.

The Different Seafarer Ranks

When we talk about ranks of seafarers the famous sailors come in our minds are people like Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci & Sir James Cook, etc.

Actually, all these people were Masters (also called as Captain/Master mariner) onboard Sailing ships. Sailing is teamwork, so it needs different ranks to carry out specific duties.


Ranks of Seafarers

Deck Department


The captain or master is the ship’s highest responsible officer, acting on behalf of the shipowner. He/she is responsible for all operations on board.

Chief Mate

The head of the deck department on a merchant’s vessel, second-in-command after the ship’s Master. This position is responsible for cargo operations, the vessel’s stability, the deck crew, and the safety and security of the vessel.

Chief Mate

This position is responsible for cargo operations, the vessel’s stability, the deck crew, and the safety and security of the vessel.

The chief mate is the one to train the crew and cadets on various operations, such as safety, firefighting, search and rescue, and various other contingencies.

Second Mate

The one that holds this position is responsible for directing the bridge and navigating the ship.

The second mate is the third most experienced deck department officer after the Captain/Master and Chief mate. One of their priorities is to update charts and publications, keeping them current, making passage plans, etc.

Third Mate

The third officer is responsible for the maintenance of life-saving equipment and fire-fighting equipment under the Safety Officer`s instruction.

Also, the third mate conducts the drilling operations and handles all the port documents on behalf of the Master.

Deck Cadet

Also known as the Trainee Navigational Officer or Nautical Apprentice is an apprentice who must learn the basic duties, comprehend and apply the new skills learned.


The boatswain generally carries out the tasks instructed by the chief mate, directing the able seaman and ordinary seaman. The boatswain generally does not stand a navigational watch.

A number of boatswains and naval boatswains‟ mates have achieved fame. Reuben James and William Wiley are famous for their heroism in the Barbary Wars and are namesakes of the ships USS Reuben James and USS Wiley.

Able Seaman

An able seaman (AB) works under the boatswain, completing tasks such as working mooring lines, operating deck gear, standing anchor details, and working cargo.

An able seaman also stands a navigational watch, generally as a lookout or helmsman.

Ordinary Seaman

The lowest ranking personnel in the deck department. An ordinary seaman (OS) generally helps out with work that able seamen do. Other tasks include standing lookout and general cleaning duties.

Engineering Department

Chief Engineer

The Chief Engineer is the head of the engineering department on a vessel.  The required qualification for this position is loosely referred to as the “Chief’s Ticket”.

Alternatively, he can also be alternatively termed as the “The Chief” and usually draws similar pay as compared to the Captain. Although the complete responsibility of a particular vessel falls solely on the Captain’s shoulder.

The chief engineer gives orders for operation and maintenance of the ship’s machinery system and is responsible for the engine room department.

Second Engineer

He is associated with the day-to-day activities in the engine room, and he is accountable to the Chief Engineer.

Duties include supervising the proper functioning of all engine room machinery systems and also assigns jobs to the other engine officers and crew.

The Second Engineer generally keeps watching on the engine room, during the day time

Third Engineer

This is the next position after the Second Engineer and is assigned jobs to look after machinery ordered by the chief engineer, along with daily watch keeping. He reports to the second engineer.

Engine Ratings


The motorman is an unlicensed member of the engine department, the same requirement with the Oiler both having the Able Seafarer Engine Certificate STCW A-III/5.


The oiler is an unlicensed member of the engine department, with more experience than a Wiper and having the Able Seafarer Engine Certificate STCW A-III/5.


The wiper is an unlicensed member of the engine department, usually with the least experience and having the Engine Room Watch Rating (ERWR) Certificate STCW A-III/4.

We hope this article was useful and educative, do well to share these messages with friends and loved ones. If you have a question, kindly drop your comments below.

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