Merchant Navy Ranks

In general, the ranking system on merchant vessels in mainly divided into following categories:
1. Deck Department
2. Engine Department
3. Catering Department

1. The Deck Department
• Captain (or Master)
• Chief Officer/Mate
• Second Officer/Mate
• Third Officer/Mate
• Deck Cadets

Deck Rating
• Bosun
• Welder/Fitter
• Able Seaman (AB)
• Ordinary Seaman (OS)
• Trainee OS

Captain (or Master) : The Captain (or Master) of the ship is at the top of all the ranks, holds the highest post of the ship’s crew, and is accountable to the owner of that ship. He tackles serious issues and guides the crew to perform better. The Captain stays in command of the vessel.

Chief Officer / First Mate: Chief officer occupies the second responsible position after the Captain of the vessel. He acts as the leader of the deck department and mainly engages in the cargo affairs.

Second Officer/ Mate: He is the primary officer behind the navigational section of the vessel (Navigation chart preparation and paperwork) and his designation implies that he is third-in-command. His main responsibility is the standard 12-4 navigation watch duty.

Third Officer/ Mate: He is basically employed with the security measures on board, and therefore is greatly answerable to the Captain for maintaining the safety of the particular ship and its crew. After the captain, he is appointed as the fourth-in-command. Usually, the Third Officer handles the standard 8-12 watch duty.

Deck Cadet: The role of a deck cadet is quite important on ships as he can be assistance to all the officers. He is basically new to the ship and is on ships for the training purpose.

Bosun: Bosun takes care of the crew on the deck and also assist chief officer in daily routines of the ships.

Able seaman: According to the modern nautical terminology, an able seaman (AB) possesses a merchant mariner’s document and is eligible to assist the deck department.

Ordinary seaman: The post of ordinary seaman, denoted by OS, serves the vessel’s deck department. An OS is usually busy with tasks such as buffing, scaling, cleaning the deck and occasionally painting the superstructure, above the main deck.

2. The Engine Department
• Chief Engineer
• Second Engineer/First Assistant Engineer
• Third Engineer/ Second Assistant Engineer
• Fourth Engineer/ Third Assistant Engineer
• Fifth Engineer/ Engine Cadet

• Electrical Officer
Engine Room Rating
• Fitter
• Motorman
• Wiper
• Trainee Fitter / Trainee Wiper

Chief Engineer: Chief engineer is the head of the engineering department on a vessel. Chief engineer gives orders for operation and maintenance of ship’s machinery system and is responsible for the engine room department.

Second Engineer/ First Assistant Engineer: He is associated with the day-to-day activities in the engine room. He stays extremely busy most of the time on board, as he needs to constantly supervise the proper functioning of all engine room machinery systems.

Third engineer/ Second Assistant 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.

Fourth Engineer/ Third Assistant Engineer: This is the most junior rank in the engineering department. The Fourth Engineer is concerned about the correct working of the machinery systems assigned to him and also carry our watch keeping. He reports to the second engineer.

Fifth Engineer/ Engineering Cadet: Fifth engineer is a trainee under the Second Engineer officer, and he assists and learns while observing and carrying out activities in the engine room. He would accompany a senior officer (mostly second engineer) during the watch duty.

All the engine room ratings report to the second engineer.

3. The Catering Department
• Chief Cook
• Trainee Cook
• Steward

Chief Cook: Chief cook falls under the catering department of the ship. It is his duty to prepare meals regularly for the crew and passengers. He is also in charge of the food stores, and he can utilize or replenish them. The Chief Cook also inspects the equipment needed to keep the ship clean and uncontaminated in the galley area.

Trainee Cook: The trainee cook assists chief cook in preparation of meals and managing provision.

Steward: The steward, as the name suggests,is assigned tasks include cooking and serving meals on time, sweeping and maintaining the living quarters of the officers, and stocktaking the stores. It is also the job of a steward to manage the grocery accounts, planning menus, and documents the cost control issues.

Merchant navy ranks might differ a bit depending on the country to which the ship belongs and the shipping company. However, the basic hierarchy remains the same as mentioned above.