Deck cadet officer training with Clyde Marine Training is the perfect starting off point for an exciting career at sea.

Also known as navigation officers, deck officers play a critical role in the ship’s onboard management team. They are charged with ensuring the safety of the crew, cargo, passengers and vessel, both at sea and at port.

Our Senior Training Officer, Philip McAllister, started out as a deck cadet officer. In this blog, he details what life is like for anyone undertaking a deck cadet officer training course.

What’s The Daily Routine For A Deck Officer?

Typically, you’ll be ‘on watch” for 8 hours a day, 4 hours on/ 8 hours off. I would do my watch from 8am to 12pm, have lunch, do a couple hours work in the afternoon checking LSA (life saving appliances – lifebuoys, survival craft, life rafts)/FFA (Firefighting appliances – hoses, hydrants etc) then rest until watch starts again from 8pm to 12am.

What Sort Of Tasks Does Deck Officer Watch Duty Involve?

There’s three types of watch you’ll get involved in, Navigation, Cargo & anchor watch.

What Does Navigational Watch Involve?

Navigational watch involves making sure that the vessel follows the passage plan from port to port. You might need to alter the vessel’s course to:

  1. a) avoid any potential close quarter collisions/situations with other vessels
  2. b) avoid any other potential hazards to navigation e.g. unexpected changes/closures of established passage routes

You’ll also be responsible for regularly plotting the vessel’s position to ensure that you remain on course and that all navigational instruments are performing correctly. I’d also make hourly logs in the ship’s logbook, noting things like:

  • Vessel’s position/where we are
  • State of the sea
  • Wind levels/temperature checks etc

You’ll also be on radio watch, listening out for any issues over the VHF, MF, distress calls etc and notifying the Master if required. You’ll liaise with shore side VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) when approaching port to confirm Pilot pick up time & berthing times (or alternatively, if you have to go to the anchorage area instead).

As the officer on watch, it was my responsibility to respond to any alarms on the Bridge, fire etc & send a watchman to investigate and report back to the bridge what the issue is. If it was found that the vessel and/or the crew was in danger, I had to notify the Master immediately.

What Does Cargo Watch Involve?

With cargo watch, the hours you’re on might change to 6hr on/off during cargo operations in port (which are typically 6am to 12pm & 6pm to 12am). As the officer on watch, I would be following the cargo loading or unloading plan that was agreed between the vessel and shoreside terminal. The Deck Officer oversees cargo operations at that time, recording any issues or making any changes required to enable the safe loading/ discharge of the cargo.

What Does Anchor Watch Involve?

Whilst waiting to enter port, your vessel may be directed to the anchorage area outside the port. Whilst at anchor, the officer on watch (back to standard 4 hrs on/ 8 off schedule) would make regular checks on the vessels position to ensure the anchor is not dragging. The officer on watch would keep in touch with VTS at the port for updates on berthing times/ pilot pick up times and record these for the Master’s information.

What Did You Love The Most About Being A Deck Officer?

The variety! Every day is totally different; it could be sunshine enjoying a coffee on the bridge wing one day or just trying to make it through gale force 10 winds the next.  You’ll get to travel the world & depending on operational requirements at the time, you can get a few hours off in port to go out & explore.

Lastly, you’ll be a part of a multinational crew of shipmates. Being on board with them for months at a time, you’ll get close to people from all over the world. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to learn all about their culture, their language and their family.

Why Is A Deck Officer Cadetship A Great Career Choice?

Completing a deck officer cadetship with Clyde Marine Training opens up the potential for fantastic career progression and responsibility from a young age. If you start a deck officer cadetship at 18, you’ll qualify at 21 and then you’ll oversee loading/ unloading of millions of pounds of cargo.

Within 10 years, you could have your Master’s ticket, sailing as Captain with all the responsibility that comes with that position.

As a Deck Officer, you’ll develop valuable transferable skills. You’re essentially part Manager, Leader, Firefighter, First Aider, problem solver and negotiator all wrapped into one. These all stand out during future interviews, showing your character and trust worthiness.

There’s clear financial benefits to being a deck officer too. You’re not getting hit with the usual household bills when you’re on board a vessel and you’re away for months at a time. This means you can let your earnings build up during your trip and end up coming home to a healthy bank balance. Also, depending on the days you spend outside the UK, those earnings could also be tax free.

Lastly, depending on rotation, if you do a month on/ off, you would only be working for 6 months out of the year, 8 months if deep sea (4 months on/ 2 off usually).

Thanks for this Philip!

So, with Merchant Navy careers, you could be in a position one day where you could become the captain of your own ship.  Many deck officers remain at sea for their entire career but if you wanted to you could move into an onshore position and even consider a career in the wider industry.

So what are you waiting for? Start your deck officer journey today  with Clyde Marine Training.

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