Deck Officers work in water transport vessels such as cruises, riverboats, merchant ships, or any type of self-propelled water vehicle that transports passengers or cargo across oceans, coasts, or inland waters. Their main duty involves all the daily operations necessary to keep the vessel running. Deck Officers work as parts of a team with each member being assigned a crucial task to maintain the ship in top shape and do the several navigational tasks related to sailing.
Furthermore, being part of a team also means that there’s a certain hierarchy within the crew. There are first, second, and third mates on board a ship. The rank of each individual Deck Officer is assigned based on seniority and performance. However, the entire crew must guarantee the ship safety and functionality.
Depending on the size of the ship, the team of Deck Officers will be bigger or smaller. There is no universal rule of how big the team should be; however, this is often decided by the company owning the ship or by the Captain. Deck Officers can be hired by private companies such as cruise lines, water transportation companies, or even the Federal Government, to work as members of the Coast Guard.
Generally, Deck Officers are in charge of supervising the cargo loading and unloading process, as well as the administration and organization of the ship. However, depending on the rank of each Deck Officer, there are certain tasks they will be expected to perform.
- Third officers are tasked with supervising the security equipment and lifeboats, as well as performing watch duties, assisting the Second Officer, and training new members of the crew.
- Second officers are tasked with navigational duties such as using radars, satellites, and computer systems, as well as carrying out watch duties.
- First or Chief Officers are tasked with overseeing deck operations and maintenance, as well as cargo handling and storage.
- Finally, Masters or Captains are tasked with supervising the overall operations and safety of the ship, crew, cargo, and passengers.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Deck Officers are required to complete.
- Performing navigation duties:
- Using navigation equipment on board the ship;
- ensuring a safe, problem-free journey; and
- maintaining navigational charts and ship logs updated.
- Performing port cargo operations, such as cargo planning and inventory.
- Maintaining the cargo loading and unloading machinery.
- Maintaining the ship’s hull and accommodations:
- Keeping the ship clean and the accommodations organized to allow the crew’s free movement;
- ensuring crew and the cargo’s safety; and
- supervising that the life-saving and firefighting equipment are in mint condition.
- Overseeing coordination between departments:
- Making sure all departments have their tasks clear; and
- taking part in conflict-solving actions.
- Supervising the proper disposal of garbage on deck:
- Collecting all the garbage on deck and quarters;
- properly storing said garbage in the designated areas; and
- disposing of the garbage when port is reached.
- Supervising supply restocking when at port:
- Looking after overtime, cost control, purchase orders, and requisition orders with shore management.
- Going over daily security checklists.
- Checking that all security equipment is in good condition.
- Cleaning the deck, hull, and accommodation areas of the ship.
- Performing cargo operations.
- Using navigational equipment to plan navigational charts and routes.
- Guiding the ship through canals, rivers, and other hazardous waters.
- Overseeing and coordinating activities on deck.
The average salary for Deck Officer related jobs is $22,425 per year or $12 per hour. This is around 0.8 times less than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $16,000 while most experienced workers make up to $31,000. These results are based on 3 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Exceptional leadership and teamwork skills:
- Being able to effectively lead and work as part of a team; and
- possessing good motivational skills.
- Excellent math and navigational skills:
- Calculating global position taking into account routes and speed; and
- designing navigational routes.
- Decision-making skills:
- Being able to assess situations promptly and acting accordingly.
- Strong communicational skills:
- Being able to communicate both in written and verbal forms with teammates;
- giving instructions in a clear and concise manner; and
- being able to understand instructions.
- Outstanding knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems:
- Being able to properly use and handle ship machinery and equipment.
- Stress management abilities:
- Being able to remain calm in stressful situations;
- responding to emergencies in a timely manner; and
- assessing emergency situations as required.
- Excellent physical condition and good eyesight.
- High levels of confidence, enthusiasm, and self-reliance.
Deck Officers work in all forms of water transport vessels, therefore they must have some skill or interest in navigational duties when applying for a job in this field. They can be hired by private transportation companies, cruise lines, passenger ferries, or cargo ships, all of which require candidates to have a degree in Merchant Ship Operations, Nautical Science, or in Mechanical or Marine Engineering from a nautical college, university, or institute. Degrees in Catering, Entertainment, Tourism, Hospitality, or Business are acceptable to apply for jobs within a crew of a cruise ship.
As for experience, any previous service in Military Navy can be recognized and serve as qualification for applicants. Moreover, it is necessary to have a clean drug history and driving record, as well as getting a Transportation Worker Identification Credential issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Understandably, these professionals are also required to be American citizens or to have all the requirements to legally be in the country in order to apply for a job in the U.S.
Furthermore, applying to work as a Deck Officer will require previous experience with water-based transportation or other maritime activities such as boating or sailing, as well as undergoing the required training, examinations, and tests issued by any U.S. authorized institution or marine academy. When applying for a job on a cruise ship, most lines require a minimum of one (1) year of previous and verifiable experience working in Customer Service, Hospitality, or Tourism.
Depending on the size of the vessel, different kinds of licenses will be required; hence, Upper-Level Deck Officer Licenses allow service aboard vessels of more than 1,600 gross register tons, while Lower-Level Licenses are for deck officers serving aboard smaller vessels.
Working tours for Deck Officers can last up to four months at a time, during which time they will have limited contact with families and friends back home. This can have a major impact on a person’s social and family life, therefore, it is important that all applicants are aware of it and are able to spend a long time away from home. Nevertheless, most companies offer generous paid holidays to their employees and they usually do it on a one-for-one basis, meaning they will offer a two-month paid vacation after a two-month tour.
Weather conditions also have a great impact on this job. Ships usually travel all around the world and may be subject to different climates. Deck Officers must be aware of the routes their ships will take before signing up. Some ships take to the hot and warm Caribbean Sea, while others may take to the cold Arctic. Deck Officers need to be prepared to face the expected weather in each part of the world.