Shipboard Organisation

Browse By

vessel crew

Let us start by looking at the Shipboard Organisation. As we can see that the development in the shipping industry has been slow and there has been a very strong influence of tradition. In the days of the sailing ships it was the Master and his crew, there were no engineers, simply because there was no need for them. 

With the evolution of the steam and in the latter days the diesel engine the Engineers joined the ship and took charge of propulsion and all functions requiring engineering skills. This traditional structure evolved slowly to the one of today over a long period. A merchant ship of today would perhaps have a staff structure shown below, and be divided into the following departments. 

Primarily three departments would compose a typical merchant ship of today. 



► Navigation 

► Cargo operations

► Commercial operations

► Maintenance & repairs and hull and related items.

► Communications

► Safety systems Deck Store & Spares  


► Main Propulsion Systems 

► Power generation, 

► Technical services 

► Inert gas systems 

► Engineering and machinery maintenance 

► Safety systems 

► Engineering stores and spares. 


 ► Catering 

► House keeping, 

► Provisions and related activities etc. 

The typical shipboard organisation would be as follows 


Chief Officer
Chief Engineer
Chief Steward
2nd Officer
2nd Engineer
3rd Officer
3rd Engineer
4th Officer
4th Engineer
Deck Cadet
Electrical Engineer
Chief Petty Officer Or Bosun
Trainee Engineers or Cadet
Pumpman or Deck Fitter
Mechanics / Fitter / Welders
Deck Crew ( AB, OS, Trainee Seamen)
Engine Rating (Wiper, Oiler, Motor Man)

Master's authority 

As the word ‘master’ depicts, this rank is entrusted with the final authority and responsibility for shipboard operations. The name ‘master’ for this rank and many other names, which you come across in the shipping industry, have developed slowly over the years. Each rank has been assigned specific duties, responsibility and authority. 

It is not necessary that all the ranks shown above are present on your ship. Some may not be relevant for the type of ship you are on. There may be additional staff on board also. Pursers may be only on passenger ships and with the advent of GMDSS Radio Officers may no longer be required on board. 

In addition, you must refer to our talk on flags of convenience and the stiff commercial competition existing in this industry. Financial survival is a must for any Company to prosper in their respective areas of operation. The same is true for shipping. A saving achieved by cutting costs has been an area of major thrust in the last two decades. Many companies have reduced crew by reducing the number of cooks from two to one, reduced to one steward from two and in some cases to nil. The total number of crew has been reduced. 

This reduction meant multipurpose crews skilled in many activities, e.g. a fitter performing as a Pumpman and the development of the “General purpose” crews. Along these lines it was realised that there may be a set of crew educated and trained in both deck and engine room operations, this was found feasible and there is an increasing trend to have GP crew. GP stands for “general purpose” and these crew are qualified and competent to work both in the deck and engine room departments of a ship. By having GP crew, the total number of crew on board a ship can be reduced and this adds to savings of costs. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *