Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ship command structure

Ships have a militaristic organization structure going in "chain of command" principle. In Cargo ships and big Cruise ships this organization is quite rigidly followed due to conservatism and on the latter due to the size of crews.

Example of organisation flowchart

Again on Yachts the organization structure is the same but the borders between departments have been blurred due to the size of crew, same can be said of small merchant coasters. The smaller the crew the more teamwork is required to make the boat go, therefore sometimes a Deckhand could be washing dishes and Stewardesses could be doing lookout duty, on big ships this would be unheard of. Also the cohesiveness of a smaller crew is greater than a big crew, i.e. the Chief Stewardess could ask the Deckies to wash the deck instead of the Chief Officer (shame on him).

But, back to the organization structure I think everybody knows that on top is the Captain, as the saying goes "Captain onboard and God in Heaven". Even legally it is not possible to have anybody else to be responsible for the ship than the Captain, this is clearly stated in every governments maritime laws. Therefore it is the Captain who goes and explains what went wrong in court and sometimes also takes the flak for it.

Well, then to continue, below the Captain is usually 3 characters, namely the Staff Captain (Chief Officer), Chief Engineer and Hotel Manager (Chief Stewardess). Sometimes there might be also a Radio Officer but he is mostly relegated to history nowadays due to advanced technologyz. These 3 persons represents the department head for the:

1. Deck department;

2. Engine department;

3. Hotel (Interior) department.

In big Cruise ships there may be additionally a Security Dept and Surveillance Dept but I won't delve into these any further.

The Deck Department is lead by the Chief Officer and he has usually below him at least a 1st Officer (if not then we're talking abt a very small boat) and the bigger the vessel gets the more Officer's he has, the responsibilities being separated to Safety, Maintenance, Security and Navigation. Below the Officer's there is usually a Boatswain (Bosun) sometimes followed by a Carpenter, then, Able Seamen, Ordinary Seamen and Apprentice's. The difference from Apprentice to Boatswain is mostly years of experience onboard as well as necessary courses to be taken for the qualification.

The Engine Department is lead by the Chief Engineer and has usually below him a 1st Engineer who is then followed by other Engineer's depending on the Machinery onboard. Below the Engineer's there is traditionally a Donkeyman, Fitter's, Motormen, Oilers and Wipers. Same applies here too as in Deck department, for higher rank depends years of experience and education level.

The Hotel Department is lead by the Hotel Manager and depending on the size of ship loads of people below and I won't even attempt to explain it here. On yachts the Chief Steward has a row of Stewardesses, a Chef and sometimes a Sous Chef (2nd Cook) as well as a Laundryman.

In the olden days the radio telegraph or "sparky" formed his own department but has now been replaced by electronic boxes.

As for how the crews work onboard and different working situations I will elaborate more on that in my next blog :)

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