The Deck Officer: See the World, Navigate the Seas
If you dream about visiting foreign ports, living on the high seas, and feeling the forces of nature on your skin then working as a Deck Officer may be the career for you.
The Deck Officer (also known as Navigational Officer) is responsible for navigating the ship by utilizing radar, satellite and other high-tech instruments, as well as the sun and the night sky. You must have precision skills and a high level of concentration, as you will be guiding your ship through the open seas and narrow harbors. Depending on your preference, you may work on a cruise or container ship, a dry bulk vessel, an oil, gas and chemical tanker, or a ferry – and each one will provide a different experience of the open waters.
The Deck Officer is an important member of the ship’s management team, with significant responsibility for the safety of passengers and crew, and the security of the cargo. Among your responsibilities will be:
• Organizing and supervising loading and unloading of the vessel’s cargo
• Mooring and unmooring
• Checking and controlling the ship’s speed and fuel consumption
• Updating the ship’s charts and logs
• Supervising and managing staff
• Serving as liaison between the ship’s captain and the crew
This is not a job for the faint-hearted. Deck Officers are away from home for extended periods of time, and need to work on the ship’s bridge and deck, even in stormy and cold weather. The days are long and shifts run around the clock as the vessel is never at rest while on the seas.
What Does it Take to Become a Deck Officer?
To succeed as a Deck Officer you must have a calm demeanor, and be organized, flexible, and adaptable. You must possess good decision-making skills as well as strong verbal and written communication, be able to manage and inspire your staff, have mathematical ability, and self-confidence. The Deck Officer has to make decisions for the safety of the ship quickly and under pressure, constantly juggling multiple tasks and competing priorities.
Education and Training Requirements
There are many pathways to a career as a Deck Officer, however most shipping companies require an undergraduate degree in Nautical Studies, as well as a Watch Certificate from a maritime institution. Additional certificates are usually required including: marine vessels operations, firefighting, first aid, and survival.