Career Options (Deck/Navigation)

Under the Captain’s direct management, the deck department is responsible for the safe navigation and operation of the vessel, both at sea and in port.


While the safety of the vessel and everyone onboard is your prime responsibility, all deck operations and maintenance are also managed by the team.

Deck (navigation) officers are a vital part of the onboard management team, taking charge of an expensive vessel and its equally valuable crew and guests. You will take key decisions on manoeuvring of the vessel and controlling its navigation, communications and security.

Officers maintain watches on the bridge at sea and about the ship in port. They are responsible for passage planning, the safe navigation of the vessel, cargo loading and discharge, ship stability, communications and the maintenance of the hull and deck equipment.

The ship’s Captain, or Master, is in overall command with ultimate responsibility for the safety of the crew, vessel, cargo and environment. Only navigation officers can be promoted to the rank of Master.

Skills and attributes

Members of the deck department are well-trained and experienced mariners, having gained and developed their professional expertise and skills in one or more of the maritime sectors.

You will need to be decisive, unflappable and able to inspire confidence in others as well as being a good team member and have effective communication skills. Confidence, enthusiasm and self-reliance are also essential attributes.


In overall command of the vessel, the Captain has full responsibility for its safety and that of the crew, passengers and cargo.

Captains have extensive maritime qualifications and experience, excellent seafaring knowledge, a good grasp of accounting and administration, and must deal with authorities on health and safety, security, and environmental awareness matters.

Chief Officer

Second in command, the chief officer or chief mate is directly responsible for all deck operations including cargo storage and handling, maintenance and deck supplies.

In charge of the second and third officers and deck hands, the chief mate undertakes bridge watches and is responsible for the security of the vessel and environmental awareness.

Second Officer

The second officer takes specific responsibility for navigation, the upkeep of charts and software. They oversee navigation and radio equipment and undertakes bridge watches at sea, and may also be the vessel’s designated security, safety or medical officer.

Third Officer

Normally the first post-certification appointment for a former officer cadet, the third officer undertakes bridge watches and understudies the second officer.

The third officer is also responsible for making sure the fire fighting equipment and lifeboats are in order.


Sometimes known as the senior deck hand, the bosun is usually responsible for the maintenance and exterior cleanliness of the vessel and oversees all deck operations in conjunction with the duty officer.

Deck Hand

An entry-level job for newcomers who may or may not have basic seafaring knowledge but are willing to learn on the job.

This is a hands-on role which includes vessel maintenance, deck operations and general duties.

Our Career Progression Charts are designed to give you a clear guide to the best route and courses required to further your career.

For further information, please select the appropriate link below:

The Merchant Navy

The Superyacht Industry

The Offshore Oil & Gas Industry

The Renewables Industry

The Ports Industry