Engineering for Deck Officers

".First here’s my source.

Chief Al on the Aleutian Freighter.

After I went deep-sea the one thing Captain Blowhard got right was his saying about his regular chief; “He’s like American Express, don’t leave home without him”.

Some things required for a good chief, technical expertise, good management skills and the ability to cooperate.

Management is in the intersection here;


If the capt doesn’t trust the chief or vice versa things will not run as smoothly and may break under stress.


It is imperative that the Chief and Captain are on the same page and support each other for the right reasons. Smoother sailing my friends. Management will be silent because you have achieved that. I was blessed in most cases. Not all, but the few times I spoke up, ears were listening.

1 Like

An executive needs a good secretary more than a secretary needs a good executive.

In today’s world where an I-pad can give nearly al the important navigational information, I’d argue a captain needs a good chief more than a chief needs a good captain.

EDIT: Of course it is always best when everybody plays well with each other and has mutual respect.

1 Like

And both Chief and the Captain could be more effective if they had a clerk to take on the paperwork burden.


Completely agree. 30-40 years ago it was absolutely normal for a mid level “professional” to have support of a secretary to deal with all the low value day-to-day BS paperwork. Today, high value minds are wasted spending 3/4 of their day replying to pointless emails.

Up until I was mate we had a Radio Officer who did disbursements and when overtime sheets had been signed off by the mate and chief engineer did the rest of the work. The Chief Steward did the port papers and looked after Customs.
When I made master it was all over I was everything.
British India had two RO’s that used to assist with the cargo plans back in the day.

Somebody notice? He is trying to relax after watch and looking out the window he doesn’t have below… My kinda guy.

1 Like

That must have been along time ago. I have read several biographies by Radio Officers. They did a lot of accounting/purser jobs.

Had a purser on an MSC ship with a big crew about 20 years ago. He had special powers which consisted of making himself invisible whenever anyone had a question about why their paychecks were wrong.


Yeah. It was a few summers ago.

1 Like

Then along came DP and technical stuff went to the bridge…oh boy
Captains had to have skills to drive a vessel…oh boy
Then full DE vessels came along and the bridge had to make decisions on power…oh boy
Then the CH eng got lots of engines rooms so cant be on the bridge to help…oh boy

The first five (or was it six) ships I sailed on had pursers. Those duties on an SL-7 fell to one of the many second mates. Of course he was called the Paper Mate. . . .


I think a radio officer was not required on vessels under 1500 tonnes. I had to get a restricted radio license when I left tankers and joined a small reefer ship trading in the Pacific. The ship stared briefly in the film ‘The French Connection.” As the Second and only Mate I was the purser and medic as well. Generally we could only establish communications at night and when we lost the radar and gyro the only advantage that we had over Captain Cook was we could receive time signals. The company sent a “technician “ from Suva to Savu Savu to look at the gyro. Didn’t know much about gyros but he was a mean guitar player.
Run an AHTS from Singapore to New Zealand was interesting until we got Sat-C. I think the last time I sailed with a radio officer was about 1985.

1 Like