Stacking the deck

Stacking the deck, and the captains who do it.

I sailed on a ship, that had a new captain hired off the street, from his first hitch, he kept bragging and talking about bring a mate he knew from his previous company to the vessel, which after a 2 rotations he eventually did, someone lost their job so that he can have his “trusted mate” on the ship. eventually the control issues became so rampant that the majority of the mates on board had come directly from his past company and past experience.

I was wondering what the crowd hear thought about that nonsense…

My opinion is simple, you get what you get and you learn and train to trust the people around you, you can help out one or two guys you know with jobs but ONLY hire people you have had past experiences with leads to mistrust among those who you did not bring over, it shows a abuse of power and favoritism among the crew, and lets not kid our selves its based on a personal opinion nothing professional, it is the very core of unprofessional behavior and attitude. It shows a lack of trust, and a lack of respect to professional mariners who may not have had the opportunity to sail with you in the past but are deserving of the opportunity you deny them. I had never seen anything like that before…

You’ll see it all the time at any workplace. Ship, shore, where ever. It’s life.

Was this other mate the Chief Mate or one of the junior officers? I can train and manage junior officers, but I have definitely been guilty of wanting someone I know and trust as my Chief Mate. When I was Chief Mate it was the same way with my Bosun’s. I wouldn’t say I ever “stacked the deck” but I definitely have always wanted a say as to whom will be working in those key positions on deck.

Just my two cents

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Same here on the mudboat side… though, since so many deck guys have gone to greener pastures in the last couple years, picking your CM/Mate has gotten hard to do. I have DEFINITELY pulled multiple “you owe me” cards in the office to get a chief engineer I know/trust/like though. Too many chiefs that can’t change a lightbulb still floating around after all the layoffs, so when I find a good one, I try and bring them with me.

Oh, and I may also be guilty of pulling strings to get an awesome cook a spot once too.

Think I’m running out of strings and chits to pull now though. :confused:


You present an interesting opinion, and I have some questions, which I hope you will not take as a personal attack, because in asking I think they could be construed as such.

  1. I understand the “get what you get”, needed to learn and train and trust … but let’s understand that it is a lot of work to train people. And with a new population of underlings there is the real risk that some may be untrainable.

  2. You are not happy with the actions of the new master, and I wonder if an underlying reason is that by bringing outsiders to your vessel that your chance for promotion are lessened? Please see that I ask this question in a big picture sense, not attacking you personally.

  3. But, on a personal level, may I ask if you have been in a position similar to this new master, in a management level position with a new group of subordinates under you … and if you had a history of a great working relationship with other personnel would you welcome the opportunity to have former co-workers that you value on your team again?

The situation in this case was a Master with a junior officer, whom he fast tracked into a chief officer role.

I understand that this happens, Simply because this occurs in any workplace does not make it a good policy or right thing to do.

Imagine your self on the other side of this transaction, is it fair to loose your job simply because your boss has trust issues? This particular case, a guy lost his job so some crazy person with trust issues can sleep better at night?

getting to choose your officers especially your chief is a Privilege that should not be abused, and a card that should only be played every so often.

We are talking about a licensed individuals whom have had to accumulate sea time, and pass exams to reach their job level., If honest about it, i can respect the decision. if you simply do this because you have to power to and because and you like sailing with people only YOU can trust that is a fact of life. But to say these people are more knowledgeable or better at their jobs, is pure BS. its a personal issues taken to a professional level. I like things to be fair, somebody screws up you fire them, and on to the next best qualified candidate that HR can find or that’s already employed by the company.

You present some strong opinion. Could you address my 3rd question to you ?

And, may I ask if it was you who lost your job?

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I’ve moved to another ship in the same company and had the C/M come as well. But the mate wasn’t displacing anyone. I can certainly see wanting to have the same C/E.

The OP is saying that the captain came over from different company. That’s a whole other situation.

For mates at a company that are trying to work their way up it very hard on moral to have a captain move in from another company.

I would think if the captain starts bring in crew from another company it’d be bad news.

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Absolutely agree with that… I missed that in the OP. Honestly, bringing someone on new-hire as Master is a HORRIBLE idea, but I’ve seen it happen more than once. For one, they have no connection to the company’s way of operating, and second of all, it’s rare that there’s not somebody in line to move up that’s being skipped over.

If a company wants to “fast track” someone to Master as a new-hire, that’s one thing, bring them in under an experienced company Master and let them learn the ropes for operations before you toss them on their own boat. But then, that would require some prior planning from the companies to get the folks in the “line-up” and we all know what happens with that.

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I wont be offended by questions, questions are good.

#1. if someone is untrainable you target the weak area and try to enforce, if someone reaches a point where they obviously can not do the job you have a problem you should consult your human resource department. termination should be last resort but could final solution to the problem.

#2 these events occurred in 2012, so its past tense. when this new master came on board he did not trust anyone actually, i found that to be very odd, because i had been working for the company for 2 years, he was the new hire, he was new to the vessel and the operation, it really should be the master who needs to prove himself to us the crew, his career and license are in our hands due to his overall responsibility but my life and my safety are in his( you can look for a new job not a new life.)

#3 OK there are a number of issues, 1. i would never hire master off the street, promote from with in. If i was in a similar situation i would trust the people who have conducted safe operations for years, relie on them to assist and bring me up to speed, i would evaluate them of course but i would also understand they are doing the same with me. I would not plot and plan on bringing officers from other ship/companies like personal baggage. If you trusted those officers so much, why leave them to go someplace else if you really valued your team. I always welcome the chance to work with past co workers, i do not insist on it, and i do not fool myself into thinking my personal issues are good for the ship or the company, they are personal issues. helping someone who is unemployed is one thing, dragging mates from one company to another looks bad, favoritism at best.

It was not me who lost his job, i was there when he was replaced, and he was not the absolute best deck officer but he got the job done, but he wasn’t replaced by the best either, it was clearly a personal preference, he wanted this person on board, he trusted this mate, that he worked with before and someone lost their job because he needed to have this person whom already had a job at another company on board.

Don’t get me started.


Thanks for replying to my questions, I appreciate your honesty and candor. It also helps flesh out what I think will turn into a very good discussion.

EDIT: Geeezus AITCH, I looked over what I wrote after posting … I am starting to sound like DSD . Crap.


No problem

I was thinking about those events, and hoping to get distracted by the conversation. I completely understand a masters desire to want to have a chief officer he can trust on board, i disagree with the policy of stacking the deck of the ship with only those you find worthy, and firing people and or going overboard with the privilege and power to employ people. The root is trust, are you trusting of new people and willing to give people an opportunity to prove themselves or do you have bias and trust issues.

Let me play the devil’s advocate on that comment.

It is the responsibility of the master to use any and all means to safely operate his ship. That can mean taking on crew with known strengthens and abilities when possible. Any crew of unknown ability is just like any piece of questionable equipment: it should be replaced.

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Your bringing up something from five years ago? I see some good arguments either way in the above posts,

It all depends on the complexity of the vessel and operation. I don’t know much about the vessel this was on, but this can be a big issue.

Perhaps the other person lost a job due to issues you were unaware of? You only got that mates version of events or a shipboard perspective. Sometimes, especially in large corporations, the true story is known by many, and then its not…

I love Devils advocate

Master knows his crew strengths and ability its on the COI, and company training matrix; your required to have 1 chief officer licensed for that position, and hired by the company and internally trained according to the company SMS. Your crew abilities are most defiantly known, whats unknown is how much YOU trust them and like them, how much they fit your style, how a crew mixes is important, but lets not kid yourselves here all this is personal. You might not like your chief, but unless he actually does something to warrant getting fired he is doing his job.

This particular ship was static DP vessel, not very difficult more watch keeping very boring. I saw masters hired off the street with ZERO experience in the operation task of the vessel, they got themselves into trouble quickly.

I was the direct supervisor of the person that was terminated. nobody asked me my opinion on the matter, and it was obvious why he was let go, in fact his relief was on the ship for a whole hitch before he was fired, talk about awkward.

That’s a good analogy but where I work it won’t fly. I can’t just tell the port engineer I don’t trust a piece of equipment and say I want it replaced.

Same with the mate, I have a say but so does the office. If what I’m doing seems crazy it won’t happen.

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I have seen this happen several times. I know of people who have been on deck with a license and a spot opened up on the vessel to where they could use their license. Instead of moving that person up, an individual was hired from outside the company.

I have always found it odd when things like that have taken place. The only reason I can come up with is that it only requires one action to hire someone vs moving the individual up and then finding someone to replace him… Either way, it doesnt seem very conducive to keeping longterm, motivated employees if they see that their forward advancement is being hindered for “ease or efficiency”.

Just my opinion.

Between that and the fact that there’s a misguided notion that being Master of a 1600 ton license boat is somehow better than being Mate on an unlimited tonnage vessel. I had a manager once tell me when I moved to his boat that “it’s a demotion, but…” How in the heck is it a demotion if you’re a) Going to pay me more and b) It allowed me to advance my license?!

There’s also a heavy hand to keep Lead and Relief Captains from moving to other boats/divisions. My personal view is, if you have Officers that have licenses that aren’t OSV limited, and a spot opens on a vessel that’s not an OSV, those are the guys you should be asking within if they’re interested, not hiring from outside to fill them and creating friction from those that got skipped over to “not lose a good Captain.”

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With regard to promotions

Its always best to promote from with inn, any vacancy should be filled with in house or company first, obviously exceptions will occur some one is too new in the current position, or just upgraded to that license, i can understand those circumstances.

My first company, would NEVER hire a master or chief officer off the street, the operation were too complex, and they had a system to track seniority by not only time in position but by point system for the operations you participated in.

Offshore I saw it a couple times, every time it was either a poor decision that had consequences. The easier the ships operations the simpler the transition was, it only really affected crew moral.