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    Hi all,

    Could someone clarify the ranks on a merchant ship. I know that you have Deck and Engineering officers and these are exactly that, officers. But where does a purser fall in to? Are pursers "Logistic Officers" in a way? So do they hold the "officer" title?

    Also, could a senior Deck officer tell a Junior engineering officer what to do? Could a purser tell a deck or engineering officer what to do?

    It is just so confusing as it seems that everyone is given gold stripes! Especially on cruise ships!
    Saltydog

  • #2
    Having spent over 12 years on Cruise ships as a Deck officer all I can say is this will get lively!

    The best way to think about it is that all departments work seperately, but "stripeology" does come into play, only those in your department can tell you what to do... but... if you do something wrong thats a whole different ball game.

    Purser officers are the biggest department and they encompass Hotel / Food and Beverage and some other bits but day to day they have no say over the Deck and Engine and Medical departments.

    But... a few have tried it on in my time and sometimes you win sometimes you dont!
    Pilotage - It's just a controlled allision

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    • #3
      Essentially in the merchant navy, rank exists out of tradition, and merely identifies position. It isn't like the military where if you outrank someone you can give an order, civilian ships are exactly that and you need to learn how to manage and motivate people effectively and properly. This is somewhere that some Officers and Captains seriously fail on, and occasionally find themselves under the spotlight.
      The cruise lines are generally large corporations, and use the stripes to good effect in impressing the passengers, and particularly with so few Officers onboard it is necessary to have more people with stripes to outwardly show that they do exist. It shouldn't be a case of us and them, or they shouldn't wear the stripe. We are all in the game together, and the aim is to keep the passengers happy. Yes, on the bridge the stripes help identify to the pilot for instance who is who, but thats about it for the practical side.

      That being said, a Merchant Navy Officer is a recognised title bestowed upon those holding a Certificate of Competency in the UK. You can sign a passport photo for instance.

      In all honesty, look at a ship as a branch of a business with workers, supervisors and managers and it will all make more sense. The only person with a slightly different outlook is the Master.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by saltydog View Post
        Are pursers "Logistic Officers" in a way? So do they hold the "officer" title?
        Pursers are generally given officer status. Not sure if this is the case on every ship. They are different to Deck and Engineer officers in that they do not hold a certificate of competency.

        Also, could a senior Deck officer tell a Junior engineering officer what to do? Could a purser tell a deck or engineering officer what to do?
        Depends entirely on context. It is unlikely that on many ships an engineer will be in the same management chain as a deck officer other than the captain. Most of the time if you would like something done it is better to ask than to 'tell'. Pursers, regardless of seniority, are not often given responsibilities outside of their own department.

        One example of where a purser may issue instructions to officers of other branches is during an emergency - on RFAs the purser is now often "Damage Control Officer", tasked with directing many of the actions of emergency firefighting, first aid, and damage control teams. A deck officer or engineer in charge of a team could be given instructions ("told what to do") by the purser.

        OTOH, during normal running of the ship, the OOW is in charge as the Master's representative and can give instructions to pretty much anyone if it is related to the operation in hand. It doesn't matter if the Chief Engineer is in the engine room, the engineers must still follow instructions from the bridge. For instance, in an emergency if there is a fault with a piece of vital machinery (engine, steering, thruster) requiring it to be shut down, the EOOW must make a request to the OOW before shutting it down. It may be navigationally vital to keep the engines running, even causing them to be damaged or destroyed, and only the OOW is in a position to make that decision, and is answerable for it.

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        • #5
          Thank you all for such in depth answers. I really appreciate it!
          Saltydog

          Comment


          • #6
            It is a really good question actually. I worked on large pax ships for many years and had 3.5 stripes by the end of it all - but I still had to ask the F&B manager if I could have dinner in the restaurant and had to beg the purser for a cabin if I had family travelling... but I have seen senior cadets giving senior hotel people instructions in a life boat. On passenger ships you have to remember that the hotel basically run the show most of the time, get into an argument with them and you will struggle to back up these days. Having said that, it is all about areas of responsibility, the staff captain will not tell the 4th engineer what to do in the ER, just as the Hotel manager would not tell the third mate what to do on the bridge and the chief officer has to ask the hotel manager for permission to do something in the hotel...
            On small ships - all of that BS vanishes because ego's don't really come into it.. and on cargo ships, well no one really wears stripes anyway!
            Cruise ship Captain with experience on-board Passenger Vessels ranging from 5500-150000 GRT.

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            • #7
              A word of warning. It's dangerous to start thinking your better or more important or a proper office or a real sailor. As an officer people will think you're a dick. As a cadet you can learn something from just about anyone on board regardless of their rank or job title.

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              • #8
                Lewis, thank you for your response but I was not thinking I was better/more important than anyone. I was merely asking about the hierarchy/rank structure on ships...
                Saltydog

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                • #9
                  Wasn't aimed at you salty (or anyone in particular) just a cautionary warning to anyone reading.

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                  • #10
                    Good advice though Lewis. Thanks
                    Saltydog

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                    • #11
                      Sounds like a lot of ego's on cruise ships , don't know if I could hack all that bossing about and who's who when it comes to bitching etc.

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                      • #12
                        The biggest issue is when someone on board gets a chip on their shoulder and then starts throwing their weight around. Often the management of a company dictates who is really running the show (for example if the senior execs ashore are ex hotel officers then they (hotel dept) get a bit more clout onboard).

                        Some of the biggest issues normally arise when for example a 2 stripe security officer tries to push around the 2nd / 3rd mates/ engineers or visa versa.

                        From my point of view I felt a little fed up with it all at times until I got to 3 stripe / 3.5 stripes and then found I was too busy to notice and was respected by the very few hotel officers with the same / higher rank.

                        As I used to say to my officers - ignore the B/S and think of the extra money you are earning compared to them!
                        Pilotage - It's just a controlled allision

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                        • #13
                          This is the reason why I would never go near a cruise ship with 10ft barge pole....
                          I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.....

                          All posts here represent my own opinion and not that of my employer.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GuinnessMan View Post
                            This is the reason why I would never go near a cruise ship with 10ft barge pole....
                            Yeah I swore I was only going to do 2 trips... like that happend!

                            It really helped my patience levels though!
                            Pilotage - It's just a controlled allision

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