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Deck cadetship - no longer about navigation and seamanship

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  • Deck cadetship - no longer about navigation and seamanship

    If you are considering a career as a deck officer I hope you might find this of interest and use. I certainly wish I had paid more attention to other people 'moaning' about this career before I filled out the application form.

    As a prospective deck cadet you may have an idealistic view of the career influenced by movies, popular culture and career brochures. I remember when I went to the open day at WMA I filled my bag with all the shiny prospectus leaflets from the companies - it all looked so good. And the talks from lecturers - one of them actually used the sailing away into the sunset line to finish the presentation. It was so easy to be sold. And of course that's what happens. You are being sold. The colleges will not make money unless they have cadets, the companies will not get a tax break unless they have cadets.

    But you want to learn to be a navigator right? You want to learn to be a seaman and a sailor. You want a practical skill and a hands on job AND you don't mind working hard. Great! Get in line you're just the person we're looking for.

    So you join a college and go through a quickfire series of lessons on terestrial navigation, celestial navigation, stability, chartwork, tides, cargo work, navigational systems, passage planning, meteorology... and if you are lucky and your lecturers are skilled seafarers AND good teachers some of it may even stick or pick your interest. Now you're well on your way to be a sailor, to be a navigator.

    Now the day is here to join your first ship. You are prepared. You know you will spend your first months at sea working on deck. Chipping and painting for breakfast, cleaning and scrubbing for dinner. No problem you can work hard. In any case you need to learn what happens on deck before you can be in charge of a watch right? Right.

    The watch there's still that golden goodie. The navigation. The charge of a vessel. So you return to college and go through yet more rapid fire lessons which prepare you for passing your exams rather retaining any practical knowledge.

    And you return to sea on your phase 4 to finish your sea time. You start your watchkeeping but find out that all the navigation theory you have learnt at school is obsolete because you are most likely on a paperless ship navigating with multiple ECDIS units. As you stand there monitoring the ships progress you cannot help but feel that you are doing nothing. And if you are observant enough you will realise that the company you work for and your colleagues hold the same view of you. The extent of navigation you carry out is limited to collision avoidance if you happen to encounter another ship.
    Companies invest vast sums of money into automated navigation systems because it brings their insurance premiums down. This delegates you as navigator into the role of an observer. Observing seems perilously close to doing nothing. And companies cannot stand paying you for doing nothing. The result is that you will soon notice that the deck department has been utilised as an administration department for the ships certificates and safety.
    This is what you are really studying to become. An admin worker who works 10-12 hour days for months at a time. Minimum navigation, minimum seamanship, forget about manoeuvring the ship but if you enjoy endless mountains of paperwork and excel spread sheets step right up!

    As the saying onboard goes "we are swimming in a sea of ****"

    bon voyage

  • #2
    The career will be what you make of it.

    It is true that with the advances in technology people can get pretty far in their careers with out any need for real seamanship or navigational skills. Maybe I was just lucky, but I was always encouraged to practice the things we learned at college while at sea so I could see that they do work in the real world. I still like to practice my celestial nav, I like knowing that it the s**t hits the fan I can still fix my position (weather permitting), that and it's probably one of the cooler skills we learn!

    I have had plenty of opportunities to do real navigation and develop some proper seamanship skills, Skagerak is scary but a brilliant experience for a navigator, the Malacca Straits too and the many tricky port approaches there are in the world. I'm not sure why you said "forget about manoeuvring the ship", ship manoeuvring remains a fairly vital part of our profession, obviously it's mainly done by the senior officers during pilotages etc but junior officers still play a supporting role. It's a good opportunity to observe and some masters will let you do some manoeuvring yourself if you show the interest.

    As for the paperwork, I don't know of any position of responsibility that doesn't involve a pretty significant amount of paperwork. We don't like it, but that's life.

    There are a lot of rants on this forum about how terrible the industry is at the moment and it's a real shame to see people who seem to be actively discouraging prospective cadets from this career (I'm not aiming that at you OP, although your post is mostly negative), there are plenty of success stories out there. A lot of people who are embarking on very successful careers at sea. It is important that new cadets know what they're getting themselves into and that they are aware of the BS that some of the training companies are feeding them, but we shouldn't be telling them to write the career off completely.

    Comment


    • #3
      Personally, I've found that whilst the watch was mostly babysitting the autopilot, it was still enjoyable. But then again, I tried not to go to sea with visions of grandeur.

      That said, there was one particular sentence from OP's post which struck home....

      Originally posted by SeaGazer View Post
      ...So you return to college and go through yet more rapid fire lessons which prepare you for passing your exams rather retaining any practical knowledge...
      I cannot begin to tell you just how true that ^ is. I've lost track of the amount of times we've been taught something which is completely irrelevant, convoluted or just plain wrong. One particular lecturer dedicated nearly a month of "teaching" to e-Loran and Loran C.... The same systems are now all but defunct.
      The same can be said for stability lessons - It's all well and good teaching cadets how to calculate the heeling moment of a vessel as she turns, or the FSM of a tank after bilging so they can pass an exam, but that will stand for nothing if they don't understand the physics behind the maths.

      I'm not saying that everything we learn as cadets is rubbish - It's not. But there is a definite gap between the teaching world and reality - A gap that only seems to grow with each new version of the TRB.
      Pointy bit is the front, blunt bit is the back... Simples!

      Will work for money/sea time.

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      • #4
        What would you rather do?... Go do it.

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        • #5
          I wonder how the root and branch review of the UK cadetship system is going?

          I can only find this old one

          https://www.gov.uk/government/consul...ning-standards

          But I seem to remember a more recent consultation
          Former TH cadet with experience of cruise ships, buoy tenders, research ships and oil tankers

          Comment


          • #6
            You could always break out that sextant that's stuck in a cupboard on the back of the bridge and do sights just for the hell of it.
            io parlo morse

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            • #7
              Originally posted by endure View Post
              You could always break out that sextant that's stuck in a cupboard on the back of the bridge and do sights just for the hell of it.
              That's assuming you've been taught how to use one...
              Pointy bit is the front, blunt bit is the back... Simples!

              Will work for money/sea time.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by SeaGazer View Post
                Companies invest vast sums of money into automated navigation systems because it brings their insurance premiums down. This delegates you as navigator into the role of an observer. Observing seems perilously close to doing nothing. And companies cannot stand paying you for doing nothing. The result is that you will soon notice that the deck department has been utilised as an administration department for the ships certificates and safety.
                This is what you are really studying to become. An admin worker who works 10-12 hour days for months at a time. Minimum navigation, minimum seamanship, forget about manoeuvring the ship but if you enjoy endless mountains of paperwork and excel spread sheets step right up!
                I'm not entirely sure what you were expecting. This career is 90% boredom and 10% excitement. It probably always has been. The ocean is a very big place and depending on where you trade you can go days without having to alter course, let alone seeing another ship. But then after 2-3 weeks crossing the pacific you might end up in the South China sea. Drive round there for a couple of weeks and tell me that its boring!

                The technology is good. Would you rather be taking sights every day and having to correct an entire world chart folio by hand on a weekly basis? No thanks. Whilst I agree that seamanship has largely gone out the window I'm not sure what we can do about that. I haven't had to tie a knot since I was at college but then there has never been any need to.

                Oh and we're not an "administration department" for the ship's certificates and safety...they have always been part of a deck officers job! Who else would you suggest is better placed to be in charge of it? And I get a lot of opportunities to maneuver the ship. I realise not all companies allow junior ranks to do this so I am thankful for that.

                I agree college training needs modernised with the fact they are still teaching loran c, derricks etc but I won't hold my breath on that.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by EH75 View Post

                  Oh and we're not an "administration department" for the ship's certificates and safety...they have always been part of a deck officers job! Who else would you suggest is better placed to be in charge of it? And I get a lot of opportunities to maneuver the ship. I realise not all companies allow junior ranks to do this so I am thankful for that.

                  I agree college training needs modernised with the fact they are still teaching loran c, derricks etc but I won't hold my breath on that.
                  All of this. I'm fortunate in that I get to manoeuvre the ship on a very regular basis. In the past 2 weeks I've had somewhere in the region of 50 hours practical manoeuvre time doing a variety of different operations. I've been on ships where the entire manoeuvring time for the year is less than that!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by chris View Post
                    I wonder how the root and branch review of the UK cadetship system is going?

                    I can only find this old one

                    https://www.gov.uk/government/consul...ning-standards

                    But I seem to remember a more recent consultation

                    yes there is is one it's called the Training 2025 -Review of seafarer training and education. I did post links last year I think.
                    https://www.ukchamberofshipping.com/...ng-generation/

                    http://mntbreview.org
                    and a survey but looks a bit old now but it is still there link on warsash website.



                    http://www.warsashacademy.co.uk/news...-training.aspx

                    So no excuses if you don't like how it is do something to change it.

                    As as for using skills, I know my son often used the sextant, officers on one ship were very keen they did and he also spent more time on ships without ECDIS than with it. So it seems it just depends what ship your on and what it's job is as to what skills you will use, same happens in other jobs too not just shipping.

                    * When I say 'you' I mean everyone not you personally Chris!

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                    • #11
                      Im pretty happy with the etoing. The training wasnt enough to go in as sole eto on qualifying in my opinion but Im lucky to work for a firm with training ranks.

                      The college side of things needs change but eto wasnt on the review being a new course anyway.
                      Former TH cadet with experience of cruise ships, buoy tenders, research ships and oil tankers

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                      • #12
                        As I rapidly approach the end of my cadet sea time one thing that has become abundantly clear is that the experience is what you make of it. I can relate to everything the OP has said so while on ship I resolved to do something about it. Taught myself how to use the sextant and practiced celestial fixes until I became good at it, asked the 2/O if he had any old charts of whatever area we were traversing so I could practice monitoring the ship's position and compliance with the passage plan by paper chart as well as by ECDIS. Was then lucky enough to sail with a Master who insisted that a sextant fix be taken at least once a day where weather conditions would allow and my prior practice suddenly made me very popular and in great demand on the bridge! Sometimes there are obstacles put in a cadets path and its up to the cadet to find a way around them, I do not expect for a moment that the case will be any different post-qualification.

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                        • #13
                          Most of the skill was removed from navigation with the advent of reliable satellite navigation systems in the 90s. You might do old fashioned navigation as a hobby or during play time on a deep sea watch when you have too much time on your hands. As for classical seamanship, that hasn't changed that much over recent years, what kind were you expecting? Mending sails and reassembling union purchase derricks?

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                          • #14
                            While chipping and painting may feel like it is a punishment or a "character building test", if you learn it correctly it will set you up very well when the time comes to going Chief Mate.

                            One of the most important things when it comes to how long a ship can continue sailing isn't the machinery or the engine as many think. They can be maintained and have parts replaced. One of the most important things is the steel work. Even from when a ship is 5 years old it must go through thickness measurement gauging of the steel work at every intermediate and special survey. When the steel wastage exceeds the maximum allowable it will need to be cropped and renewed. When the cost of repairs will exceed the value of the ship and what it can make trading, it may well be scrapped.

                            I was on a LNG carrier that for years suffered neglect. The ballast tanks had there manholes inside an under deck pipe passage that was rarely entered into. For years nobody bothered changing the gaskets on the manhole covers and when the ballast tanks were pressed up water would leak all over the under deck pipe passage. With all the deck steam leaks creating a wet, hot humid atmosphere and the seawater sloshing about on badly painted steel, it was a great recipe for steel corrosion. The final bill when I left was $4 million for cropping and renewing of the steel and there was a 7 man riding squad on for 6 months scaling and painting the rest that still had a bit of the maximum allowable wastage to go. All because nobody was on top of the "chipping and painting"

                            Ask plenty questions and read all the manuals from the paint supplier. If the paint is well prepared and applied correctly it should make life a lot easier for yourself in the future if you will continue sailing on that ship.

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                            • #15
                              I do worry that you feel you are just monitoring the ECDIS, you should know the ECDIS intimately, know every setting and feature and be able to confidently interrogate it, plan complex pilotages, determine PIs, plot celestial fixes or use DRs on it. Flag states are now starting to expect more then just the magenta lines on the ECDIS and in the future PSC inspections will be more in depth for ECDIS.

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