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  • Cadets: Lowest of the low?

    Are cadets the lowest of the low? I eat with the officers, use the officer's facilities and for most of my time I work with the officers. Yet we are told at college we are the lowest on board the ship.
    Now I recently got some clarification from my chief mate in regards who to take orders from, as there was an O/S on board who thought he could order cadets around to do his job. It was becoming apparent for most of the time this O/S did nothing because there were cadets to do it for him.
    This leads me to another question, are cadets there to do someone else's job? A similar thing happened with a polish 3rd officer in that he never did MPMs himself because he always got the cadets to do it. Now he still got his 3rd officer's wage, and if I'm doing all his deck work for him surely he should have that part of his wage cut and given to me?

    I can't help but think cadets are just there to be used as CHEAP extra hands rather than actually learning how to be a manager. I find it a very grey area where cadets are, and would like someone else to clarify. I'm not saying I should have the right to give orders around myself, but who should I be taking orders from and what sort of tasks should I be doing?

  • #2
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    • #3
      Cadets shouldn't be used as cheap extra hands as this is not the purpose of your job. You are training to be an Officer so whatever job you do is there to teach you something about the jobs you'll be responsible for when you're qualified.

      When I was a cadet I had to do a load of jobs I don't have to do anymore, but I may be responsible for overseeing them or making sure they're done correctly.

      As a cadet you should realise that, even though you eat with the Officers, have Officer quarters and on some ships wear uniform like the officers, an O/S or an A/B may very well have been at sea much longer than you and will undoubtedly know much more than you do. This doesn't change even when you're a qualified Officer.

      You should be doing all the tasks that you are assigned. While under training you should be aware who your designated shipboard training officer is (DSTO). If you feel that you have been given a job that seriously deviates from your progress under training you should talk to the DSTO. REMEMBER that absolutely every problem should try to be resolved on board FIRST. BEFORE you contact shore side training staff.

      What tasks you should be doing depends what trip you're on. May I ask where you are in training?

      If you are first trip then you should be doing all the daywork tasks. There is a reason that 1st trip cadets aren't given a lot (or any) Bridge time. Daywork needs to be done first and there is plenty of time in the cadetship to gain watchkeeping time. Besides which, Bridge Watchkeeping is pointless if you don't know what goes on elsewhere.

      As for the 3rd Officer, if he is not your DSTO then, yeah he can give you tasks to do, if you feel you're being unfairly treated talk to the DSTO and ask him if you should be doing this.

      To boldly go.....
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      • #4
        In a way cadets are lowest of the low, our first phase tutor gives a lecture at the start of each intake telling new cadets that they "are lower than shark sh1t", as time goes on though he mellows and is actually lovely, assuming of course that you put the work in and behave yourself! He does this to prepare you for life on ship; when you first join, you know pretty much nothing, yes, you've gotten through your first phase and passed some college exams, but the guys you are working with have done all that and more by a long shot, the O/S and ABs have done their jobs for 10 maybe 40 years and they deserve respect, and are well worth listening to, the officers likewise. As a cadet you are assigned a shipboard training officer, they are your primary boss, this is usually the Chief Mate, and the standard practice is that you go to him/her in the morning or at the start of the week and they tell you what job you'll be doing that day/week. This could be going to work with the deck crew, or with one of the seconds doing inspections etc etc. On your first trip you will most likely be told to go and find the bosun and work with the deck crew for a month or so, if you have a safety officer, you would probably then get a month with him and his helpers, for those times, the bosun or safety officer is in charge of you. You are there to work WITH them and the crew and learn how the job is done, how long it takes etc. Those who complain about doing a few more days of chipping and painting aren't getting the point, working with the deck crew for long periods of time teaches you not only how it's done and how long it takes, but should give you an understanding of how dull their lives are, how hard they work and yes, how demeaning it feels, this should hopefully give you perspective when you are a qualified officer and handing out orders imperiously. The heady heights of chief mate are far away now, but when we get there, those days working with the deck crew will probably seem like a pleasant holiday away from the increasing mountains of paperwork, and also should serve to make us remember to treat all on the ship with a level of respect and make sure they have a sense of pride, purpose, and know that they are appreciated by ensuring that there is a decent balance of work/play. If it doesn't make sense now, it hopefully will one day, but time doing ****ty jobs is actually some of the best management training going! (There was a TV programme a couple of years back about bosses going back to the shop floor undercover, and they learnt a hell of a lot through that!).

        With all that in mind, however, you are NOT there to do someone else's job, you are there to help and will no doubt lighten the load a little bit, but you shouldn't be left unsupervised unless you have proved yourself to be fully competent and happy to do the job on your own. ABs and OS's shouldn't be giving you jobs to do at all, you may well be told to go and find them and ask to be shown something, but if they are trying to pull one over on you, tell the C/O. On the flip side though, don't make the mistake of going around handing out orders to them, you are not their boss either. If you've been told to go find a couple of deck crew to do a job with you, there's ways of putting it that don't sound like an order, eg "Hey guys, I've been given this job, C/O told me to come ask you for your help, if you're not busy, would you mind giving me a hand?"

        Hope that helps

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        • #5
          In most situations it generally starts off with an officer giving you to a crew man and telling him to set you up with the task, so you both set to chipping and painting, then when you know what your doing its very easy for the crewman to slack off, but it will generally be assumed that the two of you are working. Theres also some parts of the routine that people can train you to do and then leave you too it, if its the fourth engineer it may be something in the sewage plant etc.

          Consider it this way, his normal job is to do all his jobs but he doesnt have anyone to teach, then hes got someone to teach he still has all the same work to do, so he now has more work so he should be getting more money obviously he doesnt but what he can do is get you to do some of the simple tasks that reduce his work load back a tiny bit, if you dont like doing the jobs of a third officer you will have a real issue when you are one.

          I have a cabin with no window, yes its a bit **** but all the crew have similar cabins that they share so as i dont share mine it suddenly seems great and the crew would think im a prat if i complained about it.

          If you think that all your doing is the same menial tasks over and over again then speak to the DSTO or whoever manages you the most but dont go and whinge in his ear ask him if you can do some particular task that is related, and hopefully that will help spur him out of his rut and give you some new work, but in reality theres some tasks that you will do a hell of a lot of and some you might only see once
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          • #6
            The rank system on merchant ships is a strange thing, and doesn't always work how you might think.

            Take the bosun for example. In most cases he won't hold a ticket and will hold his position based on years as an ordinary seaman, learning on the job, getting his navigational watch rating certificate, steering certificate and EDH certificate, getting promoted through various rates depending on company, such as able seaman and leading seaman until being appointed bosun. His line manager, in most cases, is the Chief Mate. He does not report directly to any other officer. The Chief Mate will also often be your line manager. He may give you the authority to give direction to the bosun and his staff of OS and ABs. This may be either explicit or part of normal practice. For example, he may give you the task of inspecting mooring lines. You need a few seamen to flake out the lines for you, and he will either speak with the bosun to arrange this or give you the authority to do so. Bottom line being that until you're Chief Mate, you don't really have direct authority over anyone. Now, when you're OOW or, say, officer in charge of mooring stations, then you have a degree of authority that comes from being responsible for the safety of the ship and the people you're working with. If that makes sense!

            It is interesting that you say you're learning how to be a manager. I don't think I'm doing that at all. Yes, I'm learning how to be a leader, but that's a completely different thing. Deck and technical officers are officers by virtue of their professional qualifications and knowledge. You are training to be a professional navigator and seaman. By contrast, on cruise ships for example, hotel officers are officers not neccesarily because of their professional qualifications but because they are managers. As I said above, on the deck side at least, you are unlikely to have any managerial responsibilities until you are Chief Mate. You will have leadership responsibilities.

            There's a lot of people who leave college after phase one and join their ships with an element of cockiness. "Look at me, I'm an officer!". One example that particularly riled me was someone on Facebook who had posted a photo and a comment referring to the "Fillipino boys" and "I told them to do X, Y Z...". It's very easy to tread on people's toes and attitude is a huge factor in how much support you get from the people you work with.

            I'm not saying that you're being cocky - far from it - I just go off on one every now and then!

            Talk to your DSTO. Tell them where the problem is. It's the usual thing, take charge of your own training. Go to him and (in a nice, polite way) say that you think you're competent at task X, can you move on to task Y. If you feel people are slacking off and leaving you to do their work, bring that up.

            At the very least, always look on the positive side. There's one phrase that every cadet is bound to have heard. It's character building!


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            Hello! I'm Chris. I'm away a lot so I'm sorry if it takes me a while to reply to messages, but I promise I'll get back to everyone. If it's urgent, please email me directly at [email protected].

            Need books, Flip Cards or chartwork instruments? Visit SailorShop.co.uk!

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            • #7
              My response to that is always the same...

              "I have PLENTY of character!!"

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              • #8
                This whole officer cadet and rating issue is also in the RN the old salty sea dog ratings don't take kindley to a uni boy with gold on there shoulder telling them how to do there job even though they have been at sea since before that officer was born, but then again that happens in normal life to does it not fast tracked managers get into positions because they have lots of sheets of paper saying he can do X Y and Z but hes clueless to the actual job and the staff who have done it for years get annoyed with them telling them how do there job when again they have done it longer than they have been at uni etc
                Be what you want to be not what other people tell you to be
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                • #9
                  Hmm me and my mate had a very tough experience on our first trip at sea but we couldn't do much because the dsto was a slimy git and I didnt want to risk getting a bad review off him.

                  If it wasn't for the Philipino (spelling?) third officer I would've learned bugger all and pretty much just have been there as a spare pair of hands on the deck.
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                  • #10
                    My first ship was one of Maersk Training ships with 8 cadets and a Cadet Training Officer so we were always kept busy with drills, or training, as well as working both day and night watches with the officer of the watch.

                    There was a lot of chipping and painting and a lot of hosing the deck down

                    I know the argument of "Doing someone else's job" comes up, but I personally think its a privilege when a 2/O or 3/O says to me " You can take the conn under my supervision and do every single thing I would be doing up here".

                    On my second ship I was acting "like a cadet" and doing a half job of things and the 2/O told me on this ship I have to act like an officer and do the same as they do, if this could be taken as me doing his job then so be it.... But it that really a bad thing?

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