ship mate

What does a Shipmate do?

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Shipmates are the supervisors and coordinators of the crew and their activities. This includes maintenance, cargo, or refueling aboard ships and other vessels. They assume command of the vessel should the ship’s pilot become unable to perform his or her duty.

Watch a video to learn more about seafaring careers.

How to Become a Ship Mate

According to the Maritime Institute, before applying for a U.S. Coast Guard license, you must be 19 years old and show at least 360 days of experience on a vessel. Also, the maritime experience you have must correlate with the type of vessel you are looking to become a mate for.

Job Description of a Ship Mate

ship mate

The duties of a shipmate may vary according to the ship or vessel he or she is working on. However, they typically monitor the ship for specified periods of time while underway. They may steer the vessel with the aid of navigational devices like buoys, lighthouses compasses, or other equipment. They determine the speed and course of a ship and the geographical position of ships using computers or other devices.

Shipmates may also oversee the loading or unloading of cargo for storage. This would include the handling of the cargo and meet any state and federal law requirements. He or she monitors when the ship needs to be refueled, stocked, or repaired and is involved in vessel maintenance and security. In the event of necessary repairs, the shipmate supervises the crew members as well as the cleaning of decks, bridges, or other superstructures. The ship’s mate may be required to assume command of the ship or vessel if the ship’s master becomes ill or incapacitated.

Ship Captain, Mates, and Pilots Career Video Transcript

Seafaring is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle. Captains, mates, and ship pilots spend their days on the water on vessels of all sizes, on inland lakes and rivers, as well as the open sea. The captain is responsible for every aspect of the voyage and vessel. They set course and speed, direct crew members, and ensure that proper procedures are followed, keeping logs and records of the ship’s movements and cargo, and supervising the loading and unloading of cargo and passengers.

Mates are the captain’s “right hand.” They manage and train the deck crew, inspect and maintain inventory of equipment, and order needed repairs. They stand watch, oversee ship operations, and navigation when the captain is not on duty. Pilots are responsible for steering ships in and out of berths, through hazardous conditions, and boat traffic. They motor out from harbor as a ship approaches, then climb aboard to take charge and safely berth the ship.

Life aboard ship requires that one must be in good physical condition to tolerate the extremes of weather and irregular hours, and to be ready to respond to unexpected danger. Captains and ship pilots are expected to have vocational training or an associate’s degree, while mates often have a high school diploma. All require experience onboard ships. Licensing by the Coast Guard is required for work on ships registered in the U.S. If you can’t resist the call of the sea, you might set sail for a nautical career.

Article Citations

National Center for O*NET Development. 53-5021.02. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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