Sailors: The People Out At Sea

Sailors, Mariners, or Seamen are people that navigate or assist in navigation and operations on board water borne vessels. The term sailor could mean professional mariner military personnel or recreational sailing. The name is derived from the time when water borne vessels were powered by sails using the wind. Today the name is still in use even though the method of propulsion on board marine vessels has changed.



Professional sailors have a specific professional and rank on board the vessel they serve, with a different name assigned to each different sailor rank and the deportment he works for easy recognition. Some common departments are Deck department, Engineering Department and Stewards department.

Sailors can also be ranked as licensed sailors or unlicensed sailors, with a variety of profession and rank assigned to each carrier unique responsibilities which are important for successful operation of marine vessels. A ship crew consists mainly of four categories: the deck department, the engineering department, stewards department and others.

Deck department

Officers based at the deck department include Master and his Chief, second and third officers. Unlicensed members of the deck department are classified as Able sea men or Ordinary seamen. Below is a list of deck crew and some other names they may be known as on a common ship:

Numberof crew Name of rank or positions
1 Chief Engineer.
1 Second Engineer/ First Assistant Engineer
1 Third Engineer/ Second Assistant
1-2 Forth Engineer/ Third Assistant Engineer
0-2 Fourth Engineer/ junior engineer
1-3 Oiler (unlicensed qualified rating)
0-3 Greaser/s unlicensed qualified rating
1-5 Entry Level Rating (wiper, utility men etc)


Other positions that may be found on the deck department are Motor men, Mechanics, Electricians, Refrigerator engineers and tanker men but this may vary from vessel to vessel.

Engineering Department

Consisting of a similar ranking system as the deck department they are responsible for maintenance and repair of hotel facilities on board vessels. These can be sewage, lighting, air conditioning, and water. They also manage bunkering, undergo firefighting, and first aid training, and they play a major role of checking and maintain safety systems throughout the process. During cargo loading and discharging

Steward’s Department

Depending on the vessel work, each has a different number of personnel designated is this department. On cargo carrier the number is smaller due to the small amount of personnel on board. There is a Chief Steward, a Chief Cook and a Steward’s assistant and all positions can be filled by unlicensed personnel.

Chief Steward: his duty is to direct, instruct and assign personnel to different duties like preparation and serving of meals, cleaning and maintenance of steward’s area and officers quarters; and receiving, issuing and inventorying the store. He is also in charge of planning menus, registers supplies, overtime, and cost control records. He may purchase stores and equipment. His duties may also overlap those of Steward Assistant, the Chief Cook and other steward Department crew man.

As mention above, the number may increase depending on the number of personnel or passengers on board a vessel. Cruise ships and naval war ships have move steward crew men to cope with the large number of people on board.

Other Departments

Many types of staff officers may be onboard ships. Some common ones are Junior Assistant Purser, Senior Assistant Purser, Purser, Medical Doctor, and Nurse among more. These jobs are administrative and regulated by certification of registration.

These are just some details concerning sailors, later we shall be discussing other aspects that are considered when discussing sailors like the working conditions, promotion of rank, and challenges faced when sailors are out at sea over long periods.


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