Terms and names can vary from company to company and ship to ship but the following will provide a reasonable basis for understanding some shipboard terminology.

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Getting Onboard

  • Accommodation Ladder – means of access to a larger ship. Ship’s gear, normally a permanently rigged ‘stairway’ onto vessels
  • Gangway – means of access to a ship, normally set at right angles to the vessel, secured to the ship’s deck at one end and resting on the quay at the other
  • Pilot Ladder – substantial rope ladder usually lying against ship’s side
  • Jacobs Ladder – lighter, ‘portable’ rope ladder
  • Tower – rigid, shore based structure incorporating a stairway up to a platform upon which a ‘gangway’ stretches to the ship
  • Jetty Ladder – vertical metal ladder built into a jetty to provide access to craft lying below the level of the jetty
  • Link span – heavy shore structure over which vehicular traffic gains access to vessels (such as ferries)
  • Ramp – may be bow, stern or side mounted on a ship to allow vehicular access

 

General Layout

  • Bow – forward/front end of the ship
  • Focsle – (from Fore Castle) forward mooring deck
  • Stern – after (aft)/back end of the ship
  • Poop – aft mooring deck
  • Accommodation – block of superstructure containing the cabins, mess, bridge, etc
  • Main Deck – open area between accommodation and focsle and/or poop
  • Flying Bridge or Catwalk – raised walkway on main deck (usually on tankers) between accommodation and focsle and/or poop
  • Port side – left hand side looking forward (shows a red side light)
  • Starboard – right hand side looking forward (shows a green light)
  • Amidships – (or midships) middle of the vessel
  • Bulwark – solid parapet round deck (usually main deck)
  • Bulkhead – a wall
  • Deck – a floor
  • Deckhead – a ceiling
  • Heads – toilets
  • Storm Step – raised sill in way of doors (to prevent ingress of water)
  • Muster Station – place at which personnel gather in emergency
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Finding the Ship’s Staff

  • Alleyway – passage or corridor
  • Mess Room - (or ‘The Mess’) – dining room. Often one for officers (known as the saloon) and one for crew (known as the crew mess)
  • Galley – the kitchen
  • Wardroom – the officer’s bar
  • Ship’s Office or Cargo Control Room – centre for ship’s operation in port
  • Bridge Deck – (known as ‘The Bridge’) or navigation deck – top deck of accommodation
  • Control Room – the engine room control centre
  • Monkey Island – open deck on top of the bridge

 

Ship’s routine

  • Watch – period of duty/a shift
  • Watchkeeper – persons on shifts/watches (includes Deck Officers and duty ‘seamen’ and, possibly, Engineer Officers)
  • OOW – Officer Of the Watch, the duty officer
  • Day-worker – works 0800 to 1700 each day (includes seamen in deck or engine room team and engineers in UMS ships)
  • UMS – unmanned machinery space, engine room operates unmanned outside of ‘day-work hours’
  • GP – General Purpose, crew members that undertake work rota in Deck and Engineering departments (as opposed to specialising in one or the other)

 

 Ship’s Personnel (and rank insignia, if uniform worn)

 

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 Master (4 gold rings/bars and gold braid on cap peak) – official title of the senior officer in command of the ship. The ship’s master is usually afforded the courtesy title ‘Captain’. Often referred to as ‘The Old Man’

  • Chief Engineer (4 gold rings/bars with purple inserts) – ‘The Chief’ is the senior ranking engineer onboard
  • Chief Mate (3 gold rings/bars) - Chief Officer or ‘The Mate’ is head of the Deck, or Navigation, department
  • Second Engineer (3 gold rings/bars with purple inserts) – ‘The Second’ reports to the Chief Engineer regarding operation of the engine room.
  • Second Mate and Third Mate (2 or 1 gold rings/bars) - a Deck/Navigating watchkeeping officer
  • Third Engineer, Fourth Engineer, Junior Engineer (2, 1, or half gold rings/bars with purples inserts) – engineering watchkeepers
  • Electrician/ETO (2 gold rings/bars with purple inserts)
  • Radio Officer (2 gold rings/bars with green insert) – a rare/dying breed responsible for radio communications and maintenance
  • Catering Officer (2 gold rings/bars with white insert) – also rare in most merchant ships, known as Pursers in passenger vessels (and may wear up to 4 gold rings), responsible for ‘housekeeping’, catering and interface with shore organisations such as Customs
  • Cadet (gold line on epaulette or lapel flash) – trainee officer
  • Bosun – may be known as ‘Chief Petty Officer’ or ‘CPO’, crew’s foreman
  • Fitter – engine room petty officer
  • Storekeeper – second petty officer in ships with large crew
  • Quartermaster – bridge rating or petty officer (depending on ship type) main duty is steering the ship when required
  • Pumpman – on tankers, works for OOW in pump room and assisting on deck
  • Cook – runs the galley
  • AB – Able Bodied Seaman (or GP1) – works on deck
  • Greaser – works in engine room
  • Oiler - works in engine room
  • Steward(ess) – undertakes ‘housekeeping’ and/or waiter(ess) work
  • Shipboard Security Officer (SSO) – person onboard with specific responsibility for the ship’s security under the ISPS Code as a part of their duties. (Sometimes SSO is used to describe the Ship’s Safety Officer).