8 Unwritten Merchant Navy Rules For a Trainee Cadet

8 Unwritten Merchant Navy Rules For a Trainee Cadet

The life of a seafarer onboard is very unpredictable, full of challenges, hardships, and adventure. The maritime training centres across the world give sufficient training, counseling, and insights into the working of the shipping industry. But none of this can actually prepare an aspiring seafarer for the challenges that he/she is about to face onboard at sea.

Cadet during their training
Cadets during their training

Only when seafarers board a vessel for the very first time, do they come to know about the reality of merchant navy. They come to realise what it actually takes to be a seafarer only after they experience it first-hand by working on a ship. During these first 5-6 months of their careers at sea, they inculcate qualities and work ethics that remain with them throughout their life.

Deck cadet assisting in mooring station
Deck cadet assisting in mooring station

Seafarers have a very hectic work schedule. They sometimes have to work in a hazardous environment or confined spaces. Which takes a toll on their physical and mental health. Hence, they have to follow a really disciplined work culture in order to keep up with the stressful environment. There is a particular code of conduct that seafarers have to follow when they are on board in order to ensure that all shipboard operations are carried out in a smooth manner.

Especially, for a first-time joiner, the work culture onboard can be a bit overwhelming. It takes some time for them to get accustomed to the environment of a vessel. In this blog, we list some of the basic things that you should keep in mind while boarding a ship for the first time.     

Greet Everyone Politely

Deck cadet with Bosun
Deck cadet with Bosun

This is the one thing that you should always keep in mind if you want to maintain a good relationship with your senior officers on board. Make it a habit to greet everyone onboard politely. When you report for Engine/Bridge watch, greet the duty officer respectfully. Mannerisms and etiquettes play a huge role in how you are perceived by your senior officers and crew members.

Maintain Personal Hygiene

Maintain Personal Hygiene

Maintaining personal hygiene is really important onboard. As the moisture level is really high onboard a ship, it makes you prone to various skin diseases and infections. Furthermore, if you’re in the engine department, you have to work in hot engine rooms throughout the day. On the other hand, if you’re in the deck department, you’ll have to work outside on the deck in the scorching sun and heat depending on your ship’s location.

Indulging in various physical tasks in a really hot environment makes you sweat a lot. Make sure to take a proper shower every day in the evening when you knock off.

Keep your personal cabin neat and tidy. Although, initially when you’re a cadet, it is really difficult to take out time for cleaning your cabin. But make sure to clean your cabin at least once a week in case you want to save yourself when the Captain decides to take a surprise visit to your cabin. 

Safety First 

Safety is of paramount importance onboard
Safety is of paramount importance onboard

This is the most important thing to keep in mind while working onboard. Safety is of paramount importance and you have to take care of yourselves onboard. The ship is nothing like your maritime training institutes, there is going to be no spoon-feeding. So be alert and conscious of your surroundings while working onboard. Follow the proper safety procedures, and wear personal protective equipment at all times. Most importantly don’t try to be a HERO.

Be Punctual

Deck cadet with 2nd Officer
Deck cadet with 2nd Officer

This is something that has been taught to us since our childhoods. Working schedule onboard is really hectic, so punctuality is really important onboard. Especially, when you’re starting out as a cadet, this is the first quality of yours that will be noticed by your seniors. So, always remember to report for Engine/Bridge watch in time. (Preferably 10 min. before)  

 Follow Instructions Carefully

Cadets should follow all instructions carefully
Cadets should follow all instructions carefully

When you are working onboard you have the responsibility of the entire multi-million-dollar ship and its cargo on your shoulders. Therefore, the stakes are really high while operating a ship and the margin for error is slim to none. The smallest mistake can cause a really big disaster onboard, so you need to follow the instructions given by your seniors very carefully. Especially, during critical operations like loading/discharging, mooring operations, ballasting/de-ballasting, etc. It is really important to follow the correct procedure and regularly report the progress of the operation to the duty officer.  

 Study And Regularly Update Training Record Books

Cadets need to complete training record books onboard
Cadets need to complete training record books onboard

Studying and learning regularly is really important for a deck/engine cadet during his/her entire cadetship. Although, due to the hectic work schedule, it is really difficult to take out time for studies. But, onboard the ship “Knowledge is Power”. So, if you want to earn the respect of your senior officers onboard, you will have to continuously update your technical skills and knowledge.

Apart from studying, do not forget to complete your training record books regularly and take the signatures of your Ship Board Training Officer (STO). Chief Officer/2nd Engineer is the STO onboard of their respective departments. 

 Do Not Look at The Clock

Cadets have to work hard round the clock
Cadets have to work hard round the clock

Initially when you start out as a cadet make sure that you’re the hardest working person onboard. Do not calculate your work and rest hours. Rather focus on your productivity and how much is your contribution to the team. Do not become a burden on board, become an asset to the officers and the crew. For that, you will have to work tirelessly without looking at the clock.                                    

Say No to Alcohol 

One should stay away from alcohol onboard
One should stay away from alcohol onboard

Consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in most shipping companies these days. Many shipping companies have a ‘Zero Alcohol’ policy. This means that there is absolutely no tolerance for the consumption of alcohol on board their ships. There have been many incidents in the past due to the consumption of alcohol by the ship’s crew. These incidents have resulted in huge financial losses for the company and have compromised the safety of the ship, cargo, and the crew onboard. So, stay away from alcohol on board in case your company follows a ‘Zero Alcohol’ policy.

To sum it all up just stay true to your job, show respect to your profession, and don’t indulge in anything that can get you in trouble. It is very important to follow a particular code of conduct onboard. Over the years the shipping industry has evolved into a very professional field where there is no room for slip-ups or irresponsible behavior. You have to follow a proper work ethic if you want to survive in this profession.    

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

Derek Jeter   

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Jaswantsingh Patil

Amazing content sir

Praneet Mehta

Much Thanks, Jaswant.

-Team merchant navy decoded

Gokul doss

Sir,Really very useful to know for all the 1st time joining a ship!!
Good information sir, thank you

Praneet Mehta

Watch this video

Team merchant navy decoded


Great info for new seafarers. Thanks team merchant navy decoded.

Praneet Mehta

Hello Prayanshu,
Thankyou for your appreciation and we will make more informative content like this.

Team Merchant Navy Decoded.