A Day in The Life of A Chief Officer

It is 03:44 am in the morning. The entire ship’s crew is fast asleep, except the 2nd Officer and his lookout. They are on the bridge ensuring that the vessel is on track to its destination and keeping a sharp lookout for anything out in the pitch-black dark sea that can pose a threat to the safe navigation of the vessel. Another minute passes by, it is 03:45 am and the 2nd officer gives a call to the Chief Officer on the telecom.

Mater and Chief Officer in bridge

It is time for him to hand over the watch to the Chief Officer and the Trainee cadet. The cadet reaches the bridge at 03:50 am 10 minutes before his watch. He takes some time to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Then he takes a look at the ECDIS and Radar and analyses the current situation of the vessel. At 04:00 am Chief Officer enters the bridge. The cadet who is still a bit sleepy suddenly becomes active on hearing the Chief Officer’s voice inside the bridge.

The 2nd Officer hands over the watch to the Chief Officer and informs him about the current course of the vessel, the weather conditions, traffic around the vessel, and any particular situation which may pose a threat to the safe navigation of the ship. The 2nd officer and his lookout take their leave and now the command of the ship is in Chief Officer’s hands. The cadet prepares two mugs of strong coffee for himself and the Chief Officer in order to stimulate their senses and feel more awake and alert.

The morning 0400 – 0800 watch is one of the most critical watch schedules of the entire day. The watchkeepers have to be extra alert and active in order to spot small boats or maybe fishing nets which can pose threat to the safe navigation of the vessel. As the sun rises both the cadet and the Chief Officer are a bit relieved as the traffic around the vessel is clearly visible now.

Chief officer in bridge

The Chief Officer now starts planning the maintenance work to be carried out on the deck by the entire deck crew. At 07:00 am Bosun and Pumpman (in tankers) report to the bridge to discuss the entire day’s work schedule with him/her. Soon the Captain too arrives at the Bridge after having his breakfast and discusses issues relating to the voyage and port calls with the Chief Officer. At 08:00 am Third Officer arrives at the bridge to take over the watch. Chief Officer can finally enjoy the breakfast prepared by the galley department. 

After having breakfast he/she gets changed into his/her overalls and holds a ‘Tool-Box Meeting’ with the entire deck crew before they engage in their respective jobs for the day. He/she supervises and assists the deck crew in their respective jobs. He/she also keeps a sharp eye on whether the safe working practice is being followed onboard or not.

Throughout the day the Chief Officer can be seen running to and fro between the accommodation area and the deck. Apart from supervising deck maintenance he/she also has to reply to the emails and messages received from the owners, company, Charterers, etc.

Deck crew on deck

At 12:00 pm he/she finally takes a break and feasts on the lavish lunch prepared by the galley department. The Chief Officer then usually knocks off for the day and then again reports for bridge watch at 04:00 pm. Apart from maintaining a proper watch he/she also prepares the vessel’s daily message and other reports to be sent to the company during this time. At 06:00 pm the Third Officer arrives at the bridge to relieve the Chief Officer for dinner. 

After having his/her dinner the Chief Officer returns to the bridge for his watch which ends at 08:00 pm. At 08:00 pm the Third Officer again arrives at the bridge to take over his watch. The Chief Officer usually stays behind for another half an hour and discusses the events of the day and other things with the Captain. He/she shares a few jokes with the Third officer before finally knocking off for the day.    

AT Port/During Cargo Operations

The above-mentioned schedule of a Chief Officer is for a regular day at sea. While at port or during cargo operations the responsibility and the workload on Chief Officers tremendously increases. The Chief Officer is in charge of the entire cargo operation and witnesses the beginning, end, and critical stages of the entire cargo operation by himself/herself. He/she is also the Security officer and monitors security measures for various security levels as per the Ship Security Plan. 

The Chief Officer leads the mooring operation at the forward station and the anchor station along with the trainee cadet.  

Officer during cargo operation

The life of a Chief Officer onboard is really hectic. They have the responsibility for the safe loading/unloading of cargo worth millions of dollars. There is no margin of error for them, they have to be absolutely sure and confident in their decisions. One wrong move or decision by them during a critical operation can be disastrous for the ship owners, manning company, and the entire ship’s crew. 

Hence, a Chief Officer has to be absolutely firm about his decisions, he/she does not have the option of getting nervous or giving up during critical stages. They have to lead from the front and inspire the rest of the crew to give their best, even when they are absolutely exhausted and low on energy. 

In this blog, we have tried to give a general glimpse into the life of a Chief Officer onboard. However, we may not have been able to portray the amount of pressure that a Chief Officer faces onboard. They have immense responsibilities on their shoulders yet they try their best to motivate the crew by sharing a few jokes with them. Apart from all this, they are also the Shipboard Training Officers for the trainee cadets. They try their best to inculcate all the qualities of an officer into the trainee cadet so that he becomes a responsible and efficient officer in the future.  

“With great power comes great responsibility.” 

Quote from the movie ‘Spiderman’ (2002)

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