Second Mate/Officer

The Second Mate works on creating the ship’s passage plans. A passage plan is a comprehensive, step by step description of how the voyage is to proceed from berth to berth. The plan includes undocking, departure, the en route portion of a voyage, approach, and mooring at the destination.

At sea, the mate on watch has three fundamental duties:

  1. to navigate the ship
  2. to safely avoid traffic
  3. to respond to emergencies

A second mate is almost always a watchstander. In port and at sea, the second mate is responsible to the captain for keeping the ship, its crew, and its cargo safe for eight hours each day.

Traditionally, the second mate stands a “12-4” watch: from midnight until 4am and noon until 4pm. On watch, he/she must enforce all applicable regulations, such as safety of life at sea and pollution regulations. In port, the watch focuses on duties such as cargo operations, fire and security watches, monitoring communications, and the anchor or mooring lines.

The officer has special responsibilities to keep the ship, the people on board and the environment safe. This includes keeping the ship seaworthy during fire and loss of stability, and providing aid and maintaining safety during man overboard, abandoning ship, and medical emergencies.

Understanding ship’s stability, trim, stress, and the basics of ship’s construction is a key to keeping a ship seaworthy. Competencies include knowing what to do in cases of flooding and loss of buoyancy. Fire is also a constant concern. Knowing the classes and chemistry of fire, fire-fighting appliances, and systems prepares the officer to act fast in case of fire.

An officer must be expert in the use of survival craft and rescue boats, their launching appliances and arrangements, and their equipment including radio life-saving appliances, satellite EPIRBs, SARTs, immersion suits and thermal protective aids. It’s important to be expert in the techniques for survival at sea techniques in case it’s necessary to abandon ship.

Officers are trained to perform medical tasks and to follow instructions given by radio or obtained from guides. This training includes what to do in case of common shipboard accidents and illnesses.

International regulations require the officer be fluent in English. This is required for a number of reasons, such as to use charts and nautical publications, understand weather and safety messages, communicate with other ships and coast stations, and to be able to work with a multi-lingual crew.

On oil tankers, the second mate usually assists the Chief Mate with the tank cleaning operations.