I became a seafarer when I was 18 years old. It was year 2008 when I began my career as a deck cadet and it took me exactly twelve months to finish my contract, just exactly what I need for my requirements for board exam as Officer in charge of a Navigational Watch or OIC-NW. Then on the year 2010, I successfully passed the exams and the next year, I went back onboard as a Junior Third Officer.
The rank of Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch spans two actual rank onboard,the Third Officer and the Second Officer. Professional Regulations Commission had decided few years ago to conglomerate the two previous board exam for those said ranks into one so that non officers will be more encouraged to take it, and of course, to save the seafarer’s money since taking it costs a big amount of bucks.
Onboard, the lowest ranking officer is the Third Officer or Third Mate for other terms. Usually, they have the lightest responsibility onboard but the most underrated. Although some companies vary in terms of duties and responsibilities between their officers, they usually handle documents and office works, life saving appliances and fire fighting equipment and bonded store.
In these four part series, we will first look at the struggles a third officer experiences onboard. I asked all of my colleagues who are now, and has been a third officer to put their insights on the struggles they faced before onboard.
1. Papers, papers, papers.
As I have said earlier, they are the ones who make documents needed for a smooth operation onboard. It usually varies depending on the case where it needed. But if you think it is easy, it’s not.
One of the most important documents they do are the port entry documents like crew list, crew declaration, bonded store list for customs, quarantine list, and many more depending on the country they’ll visit. If these will be prepared, it should be done in advance, meaning it has to be done at least three to seven days prior arrival to a port.
Careful preparation must be done to ensure that no wrong entries are not typewritten and all information on the documents are true and accurate, or else fine will be imposed to the vessel.
What’s hard thing about this is, they have to extract information from the whole crew in a matter of time, and it must be accurate. Some of the third officers complain that there are crew members who are very tardy in signing the documents. Others complain that there are some who still get liquor or cigarettes when the bonded store list is already prepared. It’s a waste of time, effort, paper and printer ink.
2. Fixing all fire fighting equipment and lifesaving appliances after drill.
Once a month, ship’s crew performs emergency drill to ensure that all are well prepared when sudden mishap happens. Depending on the company policy, drills vary but one of the most important drill that should be conducted is the fire drill.
At the sound of the emergency alarm, all crew must go to their respective muster station along with their carrying items such as fireman’s suit, hoses, radio, breathing apparatus, etc. Depending on the scenario, all crew must act swiftly and efficiently as per instructions.
Third officers are the ones who are in charge of maintaining the lifesaving apparatus and fire fighting equipment. What’s wrong every drill is, after conducting fire drill, some crew members are just leaving the materials on the fire stations, and much worse, just on the alleyways. As courtesy to the man in charge of the said materials, they should fix it after drill instead of leaving it unfixed.
3. Waking up at 1700H to go to the bridge.
This ritual is very common for an all-Filipino crew vessels. Some third officers wake up every 1700H just to replace the chief officer, who is the officer on watch that time. Why? Come on. It’s dinner time.
Some say it started as an act of “pakikisama” or companionship to their fellow officers but sometimes it is abused. Chief officers usually go down to the mess hall to have dinner for about 15-20 minutes, but there are some cases that they extend up to thirty minutes to an hour. Mainly to perform personal necessities and do some unwanted and unimportant stuff like watching TV or go around the quarters.
The problem here is, third officers do overtime from 1300H to 1600H, leaving the remaining of his hours as his time to have some sleep or rest. But if some chief officers extend their time for dinner to almost an hour, their rest hours are compromised.
4. Dealing with hard headed crew members that will order some items in the bonded store.
This is a case to case basis in every ship because sometimes cadets or messmen are the ones who handles the bonded store.
What is a bonded store anyway? It is a locked room in the ship where liquors, cigarettes and other consumable stuffs subject to tax are stored. Soft drinks, mineral water, junk foods and other toiletries are also sold here. The consumption of these are items are controlled by Master’s discretion.
Usually, bonded stores are closed three days before arriving in a port and opened a day after departure. Many third officers are baffled with their crewmates because even though they’ve announced that the store is closed, they are still getting items. This is an inconvenience to the third officers because the bonded store list is compromised.
5. The Captain’s secretary.
Since they are the lowest ranking officers in the ship, they sometimes becomes the captain’s left hand. In short, they are the secretary. Aside from the documents that they personally prepare, some Masters prefer to give their papers and documents to them, thus making their workload heavier.
Do you experienced it also? Or are there more struggles that you’re experiencing right now? Share this and let them know. Happy sailing!
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