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Chief Officer Oversees the Safety of the Ship at Port and Sea

A chief officer is the head of the deck department of a merchant ship who is customarily in charge of the cargo and deck crew.  This officer is held responsible to the captain when it pertains to the security and safety of the ship.

Among its responsibilities would include securing the welfare of the crew and to oversee training in the areas of firefighting, safety, rescue and search.  As merchant ships do no have a Staff Captain, this officer is second in command.

The chief officer needs to oversee the stowage, loading and unloading, and securing of cargoes.  This designated officer will be accountable for taking care of the cargo during the entire duration of the voyage.  This responsibility could include taking responsibility of the stability of the ship and to take special care of the cargoes which are harmful, hazardous or dangerous.

Among the most critical responsibilities of this officer is to make sure that the ship is balanced on water to resist any forces that could possibly capsize it such as swells, storms, and strong winds.  Various tools are used to successfully execute this such as load balancing and ballasting to optimize the ship’s performance on various kinds of environment that it will be exposed to during the voyage.

In most situations, a chief officer is really a watch stander at the port and in the sea.  The responsible officer will be answerable to the captain for the ship’s cargo and crew safe within eight hours of the day.  In traditional protocol, the officer is on a ‘4-8’ watch stand, which means that the post should be watched from 4AM to 8AM and from 4PM until 8PM.  During the entire watch, the officer needs to implement all the relevant regulations.  At the port, the watch will be focused on the duties in fire and security, cargo operations, communications monitoring, and mooring lines.

In general, this officer will be responsible for the ship’s stability and safety.  There are IMO regulations which require the chief officer to have fluency in the English language.  This will be very critical as the officer needs to utilize nautical publications and charts, communicate with coast stations and other ships, work with a multi-lingual crew, and needs to understand safety messages and weather.  Fundamentally, the duties at sea are focused on three aspects: safely avoid traffic, respond to any emergencies that might come up, and navigate the ship.

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