It has oft been asked by those ashore how a ship operates, who is in-charge and ignorance shines forth when an engineer is asked “and when will you become Captain”! It is therefore time to lay-to-rest some of these myths and to give explanation as to what foundation a ships management structure is based upon.

Every business whether it is a high-flying banking firm or the local plumbers outfit a management structure in place. In a smaller ad-hoc company down the road the management structure may consist of one man sitting in an office, who barks out order like a sniffer dog struck lucky, to a down trodden son who has no choice in the matter or a large wall street firm that has hundreds of workers, many VP’s, directors and a chairman who nobody ever sees.

Whatever company looked at there is a structure in place, whether it is the ideal structure and whether it works or is practical in real life is not important except to say that like all businesses, cruise ships, gas tankers, ferries, rowing boats and offshore supply vessels all have a management structure in place. A vessels management structure is extremely defined! It is built on decades of culture and formulation and has adapted and changed with time to produce a system that is at first glance ideal, it covers all aspects of shipboard operations and lifestyles and is tightly regulated through strict control from ashore. A seafarer cannot rise up the ranks of structure to a higher position unless he has sat and passed the requisite number of exams, he cannot become a self-imposed boss through financial wangling, bribery or luck or through the showing of family wealth to impose authority. The only way that any seafarer can climb the management structures ladder is to have the right qualification and the only way to get the right qualification is to study at college, pass a written exam or two and be interrogated by an experienced surveyor who should know what he is talking about. Even this might not be the last step to increased authority; the company primarily must approve the promotion subject to availability, suitability and requirement. It is only recently that officers are able to sail in a higher position upon receipt of their new qualification due to the shortage of seafarers worldwide. Ten, even twenty years ago, many officers of junior rank would hold the highest available ticket yet be unable to sail in that position. They might hold that ticket for five or more years before a position came available and they were promoted.