Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter S

Sep 12, 2023 · 20 mins read ·

Life at Sea, Fun Stuff
A sailor on a sailing ship holding a signal lamp

If you’ve been looking for a maritime term or nautical word that begins with the letter S, this blog post has the answers you’ve been looking for! 

As a part of our series covering nautical terms and phrases and shipping industry acronyms, we’re following on from other posts such as Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter A and, of course, Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter B. (You’ll find more links to our other shipping glossary posts through this article too.)

But for now, if you’ve ever wondered what seaspeak is or what a ship’s plumber does, keep reading and all will become clear!

Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter S

Salvage
Salvage is used to describe a vessel that has been recovered after being shipwrecked or the contents of the vessel herself.

Sea Mark
Also known as a seamark, beacon and navigation mark, a sea mark is an aid that is fixed to the shore (i.e. a lighthouse) or to the seabed to help navigators and pilots identify the approximate position of a maritime channel or hazard to allow them safe passage of their vessel.

Sea Trials
Sea trials are a series of tests carried out by shipbuilders on a new vessel whilst the shipowner's representatives are on board to check that the ship has met the owners specifications.

Seafarer
A seafarer is anyone who is employed to work on a seagoing boat or vessel. This includes everyone from the Master (Captain) of the ship through to Officers, crew, Deck Cadets and also people employed as entertainers, carpenters, stewards and retail staff on cruise or passenger ships.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter C

Seafarer App
A seafarer app is a mobile application that lets seafarers find and apply for jobs at sea online, and follow up applications and communicate with employers and manning agents, all through their mobile device no matter where in the world they are.

Seafarer Job
A seafarer job is any kind of role performed working on a seagoing boat or vessel. This includes everything from Master (Captain) jobs through to Officer jobs, crew jobs, Deck Cadet jobs and also positions such as entertainment, carpentry, steward and retail jobs on cruise or passenger ships.

Seafarer Resume
A seafarer resume or seafarer CV is a document given to prospective employers and manning agents that lists a seafarer's certifications and documentation, as well as their skills and proficiency in the English language. 

Seamark
Also known as a sea mark, beacon and navigation mark, a seamark is an aid that is fixed to the shore (i.e. a lighthouse) or to the seabed to help navigators and pilots identify the approximate position of a maritime channel or hazard to allow them safe passage of their vessel.

Seaspeak
Seaspeak is the name given to the language seafarers use at sea. It combines English language with specific maritime terms and commands (for example, starboard instead of right or aft, meaning towards the rear of the vessel). It is used so that seafarers of different native languages can communicate with one another safely and efficiently.

A certain level of proficiency in the English language is required by most reputable shipping companies. Seaspeak is also known as Maritime English and Standard Marine Communication Phrases or SMCP.

Seaworthiness
Seaworthiness is the ship’s condition in respect of its construction, condition, equipment and even crew with regards to the manner in which it is to be used.

If any aspect of a vessel is in disrepair, damaged or ill maintained, or if the crew is deemed to be insufficient to handle the ship and her cargo, the vessel may be considered unseaworthy and unable to sail.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter D

Seaworthiness Certificate
A Seaworthiness Certificate is a document issued by a surveyor that allows a ship to sail after an incident or situation has occurred where seaworthiness was affected.

Often a certificate is issued once temporary repairs have been carried out so that the ship may sail to another port or to a dry dock where permanent repairs can be made.

Second Dog Watch
The Second Dog Watch is the period of being on duty (AKA watch) that takes place onboard a vessel between 1800hrs and 2000hrs. It is 2 hours shorter than the usual four hour watches as it is split into First Dog Watch and Second Dog Watch so that those on duty may eat their evening meal.

Second Engineer
The Second Engineer is next in line of command to the Chief Engineer. It's a maritime job with a lot of responsibility and the 2E will spend their days assisting the CE in managing the engine room with a sharp eye on efficiency and safety. 

They supervise the daily maintenance and operation of the engine department and should the Chief Engineer be unable to perform their duties, the Second Engineer will step into their place.

Self-Geared Vessel
Also known as a self-unloading vessel or a geared vessel, a self-geared vessel is a ship that has its own onboard gear - i.e. cranes. This means that the vessel can load and unload cargo, including containers, without portside assistance thus making the vessel more versatile as it can dock in more ports.

Self-Trimming Ship
A self-trimming ship is a vessel with a hold that is designed in such a way that the cargo levels itself when in transit.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letters E and F

Self-Unloading Vessel
Also known as a geared vessel or a self-geared ship, a self-unloading vessel is a ship that has its own onboard gear - i.e. cranes. This means that the vessel can load and unload cargo, including containers, without portside assistance thus making the vessel more versatile as it can dock in more ports.

Semi Submersible Rig
A semi-submersible rig is a floating offshore drilling platform that has submerged pontoons to give it stability.

Semi Submersible Vessel
A semi submersible vessel is a ship that is able to submerge part of itself to load or discharge cargo (i.e. another vessel) that can be floated on or off. The majority of semi submersible vessels are heavy lift ships or heavy load vessels.

Sheddage
Sheddage is the fee a vessel is charged for using shed space at a terminal. The charge is based upon the length of the vessel regardless of the time they spend there.

Shifting
When cargo in the hold, or loaded onto a ship, moves, shifts or changes position it is known as shifting. This is a dangerous situation as the vessel can become unbalanced and containers could potentially end up falling into the sea.

Ship's Articles
The Ship’s Articles or, to give it its full title, Ship’s Articles of Agreement, is the employment contract between the Master of a ship and the crew member. The document includes the date the voyage will commence, the contract’s duration, the salary, and the rank of the seafarer.

Ship's Carpenter
A Ship's Carpenter may be involved in actually building vessels or they could work in repair and maintenance. There are both shore-based maritime jobs available for carpenters, as well as offshore jobs on cargo ships and cruise ships.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letters G, H and I

Ship's Cook
The Ship’s Cook is responsible for keeping the crew well fed and fueled with enough energy to carry out their strenuous and often physically demanding jobs.

On a merchant vessel they will normally be the only member of the Steward Department, however on a passenger ship the galley (kitchen) will be fully staffed with a Chief Cook and their assistant Cooks as well as Pastry Chefs and Sous Chefs, if the vessel is a cruise ship.

Ship's Electrician
A Ship’s Electrician is specially trained to work with all three aspects of their job: electricity, water, and of course vessels. The Electrician will need to read, and understand, various technical diagrams, manuals and documentation.

They will be installing, inspecting, repairing and replacing electrical components and wiring. They will also be responsible for the repair and maintenance of electrical systems and equipment on board the vessel.

A Marine Electrician may also be responsible for upgrading components, systems or equipment, and they will regularly use testing and measuring tools such as ohmmeters, oscilloscopes and voltmeters to run diagnostics and check everything is in good working order. If not, repair, or perhaps replacement of parts or systems will be necessary.

Ship's Plumber
A Ship's Plumber job consists of maintenance and repair to make sure that plumbing throughout the ship is in good working order. This includes the toilet, sewer and drainage systems. They will handle the hoses when potable water is being loaded onto the vessel and maintain potable water systems. 

The ship’s blackwater and greywater plant systems must be looked after too. On a cruise ship the Ship's Plumber will also maintain and repair swimming pool and environmental systems where needed and respond to passenger complaints regarding the water supply / plumbing.

Shipfitter
A Shipfitter or Ship Fitter is a maritime job. Shipfitter jobs are exactly what they sound like: the job entails fitting the parts of a ship together. A Shipfitter’s duties include following blueprints to accurately cut and attach the enormous sheets of structural metal that are fitted together to create a vessel’s hull. 

The bulk of a Shipfitter job entails the fabrication, assembly and erection of a ship’s main structure and parts, but it also includes the maintenance, repair and restoration of the same.

Shipping Agent
A shipping agent is a person or company who conducts a ship's business in a port on behalf of the shipowners or charterers.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letters J, K and L

Signal Lamp
The signal lamp (also called an Aldis lamp or Morse lamp) is a hand-held electric lamp which is normally found on the bridge wing of a vessel. It is used to signal Morse code messages via flashing light between ships of all types, including naval and commercial.

Sister Ship
A sister ship is a vessel that has been built to the same design as another.

SMCP
SMCP stands for Standard Marine Communication Phrases and is the name given to the language seafarers use at sea. It combines the English language with specific maritime terms and commands (for example, starboard instead of right or aft, meaning towards the rear of the vessel). It is used so that seafarers of different native languages can communicate with one another safely and efficiently. 

A certain level of proficiency in the English language is required by most reputable shipping companies. SMCP is also known as Maritime English and Seaspeak.

SOLAS
SOLAS stands for Safety of Life at Sea Convention. An international treaty that specifies minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, compatible with their safety. The first version of the convention was adopted by the IMO in 1914 as a response to the sinking of the Titanic. 

Spreader
A spreader is a piece of equipment that lifts shipping containers by their corner posts. The spreader bar on a container crane is telescopic and enables the crane to lift containers of different lengths.

Standard Marine Communication Phrases
Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP) is the name given to the language seafarers use at sea. It combines English language with specific maritime terms and commands (for example, starboard instead of right or aft, meaning towards the rear of the vessel). It is used so that seafarers of different native languages can communicate with one another safely and efficiently. 

A certain level of proficiency in the English language is required by most reputable shipping companies. Standard Marine Communication Phrases is also known as Maritime English and Seaspeak.

Starboard
This refers to the right hand side of a vessel facing forwards. At night the starboard side of a ship is identified by a green light.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter M

Steamship
A steamship, also referred to as a steamer, is a type of steam-powered vessel. Steamship is usually abbreviated to SS and used in front of a vessel’s name. For example, the SS Great Eastern.

Stern
The stern is the bow or rear of a ship.

Sternway
Sternway is the word used to describe the action of a vessel moving backwards.

Stevedore
Also called a dock worker or Longshoreman, a Stevedore is a land-based maritime job which involves loading and unloading cargo from vessels in ports. They also undertake administrative tasks relevant to this work.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letters X, Y and Z

Steward
A ship’s Steward will most often be found working on a cruise ship, a mega yacht or a superyacht. Their main tasks are to help prepare and serve meals to guests and take care of housekeeping. 

However they may find themselves doing anything from creating flower arrangements to acting as a personal assistant to an important passenger. They report directly to the Chief Steward or Chief Stewardess.

Stewardess
A ship’s Stewardess will most often be found working on a cruise ship, a mega yacht or a superyacht. Their main tasks are to help prepare and serve meals to guests and take care of housekeeping. 

However they may find themselves doing anything from creating flower arrangements to acting as a personal assistant to an important passenger. They report directly to the Chief Steward or Chief Stewardess.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letters N and O

Stowage
Stowage has a few different meanings, all related to the act of storing an item on a ship - i.e. stowing it. It can refer to the act of putting goods out of harm’s way to ensure the stability and safety of the vessel. 

It is also the space for stowing something in, and the amount of room available for stowing items. On a container ship, stowage refers to the arrangement of the containers on board.

Straddle Carrier
A straddle carrier is a piece of motorized equipment located at a container terminal. The straddle carrier runs on rubber tires and can straddle a single row of containers.

It’s mostly used to move shipping containers around the terminal, but may also be used to transport containers to and from the transtainer and load and unload containers from a truck chassis.

Read more: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter P

Stranding
Also commonly referred to a grounding or running aground, as in when a ship hits the bottom, the main difference between a grounding and a stranding is that stranding refers to when the vessel then remains stuck in position for a length of time.

Stripping
Stripping is the act of removing cargo from a shipping container.

Stuffing
Stuffing is the act of packing a shipping container with loose cargo.

Suezmax
Suezmax is a measurement term that refers to the maximum vessel size that is able to transit the Suez Canal. The term is used almost exclusively in reference to tankers.

Read more: Nautical Terms that Begin with the Letters U, V and W

Suezmax Tanker
A Suezmax tanker can typically carry 125,000 to 199,999 DWT. It is the maximum tanker size that is able to transit the Suez Canal.

Superyacht
A Superyacht is an, often very luxurious, vessel which is used for pleasure. There is no real standard definitive length but generally, to be considered ‘super’ a yacht will measure a minimum of 24 meters (78 feet).

Supramax Bulk Carrier
A Supramax bulk carrier is a class of vessels that are used for the transport of unpacked and loose goods. They have a cargo capacity of 50,000 to 60,999 DWT and are often also referred to as a Supramax vessel or Supramax bulker.

Supramax Vessel
A Supramax vessel is a class of bulk cargo carriers that are used for the transport of unpacked and loose goods. They have a cargo capacity of 50,000 to 60,999 DWT and are often also referred to as a Supramax bulk carrier or Supramax bulker.

And there you have it - our shipping dictionary of nautical terms and meanings starting with the letter S. 

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read everything from A to Z all in one place, check out our full shipping glossary here.

Read the previous article in this series: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letters Q and R

Read the next article in this series: Nautical Terms That Begin with the Letter T

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.

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