What Are Ratings Jobs on a Ship?

Mar 07, 2024 · 8 mins read ·

Jobs at Sea
AI generated image of Ratings seafarer jobs on a container ship

Maritime jobs on ships are ordered in a strict hierarchical fashion with a chain of command that must be followed at all times. At the very top is the ship’s Captain - most commonly referred to as the Master on commercial ships, and below him or her are different seafarer ranks which fall into two broad categories: Officers and Ratings.

But what is a Rating? And what is a Rating seafarer job? In this blog post we’re going to tell all.

What are Ratings jobs on ships?

In the maritime industry, a Rating is a crew member who is NOT an officer and who assists in various tasks onboard a ship. 

Ratings play a vital role in supporting the operation and maintenance of the vessel, and they work under the supervision of licensed Officers, such as the Chief Officer, Second Officer, Third Officer and so on (the Deck Officers) and the Engineering Officers, such as the Chief Engineer and the Second and Third Engineers.

There are a few key elements to know about Ratings jobs on ships.

Ratings’ duties and responsibilities

Ratings perform a wide range of duties depending on their specific seafarer rank and role and their department. Departments on commercial vessels are broken down into the Deck Department, Engine Department and Stewards Department. The Stewards Department on a typical cargo or container ship being staffed by the ship’s Cook and the Messman

A Rating’s duties and responsibilities may include tasks such as deck maintenance, cargo handling, steering the vessel, engine room maintenance, and assisting with navigational and engineering operations.

Types of Ratings

There are different types of Ratings onboard a ship, each specializing in specific tasks and responsibilities. Ratings commonly found working on ships include Able Bodied Seaman (AB), Ordinary Seaman (OS), Bosun, Deckhand, Oiler, Wiper, Cook, and Steward. Each seafarer rank or Rating comes with its own set of duties.

Qualifications and training

While Ratings don’t hold officer-level positions, they are still required to undergo training and obtain certifications to perform the duties that their seafarer job requires safely and effectively. Training programs for Ratings typically cover topics such as basic seamanship, safety procedures, firefighting, first aid, and personal survival techniques.

Career progression

For many of those working in jobs on ships, working as a Rating is an entry level seafarer job and a starting point at the beginning of their maritime career. With experience and additional training, lower-ranking Ratings such as Wipers and Deckhands can have great opportunities for career advancement and promotion to higher-ranking positions, such as that of an Able Seaman or Bosun.

Importance to ship operations

Ratings play a crucial role in supporting the overall operation and safety of the vessel. They work alongside the Officers and other crew members to ensure that the ship operates smoothly, efficiently, and in compliance with regulatory requirements. Their contributions are essential to maintaining the vessel's seaworthiness and facilitating the successful completion of voyages.

Duties and responsibilities of specific Ratings jobs

Jobs on ships vary widely depending on the seafarer rank, and Ratings seafarer jobs are no different, with a Steward performing very different tasks to that of an Oiler. Here’s a brief breakdown of what some of the most common Ratings do.

What does a Bosun do on a ship?

 As the highest rated deck rating, the Bosun oversees and manages his or her deck crew. Their job involves responsibility for looking after the hull and deck of the vessel by making sure these parts of the ship, as well as her anchors, windlasses and other such equipment are well maintained and in good working order.

What are Able Seaman jobs on ships?

The Able Bodied Seaman comes under the Bosun in terms of rank and as well as maintenance, they will also act as lookout / stand watch and conduct security rounds while the ship is underway. An AB will also be expected to play an active role in deck operations such as docking, undocking, and line handling and to help with the unloading and loading of cargo when the vessel docks in port

What are an Ordinary Seaman’s duties and responsibilities?

Ordinary Seamen are at the start of their maritime career and as such the OS is an entry level seafarer job. They will help to clean and maintain the ship’s deck and certain items of equipment, and assist with operations. Duties can include sweeping, washing, buffing and painting the deck, performing maintenance on the gear that handles cargo, as well as running and rigging gear, and launching and recovering the lifeboats and life rafts.

What do Deckhand seafarer jobs involve?

Below the Ordinary Seaman comes the Deckhand. This job at sea involves general cleaning and maintenance both to the vessel’s interior and exterior. They also assist with loading and unloading supplies and equipment and will be required to perform any other duties on deck that their superiors ask of them, such as washing the deck, lubricating machinery and equipment and repairing ropes and cables.

What does a Wiper do on a ship?

A junior seafarer job, as the name suggests, a Wiper's duties include wiping down the vessel’s engine spaces, equipment and machinery and making sure they are kept clean so that they can operate correctly and efficiently. This also involves greasing and degreasing and generally making sure that the engine room and work spaces are kept clean and tidy.

What are Oiler jobs on ships?

Oilers primarily help the Engineers maintain the correct lubrication for the propulsion engine system and will spend much of their time in the engine room. Having said that, an Oiler will also be tasked to work on heavy machinery onboard in other parts of the ship. This could include checking the lubrication of sewage and air conditioning systems and water pumps.

Ratings jobs on ships shouldn’t be underrated! 

Some Ratings seafarer jobs are undeniably entry level ship jobs however, just because Ratings are most often found wearing boiler suits and hard hats rather than an Officer’s uniform with epaulets, they shouldn’t be underestimated.

Ratings are integral members of a ship's crew, contributing their skills, expertise, and hard work to the smooth operation and safety of the vessel and her crew, cargo and passengers, if there are any.

Plus, like any career which is based on a strict hierarchy, Ratings have ample opportunity to gain valuable experience and qualifications and rise through the seafarer ranks to build a successful maritime career. 

Are YOU looking for your next job at sea? We have maritime job vacancies for both Officers and Ratings, including Chief Officer jobs, Second Engineer jobs, marine Electrician jobs, Engine Cadet jobs, Bosun jobs and more. Take a look at our seafarer jobs board then create your free Martide account and apply today.

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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