Crew Positions



The Master of any vessel is required, first, to exercise all efforts to protect the lives and safety of the crew and all other persons on board; Second, to maintain the seaworthiness of the vessel; and third, to protect the interests of the Institution.

In fulfilling these duties, the Master is responsible for complying with the laws of navigation and a whole body of statutes which regulate ships and seagoing matters. A failure to do so can make the Master subject to a suspension of license and personally to fines and penalties.

Each crew consists of three departments: " Deck Department: Those crew members who report to the Chief Mate. " Steward's Department: Those crew members who report to the Steward. " Engine Department: Those crew members who report to the Chief Engineer. 

The officers and most of the crew are divided into three four-hour watches or work periods. Each watch party works two four-hour periods a day and is off duty during the remaining sixteen hours. Each watch stander works overtime as needed in addition to two four-hour watches assigned to him/her every day at sea. Watches are as follows:

0800 to 1200 and 2000 to 2400 1200 to 1600 and 2400 to 0400 1600 to 2000 and 0400 to 0800

In Addition to the Master, the Ship's Personnel are:

Deck Watch Officer (Chief, Second, or Third Mate)

The Deck Watch Officer is in operational control of the ship and is stationed on the bridge and must be informed in advance of all science activities involving over-the-side work and/or maneuvering of the ship. He/she may summon the Master to the bridge any time the situation warrants.

Boatswain (Bos'n)

The Bos'n is the immediate supervisor of the deck crew under the Chief Mate and/or Deck Watch Officer. He/she is the key figure in the execution of deck and over-the-side work. The Boatswain oversees the operation of the ship's deck equipment including winches and cranes and the maintenance of the ship's structure.

Chief Engineer

The Chief Engineer is responsible for the operation and maintenance of ship's machinery and the work of all members of the Engine Department.

Engineering Watch Officer

(First, Second, Third Assistant Engineer, or Junior Engineer) S/He is stationed in the engine room and is responsible for the operation of the ship's propulsion, auxiliary machinery and other systems.


Oilers are responsible to the Engineer on watch and their duties involve maintenance and operation of ship's machinery.

Steward's Department

This department usually consists of a Steward, one Cook, and one Mess Attendant. The Cook prepares three meals a day and provides food for night lunches. Attendants assist the Cook, serve meals, clean the galley and mess deck.


The electrician is responsible for the maintenance of the ship's electrical systems.

Communications Electronics Officer

A ship may have a communications officer who is responsible for the operation and maintenance of ship's communications equipment including medium, high and very high frequency voice and teletype radios, cellular telephones, satellite voice and data systems and associated computers.  All radio traffic is subject to the approval of the Master.

Medical Officer or Corpsman

A medic may be carried when the vessel operates in remote areas; s/he is responsible for ship's medical supplies. Otherwise these duties revert to the Master who may delegate them to the Chief Mate. WHOI ships subscribe to a medical advisory service through which medical doctors are on call 24 hours per day via ship-to-shore communications.

Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) Technician/Marine Technician

Technically not a member of the crew but a member of the Shipboard Scientific Services Group. The chief function of this person is to work with the science party integrating science provided equipment to ship systems and instructing members of the science party in the use of shipboard data acquisition systems and equipment.