Deck Cadet: Responsibilities, Career Path & Salary

23 November 2023

Deck Cadet: Role & Responsibilities

The world of maritime professions is vast and varied, with countless opportunities for those willing to venture into the open seas. One such opportunity is the position of a Deck Cadet, which is essentially an apprentice who assists deck officers and learns ship operations while transitioning from the classroom to the open sea. The initial journey for a Deck Cadet is filled with an array of tasks ranging from deck work and paperwork, to shadowing officers.

While they start with relatively fewer responsibilities, Deck Cadets progressively gain more duties as they acquire hands-on experience. The ultimate goal of their training is to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to become competent seafaring officers. So, what exactly does a Deck Cadet do? Here's a closer look at the main responsibilities of a Deck Cadet:

  • Deck operations: Deck Cadets are heavily involved in the day-to-day workings of the ship's deck. They assist the ship's bosun with general deck work, which can encompass a variety of tasks like painting, rope work, handling ropes during mooring operations, and maintaining the cleanliness of assigned areas on the ship. By participating in these tasks, Deck Cadets gain practical skills essential for their future roles. This hands-on experience is invaluable and allows them to develop a comprehensive understanding of ship operations.
  • Navigation: Navigation is a critical aspect of any maritime career, and for a Deck Cadet, learning this is essential. They shadow certified officers to learn safe navigation, often being on lookout duty and participating in the planning of voyages. This practical training is indispensable in cultivating their understanding and capabilities in navigation.
  • Cargo operations: Another aspect of a Deck Cadet's role is involvement in port work and cargo operations. They monitor the loading and unloading of cargo, check tank soundings to ensure vessel stability, and maintain detailed records of these operations. This hands-on experience prepares them for larger roles in the future and provides them with a clear understanding of the workflow during port stays.
  • Ship security: Ensuring the safety and security of the ship is another key responsibility. Deck Cadets are often assigned ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) watch duties, where they monitor entry and exit points, maintain awareness of potential security threats, and ensure compliance with security protocols. The importance of this role cannot be understated, as maintaining ship security is paramount in maritime operations.
  • Paperwork: No role is complete without paperwork, and a Deck Cadet's role is no exception. They assist the Chief Officer with paperwork, helping them understand maritime regulations and the administrative requirements expected of them as they progress through the ranks. This can include tasks like updating muster lists, maintaining key logs, and distributing watch and rest hour schedules. In essence, paperwork forms an essential part of their on-job learning.
  • Emergency preparedness: Lastly, emergency preparedness forms an integral part of a Deck Cadet's role. While their function during emergencies is generally simple, they are expected to learn and understand critical emergency response protocols. They need to know their duties during emergencies, as they will be required to perform critical roles in such situations in their future positions.

Required Certifications, Training & Sea Time for Promotion

A career at sea is not embarked upon lightly. It requires dedication, physical fitness, a certain level of education, and specialised training. For a Deck Cadet, this journey begins with the completion of a maritime academy deck program. High school diploma or its equivalent, appropriate age, and physical fitness are often the prerequisites.

To qualify for promotion, Cadets need to accumulate a certain amount of sea time. Generally, it is common for Cadets to undertake two 6-month voyages (+ a week or two) during their course. However, there's no strict regulation about this, and Cadets often opt to complete their sea time in smaller chunks if permitted by their shipping company. This sea time, coupled with the skills and knowledge they acquire, paves the way for their professional advancement.

Career Path & Professional Development Opportunities

The seafaring profession is a ladder, one that offers opportunities for growth and development at every step. For a Deck Cadet, this ladder begins with gaining practical experience onboard a ship. This is a crucial stage, as they learn the ropes literally and figuratively, working under experienced officers and understanding the ins and outs of a working vessel.

As a Deck Cadet gains more responsibilities, especially in navigation and ship operations, they can then progress to the rank of Third Officer. This new position involves greater duties including chart corrections, maintaining safety equipment, and managing the ship's medical supplies.

With more experience and dedication, the Third Officer can advance to the position of Second Officer. This position carries additional responsibilities, particularly in voyage planning, crew management, and navigational watch. It's an important step in their career as they gain valuable leadership experience and prepare for higher ranks.

Subsequent to the Second Officer is the position of Chief Officer. At this level, the officer is responsible for the overall management of the deck department, overseeing cargo operations, maintaining the ship's stability, and ensuring the safety of the crew and the vessel. It's a demanding role that requires extensive knowledge, experience, and commitment.

Ultimately, the highest position a seafaring officer can reach is that of the Captain or Master. This position holds complete authority and responsibility for the safe navigation and operations of the ship. The Master is also accountable for the safety and well-being of the crew and cargo.

Daily Physical & Mental Challenges

The life of a Deck Cadet is filled with challenges, both physical and mental. It's not an easy job, but one that can be highly rewarding for those with a passion for the sea and a commitment to the profession.

Physically, Deck Cadets undertake a variety of tasks including handling heavy ropes, engaging in mooring operations, and performing general maintenance tasks like painting and cleaning. Additionally, they need to adapt to various weather conditions, from the scorching heat of the equator to the freezing temperatures of the poles.

Mentally, a Deck Cadet's job can be equally challenging. They need to maintain high situational awareness, especially when on lookout duty. Quick decision-making skills are essential, especially during emergencies. At all times, they need to be aware of their surroundings, be prepared for sudden changes, and be able to make swift decisions when needed. This constant state of alertness can be taxing, but it's a crucial aspect of their role.

Despite these challenges, Deck Cadets can find the job rewarding. The opportunity to travel the world, experience new cultures, and the sheer adventure of life at sea can outweigh the challenges. It's about passion, dedication, and a love for the open sea. Emergency Preparedness is a critical part of this job, requiring both mental and physical readiness.

Leadership & Team Management

Even though Deck Cadets work under the supervision of senior deck officers, they need to start developing their leadership skills from the get-go. This is essential for their future roles as officers where they'll need to lead and manage teams.

A detailed training record book is updated with each task they complete, first as an assistant, then under supervision. Each entry is a testament to their learning, experience, and growth. This book serves as an assessment tool for the maritime authority issuing the Certificate of Competency (CoC). The CoC is a critical milestone in their career, indicating their readiness to take on higher responsibilities.

Impact of Technology & Advancements on the Role

Just like any other industry, the maritime sector is not immune to the rapid advancements in technology. The modern seafarer, including the Deck Cadet, must stay adaptable to changes in ship operations and regulations due to these advancements. This demands continuous learning, as the challenges differ significantly from voyage to voyage.

From automated systems for navigation to digital tools for communication and documentation, technology plays a key role in current ship operations. Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) are just a couple of examples of tech tools that are integral to modern ship navigation. As a result, proficiency in using these tools is a must for Deck Cadets. They need to be tech-savvy, quick learners, and comfortable with adapting to new technologies.

These technological advancements, however, do not negate the importance of traditional seafaring skills. Navigating with a paper chart, for instance, is a crucial skill that could be lifesaving in the event of a technology failure. The role of a Deck Cadet, therefore, combines the old and the new - a blend of tradition and innovation. For more insight into the impact of technology on the maritime industry, check out this article on Digitalised Maritime Industry.

Role-Specific Risks, Liabilities & Emergency Responsibilities

While a Deck Cadet's role is generally considered low risk compared to other positions onboard, certain tasks such as working aloft or in enclosed spaces can be dangerous. Safety is a major concern in all operations and there are stringent regulations in place to ensure the wellbeing of all crew members.

In the event of emergencies, a Deck Cadet's role often includes serving as the messenger of the Captain or Chief Officer. They need to be fully aware of all emergency procedures and may be required to assist in the management of emergency situations. This could include anything from handling firefighting equipment to launching lifeboats.

The seafaring profession demands a high level of commitment to safety. Deck Cadets need to be vigilant, responsive, and responsible, as their actions could significantly impact the safety of the vessel and its crew.

Compliance with Regulations & International Maritime Laws

Compliance with maritime regulations and international laws is non-negotiable in the maritime industry. Deck Cadets, along with all crew members, are required to have a thorough understanding of all relevant regulations. This includes key conventions and codes such as the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

A specific component of the ISM code is the Ship Management System (SMS), which sets the standard operating procedures for all ship operations. Deck Cadets must adhere to the SMS guidelines, ensuring all tasks are performed safely and correctly. A significant part of their training is learning these regulations meticulously and understanding the implications of non-compliance.

Among these regulations, Collision Regulations, also known as "COLREGs", are of particular importance to Deck Cadets. They are rules that define the conduct of vessels to prevent collisions at sea. Understanding and complying with these regulations is critical for safe navigation.

Demand & Supply Trend in the Job Market

The job market for Deck Cadets is largely influenced by maritime academy enrollments, the number of active ships, and the retirement or promotion of existing crew members. Currently, there's a noted shortage of officers for both deck and engine, with the shortage for engine officers being more severe. This implies an increased demand for Deck Cadets, presenting an opportunity for aspiring seafarers.

However, it's important to understand that maritime careers are tied to global trade and economic trends. Factors such as changes in international trade agreements, fluctuations in oil prices, or economic downturns can impact the demand for maritime professionals. Therefore, it's crucial for aspiring Deck Cadets to keep an eye on these trends and be adaptable to the changing dynamics of the job market.

Average Salary, Frequency of Shore Leaves & Work-Life Balance

The salary for Deck Cadets can vary widely depending on factors like the ship type, shipping company, and even the individual's nationality. On average, salaries can range from 700 USD per month to over 3000 USD per month on large LNG carriers. It's important to note that these figures are estimates and actual earnings can differ.

The frequency of shore leaves, the time when seafarers can disembark and spend time ashore, varies based on the ship's schedule and the shipping company's policies. Some companies might offer regular shore leaves, while others may have more stringent policies.

The work-life balance for Deck Cadets and seafarers, in general, can be challenging. Spending extended periods at sea away from family and friends can be tough. However, with the right mindset and effective stress management strategies, many seafarers manage to build successful and satisfying careers. For more information on this aspect of seafaring life, you can read this article on Seafarer Salaries and Work-life Balance.

Differences per Ship Type/Industry

The role and responsibilities of a Deck Cadet can differ significantly across ship types and industries. For instance, on cargo vessels, deck operations can differ markedly from one ship type to another. On cruise ships, Cadets are placed into company-specific training programs. Yachts very rarely have Cadets unless it's a mega yacht run by a reputable company.

Therefore, when considering a career as a Deck Cadet, it's important to understand these differences. The choice of ship type or industry can impact the nature of the job, the skills required, and even the compensation.

Liveseas' Role

Understanding the requirements and expectations of maritime roles can be overwhelming, especially for those just starting their maritime journey. This is where Liveseas comes in. Liveseas is a platform that helps Deck Cadets, and other maritime professionals, connect with shipping companies and find opportunities for career development.

The platform offers valuable resources to understand various maritime roles, as well as guidance on navigating your maritime career. Liveseas provides detailed information about the day-to-day responsibilities of a Deck Cadet, the qualifications needed, and the career progression options, helping aspirants make informed decisions about their maritime careers.

With Liveseas, a career at sea is no longer uncharted territory. So, if you're an aspiring Deck Cadet, or a seafarer looking to further your career, Liveseas is your compass to navigate the vast ocean of maritime opportunities. For more about Liveseas and to join our network, check out our main page at