What qualities and skills do I need?

After spending time at sea in a ratings role, there are opportunities to undertake rating to officer training. This may be provided by the employing shipping company as part of its workforce development and your own career development aspirations and ambitions, or you may choose to develop your career in this way through your own auspices. This will include attendance at a nautical college for a rating to officer conversion course, accruing sea-time and completing the related industry training record book and passing the Officer of the Watch formal written and oral examinations.

Role of Ratings

‘Ratings’ is a general term for a wide variety of skilled support roles on ships and are broken up into the following job roles:

Deck Ratings

Steer the ship, keep watch and assist the Navigation (Deck) Officer in a range of navigational, operational and cargo duties. In port, you would secure the ship to the dock, carry out maintenance and contribute to the security of the vessel.

Engine Room Rating

Spending the required time working at sea and completing professional and safety training leads to the Engine Room Watch Rating Certificate. To get the Able Seafarer (Engine Room) Certificate, Engine Room Ratings will have performed various job roles in the Engine Room department.


Works on tankers carrying liquid, gas or chemical cargo, this role requires safe operation of pumps and discharge of liquid cargo – mostly petroleum products. The Pumpman is also responsible for maintaining and repairing all cargo handling equipment on the vessel.


Semi-skilled and mechanically trained – Fitters are normally the most senior support worker on the engineering side. Responsibilities include ensuring the continuous running of machinery and equipment, organising routine maintenance procedures and any necessary repairs.

Motorman (Mechanic)

Maintains the engine room machinery plant, a vital skilled support role that facilitates the Fitters job.

General Hand (Oiler, Wiper)

Cleans the machinery plant, checks systems and assists with engineering tasks on the ship.

Cook (Ship’s Cook, Chief Cook)

These catering Ratings do the food planning, preparation and stock taking/provisions ordering. Catering Rating qualifications are based on: food preparation, cooking and serving.

Catering Rating

Catering Ratings can gain qualifications issued by the catering industry. They work as part of the hospitality/hotel services department on-board ships and vessels of all types and sizes. The main jobs are to prepare and cook various dishes, including: fish, poultry, meat, dough products, desserts and buffets – for the passengers and/or crew. The work is on a shift rota, often with fellow seafarers of different nationalities. Customer service plays an important part, along with safety duties and responsibilities.


Cleans and maintains crew and passenger accommodation areas, on passenger and non-passenger vessels.