Second Mate

Help navigate ships to their final destination.

What does a Second Mate do?

A Second Mate is a member of the leadership team on a cargo or passenger ship. As third (or sometimes fourth) in command of the vessel, the Second Mate customarily serves as the navigator. This position involves creating and monitoring passage plans that outline each part of the voyage, from undocking at the start to mooring at the destination.

As the Second Mate, you have round-the-clock duties for as long as the ship is at sea. But there is some structure to your day, and you needn’t be at attention all day and night. Like your colleagues, you have a shift of seawatching, which involves standing at the helm to actively navigate the ship, scan for obstacles and bad weather, and alert the rest of the crew in cases of emergency. When the ship is docked, this watch focuses on guarding the ship from intrusion, monitoring for fire or other emergencies, and ensuring the integrity of anchor and mooring lines.

Because a safe and efficient journey depends so much on winds and tides, you have to be an expert on weather systems and adjusting passage plans accordingly. You must also be well versed in celestial, electronic, terrestrial, and coastal navigation techniques, and in traffic management systems that prevent collision with boats, bridges, and other potential obstacles. You must be clearheaded in an emergency, and able to confidently delegate duties under pressure.

An interesting side note: No matter what the ship’s origin or destination, the International Maritime Organization requires that you be fluent in English.