Ship's officers' duties

Hi, I'm still relatively new to this, so I hope I'm following the rules. I put this together just out of interest, and if there is something I'm missing, please somebody let me know. Anyway, I'll start with the bridge crew. With the Titanic, you had the Captain, the Chief Engineer, the Purser, the Chief Officer, followed by First through Sixth in seniority. Normally the bridge had the helmsman, quartermaster, and two O.O.W., or Officer of the Watch. Now I probably won't have their duties in order, but I'll start with the officer reporting for duty on the bridge for his four hour watch. Before being relieved from duty, the previous O.O.W. reports to his relief what has occurred during his watch, the weather reports, and what to look for. The newly arrived officer will probably retire to the chartroom to check the ship's progress and tracking on the map. His job is to maintain heading and speed, or to make certain changes per the Captain or Chief Officers orders. He will then go back to the bridge and occasionally check the binnacle for a course reading. He'll occasionally check on the helmsman. Not a word is spoken. He'll take his binoculars and walk out on the bridge wing and scan the horizon for ships, the weather, or anything out of the ordinary. Sometime during the watch he will order a bucket to be lowered to the sea and brought back up to check the sea's temperature. He'll take the ship's sextant and take a position reading from the stars or the sun accordingly. When his shift is over, he gives his relief a report of his shift, then goes on assigned rounds to make certain security checks. He will dine in the officer's mess, then most likely report to his cabin and turn in for the night/day until it's time for his next shift. I think that's all in a nutshell. Again, if I'm missing anything, somebody please let me know.
As for the Captain, he reports to the ship on sailing day. The ship goes through an inspection process by the B.O.T. (Board of Trade) inspector. The inspector checks to see if the lifeboats are in working order, the proper safety equipment and fire fighting equipment are in proper condition. Upon completion of the inspection, the captain signs a document by the inspector ascertaining the ship is ready for sea and seaworthy. The B.O.T. inspector disembarks and the ship's officers are placed at various places on the ship. As the orders are passed between them, the lines holding the ship at the dock are cast off. A tugboat pulls alongside and the pilot boards. He is in command of the ship and gives orders to the tugs as they carefully steer the ship down the river towards the open sea. Upon arriving at the departure point, the pilot turns over command to the captain. He disembarks and the ship is now onto her next destination. The captain's duties involve course and speed, course and speed correction when necessary. He is required to have the personal skills necessary in dealing with passengers (Later, shipping lines would adapt a new office, the staff captain, to their ships to handle the social aspects of the passengers and free the ships captain to his navigational and other more official duties). Alot of times the captain will dine alone in either his cabin or the dining room. On certain occasions he will be joined by passengers especially selected by the purser. On Sunday morning there is a Sunday morning service where the captain officiates with a service provided him by the company handbook. Anyone from all class structures on the ship are invited to attend. After services, the captain conducts a thorough ships inspection, followed by senior ships officers. Day five of the voyage. As they near the Hudson River estuary, they meet the pilot near the Nantucket lightship. The pilot boards and takes over command and escorts the ship via the tugboats up the Hudson River (the Hudson River had to be dredged especially so that the Titanic and the Olympic would have enough draft to sail upriver)to her pier where the passengers embark. If anybody reads this, I would appreciate any corrections or anything else somebody would wish to add. Thanks, Carl Ireton
 
I have discovered an error in my description of bridge officer's duties. The helmsman would have been the quartermaster. So there would have been the two watch officers and the helmsman on the bridge. I am open to any criticism or corrections if one wishes to do so. Carl Ireton
 
Actually, at any time there were three officers on the bridge, plus two quartermasters. (I count the wheelhouse and chart room in this. There was only one person on the open bridge).

The senior officer kept watch on the open bridge and generally supervised. When celestial sights were taken, he wielded the sextant. The observations were timed and reduced by one of the two junior officers. This officer also did other navigational work, notably checking the compass by celestial observations. The other junior officer supervised the quartermaster at the wheel and generally assisted as needed.

Each quartermaster steered for two hours of his four hour watch. He spent the other two hours standing by to assist, perhaps by carrying messages about the ship.

An important point is that the junior officers worked the old-fashioned four hours on and four hours off, plus the dog watches. They were thus in a poor state in which to do complex navigational calculations. Most lines had abandoned this practice, but White Star was behind the times.

The senior officers nominally worked four hours on and eight off. Their watches were really a bit longer than four hours, because they ended each watch by making rounds of the ship to see all was well.
 
On the Titanic they had 3 QMs in each watch. As Dave said, one at the the helm and another as standby on the forebridge. They swapped jobs after 2 hours with one at the helm becoming the standby, and standby taking over the helm. The 3rd QM of the watch was stationed on the afterbridge for the full 4 hours. All QMs rotated these responsibilities. Just to clarify one other point, there is only 1 OOW in a watch and that is a senior officer. On the WSL ships, the C/O was OWW from 2-6, the 2/O was OOW from 6 to 10, and the 1/O was OOW from 10 to 2. Other lines like Cunard had the seniors in sync with the normal deck crew watches of 12 to 4, 4 to 8, and 8 to 12. The Titanic also carried 6 seamen who were assigned as lookouts. They worked in pairs up in the crow's nest for 2 hours, then off for 4 hours. Thus they were on duty four separate times in a complete day. And those days were a little longer going westward and little shorter going eastward by about 45 to 48 minutes for a ship like the Titanic. The Captain stood no watch.

Down below they had a Chief engineer who, like the Captain, stood no watch. They also had a senior 2nd engineer and a senior assistant 2nd engineer who stood a watch 4 hours on 8 off. The other two watches of 8 on and 4 off down below was headed by one of two junior 2nd engineer and one of two junior assistant 2nd engineers. The 2nd engineer normally had charge of the engine rooms while the 2nd assistance engineer had charge of the stokeholds. To assist all of them there were a number of 3rd and 4th engineers on board as well.
 
Hi, everyone, thanks for your added input. And thanks for your corrections. You see, no matter how many years I've spent studying the Titanic, I always learn new things, courtesy of knowledgeable people like yourselves. Thanks again. Carl Ireton
 
I seem not to be able to find satisfying information about the general duties of the officers. I've still got a very limited Titanic "library" (due to the fact that I'm unemployed and simply cannot spend as much money as I'd like) and therefore depend a lot on what I can track down on the net. Are there any websites describing the officers' duties except from when the ship is sinking? I've found several websites explaining that "except from the normal duties, this night was more demanding" etc. but never really found a thorough explanation of what those "normal duties" really was.

I have understood that the officers were responsible for the "wellbeing" of the ship, and of course the navigation. Had they anything to do with the loading of food supplies and/or cargo?

I recall someone (Lightoller?) in Cameron's movie saying he'll be off on his round, or something like that. Is this correct, and if so, what was that "round"? Taking a tour around deck checking if everything's ok?

Appreciate any help on this!
 
The information you want is in the International Mercantile Marine Company's publication "Ships' Rules and Uniform Regulations," issued July 1st 1907

Under SEA WATCHES it specifies that the Chief Officer stands the 2 to 6 watch; the Second Officer the 6 to 10 watch; and the First Officer the 10 to 2 watch both AM and PM. The First Officer relieves the Second for breakfast; the Second relieves the first for lunch. Contrary to Lightoller's testimony no dinner relief was needed under the company rules.

Junior officers stood watch-and-watch with the crew, rotating every four hours. The crew was divided into the "Port Watch" and "Starboard Watch" so that only half would be on deck at a time. The Third Officer had charge of the port watch, and the Fourth Officer the starboard. The Third and Fourth Officers were "go the rounds" every hour during watch on deck.

Chief Officer -- he was the "Executive Officer" of the ship responsible for cleanliness and discipline throughout. His duties included having the decks washed down and the brass polished by 8 a.m. Of course, he also stood a deck watch as noted above. In that respect the Chief Officer was jointly responsible with the Commander for the safe and proper navigation of the ship. It was the Chief Officer who was designated to make an inspection of the ship at 8 p.m. each evening.

In addition to standing his deck watch, the First Officer was given charge of the navigation instruments and winding the chronometers. He was specifically told to make sure that the clocks on the bridge and in the engine room agreed. When docking, he was designated as officer in charge of making sure nothing fouled the ship's propellers.

The Second Officer stood a deck watch and had certain port duties regarding cargo.

The junior officers were to "afford every assistance in the navigation of the ship" and to "attend strictly to the instructions of the Officer in Charge."

The three senior officers stood watch on the bridge, which they "must on no account leave, either night or day, without being relieved." The Officer of the Watch was given the primary duty of maintaining a good look-out. Not even fixing the ship's position for navigation was more important than look-out. Paragraph 252(e) stated, "He must call the Commander at once if it becomes foggy, hazy, if he does not think he can see a safe distance, of if in doubt about anything.

Every half hour the Officer of the Watch was to steady the ship on course by the standard compass and to compare the compasses every watch.


-- David G. Brown

[Moderator's Note: This message and the two immediately above it, originally posted as a separate thread, have been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
 
I heard and read that all the deck officers had time shifts. Does anyone know what time each of them were on the deck for watching? According to JC's film, it showed Murdoch on deck like at almost all the time and the other officers weren't on deck watching at all times. Could someone please help. I am kind of confused.
 
Hallo Andrew -

Yes, Murdoch does seem to be a bit ubiquitous in the movie!

There has been some discussion of the watches before on the board (as I learned many years ago from a friend in the merchant marine, never call them 'shifts'):

[Moderator's note: Edited post to remove link - the thread that Inger was referring to is the one you are reading now. JDT]

As First Officer, Murdoch stood the 10:00 - 2:00 watches, both AM and PM.
 
The traditional watches, kept by the junior officers, were--

Midnight to 4-00am. The middle watch.
4-00am to 8-00am. The morning watch.
8-00am to 12-00 noon. The forenoon watch.
Noon to 4-00pm. The afternoon watch.
4-00pm to 6-00pm. The first dog watch.
6-00pm to 8-00pm. The last dog watch.
8-00pm to Midnight. The first watch.

The pairings were Boxhall/Moody and Pitman/Lowe. On 14 April, Pitman/Lowe started the sequence.

The seniors kept----

Wilde 2-00pm - 6-00pm.
Lightoller 6-00pm - 10-00pm.
Murdoch 10-00pm - 2-00am.
Wilde 2-00am - 6-00am.
Lightoller 6-00am - 10-00am.
Murdoch 10-00am - 2-00pm.

The seniors had to make rounds of the ship after each watch. There was also a certain amount of relieving for meals, evidently by friendly arrangement.

[Moderator's note: This post and the two immediately above it, originally posted as a separate thread, have moved to the pre-existing one discussing the same subject. JDT]
 
On Sunday morning there is a Sunday morning service where the captain officiates with a service provided him by the company handbook. Anyone from all class structures on the ship are invited to attend.
Are you sure about this bit? I thought Third Class was kept "away" especially because of health inspections. I really think they weren't invited to the Divine service in the First Class Dining Saloon.
 
That's right, Ana. Segregation was the rule for all Classes, so the 2nd Class passengers would not have been welcome either. They had a separate service in their own dining room.
 
Back
Top