INTRODUCTIONThe Merchant Navy is a non-combatant commercial fleet, which deals with transporting cargo and occasionally, passengers, by sea. Merchant Navy offers commercial services unlike its military counterpart. It includes three types of fleets, namely cargo carriers, passenger liners and oil tankers as well as other special type of vehicles.
In Merchant Navy, major tasks performed are in three basic areas of a ship, the Deck, the Engine and the Service Department.
The captain, second officer, chief officer, third officer and several other officers constitute the deck officers. The engine room comprises engineers and the electrical officer while the service department focuses on the operations in the kitchen and other services. Women were not generally known to take up jobs in merchant navy but the past few years have seen a positive change with many women taking up jobs as ship doctors and radio officers.
Merchant Navy is the backbone of international trade, carrying cargo across the globe. Without the merchant navy, much of the import-export business would grind to a halt. Therefore trained personnel are required for various departments of the ship and this widens the scope for employment in this field.
The Deck Officers: Deck officer or navigation officer as the name suggests is in charge of the navigation of the ship. The captain of the ship is further assisted by first mate, second mate and third mates.
The First Mate / Chief officer is the right-hand man to the Captain; the second in-command. He overseers all the cargo planning, assists during navigation, allocates duties and works for the maintenance and upkeep of the ship to the Deck Cadets and deck crew, ensures that discipline and order are maintained.
The Second Mate /Second officer, assistant to the First Mate is in-charge of checking all mails and keeping the navigational equipment and charts in good condition and also assists in navigational watches at sea and cargo watches at port.
The Third Mate / Third officer is responsible for keeping safety equipments -the lifeboats, firefighting and signaling equipment in top condition; acts in the capacity of signal officer and assists with cargo work.
Marine Engineers: Marine Engineers have the complete responsibility of the ship's technical management. The main personnel in this department is the chief engineer who ensures safe and economic running of all engines, boilers, electrical, refrigerating and sanitary equipment, deck machinery and steam connections aboard the ship. He supervises the work of the engine-room crew and is assisted in his duties by the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Engineers and other junior personnel.
Besides the officers of the navigation and engineering teams most ships have a Radio Officer and an Electrical officer. The Radio Officer is in charge of the radio room and handles the operation of the wireless and transmitting of signals. Electrical Officer is responsible for the functioning and handling of all electrical equipment onboard the vessel. There is another one named seaconny, who ensures that the ship is on course and that the gangway at port is well-guarded.
The work undertaken here revolves around the living and catering services for all the crew on board. A chief steward heads a large team of stewards, bakers, messmen etc. Apart from this, the department also has other services such as the services of Divers for underwater examination of the heel of the ship, propellers, pipes etc. Light Keepers, who operate light house signaling equipment to guide incoming and passing ships, and Nautical surveyors, who prepare charts of particular regions of the seas, with regard to topography and conditions of the sea.
There are thus, many career options that are available for many youngsters who have dreams to join the merchant navy.
In June 1941 he joined the tanker LAURELWOOD: he was a seaman gunner. You may think it strange for a civilian to be classed as a seaman gunner but over 150,000 merchant seamen received gunnery training during WWII he was one of them. He joined the Ellerman Hall vessel CITY OF CAIRO in Glasgow on 28th May 1942. The ship usually operated between India, South Africa and the UK.On 1st October 1942 the CITY OF CAIRO departed Bombay on route to the UK via Durban and Cape Town, South Africa and Pernambuco, Brazil.It was on the Cape Town to Pernambuco leg of their voyage home when the ship was struck by a torpedo from U-68 commanded by Karl-Friedrich Merten. The order was given to abandon ship and everyone made for their boat stations. His station was with No.5 boat, which was also the station of the CITY OF Cairo's skipper Capt. W. A. Rogerson. After about twenty minutes had passed Merten delivered the coup de grace and released a second torpedo. The CITY OF CAIRO sank by the stern.
The U-68 surfaced and its Captain informed the survivors of their position: approximately 2000 miles from Brazil, 1000 miles from Africa and about 500 miles from the island of St Helena. He then uttered the now famous phrase:"Goodnight, sorry for sinking you" and the submarine then departed the scene. Merten admitted in a documentary made about the sinking in 1984, that he didn't think the survivors stood any chance of making it to safety. According to his official seaman's record it is recorded that Calum MacLean was repatriated to the UK on the Reardon Smith Line steamer QUEEN CITY. After years of research, this information has been proved to be incorrect. It clearly states on Calum MacLean record that he was repatriated 'per "QUEEN CITY" on conveyance orders'. QUEEN CITY was torpedoed on 21st December 1942 but the dates didn't tie in with his records.
Calum MacLean sailed on another seven ships before the end of the war. They were relatively dangerous voyages, but nothing like his experiences on CITY OF CAIRO. From joining the service in 1938 until 1945 he served on a total of nineteen ships - by the end of the war, eight of those ships were lost to enemy action.Calum MacLean stayed on in the Merchant Navy after the war, serving in another thirty-five ships, sailing mainly with the Ellerman Line but also with many other well-known shipping companies now, sadly, like our Merchant Navy, almost consigned to history. He worked, as a boatman, for the next seven years in the small Highland communities of Knoydart and Kingairloch before moving to Fort William, were he lived for the rest of his life. Malcolm (Calum) MacLean died on the 20th January 1996 aged 73.
Sheila Edmondson FIRST woman to get a foreign-going Master's Certificate in 1980. It meant that she could take command of any vessel including the QE2 or a super-tanker. She entered the Merchant Navy in 1969, studied at Plymouth technical College and had to apply to 17 companies before getting a job. After that she served in 17 ships from oil tankers and bulk carriers to general cargo ships and in 1980 was a second officer with Ellerman Lines. At the time a survey of women officers in merchant navies throughout the world showed the UK leading with the field with 255 women officers
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