First days as a cadet on a ship: What to know

Embarking on a career at sea as a cadet can be both exciting and overwhelming. The unfamiliar environment, new responsibilities, and the need to quickly adapt to shipboard life can pose challenges. If you’re setting foot on a ship for the first time and wondering about your role and expectations, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate your initial days as a cadet.

This article will provide insights into what to expect during your first days on board, from receiving your assignments to integrating into the ship’s crew and culture.

Getting acquainted: Your first steps

When you step onto the ship, you might feel like a fish out of water. However, the initial confusion is completely normal. Your first task will likely be to meet with the officers and crew who will guide you through the shipboard routine.

  • You’ll be assigned a cabin, where you’ll unpack your belongings and settle in. Don’t panic if you’re unsure about where to start.

Understanding your duties

As a cadet, your primary responsibilities are learning and assisting the crew. Here’s a breakdown of key tasks you’ll undertake in your early days:

  • Hand over your documents to the appropriate officers, who will guide you further.
  • Receive your protective gear, including coveralls, boots, helmet, and gloves. Ask for any missing items.
  • After receiving your gear, ask the responsible person about your tasks and how you can help.
  • Participate in provisioning or assist with various tasks as needed.

Familiarizing yourself with safety equipment

Safety is paramount on a ship. You should be aware of the location of essential safety equipment such as emergency escape breathing devices (EABDs), life vests, and fire safety gear. Understand the emergency procedures, abandon ship signals, and assembly points.

Learning your role and responsibilities

As a cadet, you’ll have different duties depending on whether you’re in the deck or engineering department:

  • If you’re in the deck department, you might be involved in tasks like painting, greasing, and cleaning.
  • For those in the engineering department, you’ll learn about engine room equipment, maintenance, and water analysis.

Building relationships and skills

As you integrate into the ship’s community, focus on personal qualities that matter:

  • Punctuality: Arrive a little early for your shifts to demonstrate your commitment.
  • Attitude: Maintain a positive attitude, even when faced with challenges.
  • Communication: Socialize during coffee breaks and interact with crew members to learn from their experiences.
  • Helping Hand: Offer assistance and show your willingness to learn from experienced crew members.

Continual learning and adaptation

Shipboard life is a continuous learning experience:

  • Embrace every opportunity to learn new skills and tasks.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification when needed.
  • Participate in various activities, even those outside your comfort zone.
  • Avoid dishonesty; report mistakes promptly and learn from them.


As a cadet on a ship, your journey will be filled with new experiences, challenges, and growth opportunities. By staying curious, engaged, and open-minded, you’ll not only contribute to the ship’s operations but also gain valuable skills and memories that will shape your maritime career.

Remember, your role as a cadet is pivotal in setting the foundation for a successful maritime career. With a positive attitude, a thirst for knowledge, and a willingness to contribute, you can make your mark on the ship and pave the way for a fulfilling future at sea.

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