As a stuurman you will take care of the docking and mooring and assist with loading and unloading. In addition, you are sometimes responsible for the functioning and control of the engines. You will also carry out maintenance work on the ship. Moreover, you may steer the ship under the responsibility of a skipper or captain. In principle, someone with one year’s sailing time in inland navigation can become a stuurman from the position of full mate. However, holders of a large sailing licence or a driving licence can also be deployed on board as a stuurman.

Core tasks and work processes

Assisting the skipper or captain

The main task of the stuurman is to assist the skipper or captain on board a ship. The skipper or captain trusts that the stuurman can carry out all work on an inland vessel independently and knows exactly what needs to be done. Which activities exactly fall under this category differs per shipping company and per ship, but in principle you can assume that the stuurman ensures that all tasks on board are carried out properly and safely. In that sense, as a stuurman, you are an indispensable link between the skipper (or captain) and the rest of the crew. You are also able to replace the skipper if necessary.

Ensuring safety on board

Safety is central when working in inland shipping. It is up to you as a stuurman to ensure that all rules, procedures and protocols in this area are complied with. In this way you prevent calamities and accidents. This means that you must be well aware of the applicable safety requirements, including the use of the prescribed protective equipment (pbm’s) if the work requires it. Think, for example, of wearing a safety helmet, good work shoes and reflective clothing. You also point out dangerous situations to your colleagues, give instructions and ensure good communication between them.

A stuurman navigates the ship

The stuurman can navigate the ship under the guidance of the captain or skipper. In modern inland navigation, however, navigating and manoeuvring container ships, pusher tugs or tankers through European inland waterways takes a lot more than that. Such as setting out the navigation route, maintaining the instruments, radar navigation, maritime radio communication and keeping the logbooks and navigation charts up to date. The docking and mooring of the ship is also the responsibility of the stuurman.

Managing the loading and unloading process

As a stuurman, you are the first point of contact when it comes to loading and unloading. You will maintain contact with the officials at the loading and unloading locations, give instructions to the sailors and ensure correct administrative handling. In many cases you will also be a cooperating foreman. Depending on the type of ship you work on, this means that you are responsible for connecting and uncoupling barges in push navigation, stacking containers on container ships and connecting and uncoupling hoses in tanker navigation.

Performing maintenance and minor repairs

In addition to the safety and loading of the ship, maintenance is also the responsibility of the stuurman. There are, for example, periodic maintenance activities that must be carried out with some regularity. You plan these activities and ensure that they are carried out. In order to be able to properly assess which activities are required, you will conduct regular inspection rounds. You register technical defects and report them to the skipper or captain. As a stuurman, you will also independently carry out maintenance work and minor repairs on deck and in the engine rooms.