Cargo Officer

Duties and Responsibilities of Cargo Officers

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Cargo Officers

The term ‘Cargo Officer’ implies the person responsible for the safe and efficient handling and stowage of cargo on board. This responsibility also includes the proper preparation of the hold prior to loading, correct supervision during the working of cargoes proper to the preservation of cargo whilst in transit and the co-operation/coordination with relevant port authorities whilst in port/harbour.

Duties and Responsibilities

The main duties and responsibilities of the Cargo Officer are listed below:

  1. To ensure the proper preparation of all cargo spaces for the types of cargo to be carried.
  2. To inspect the ship’s cargo gear to ensure that it is in good working condition and in accordance with the statutory requirements.
  3. To ensure that all holds, accesses and parts of the ship comply with the requirements of the Dock Safety Regulations.
  4. To ensure proper status of guardrails, manhole covers, side ports, stern doors, container fittings etc.
  5. To plan and supervise the proper stowage of cargo on board ensuring the safety of life and property, and avoiding excessive ship stresses whilst having adequate stability during loading and discharging and at all stages of the voyage.
  6. To achieve proper stowage of cargo not in such a manner as to prevent correct and speedy discharge, taking into account the proper rotation of ports and also ensure that no cargo is over stowed.
  7. To undertake measures to prevent the outbreak of fire on board and to ensure that fire fighting equipment is in readiness all the time.
  8. To ensure the safe operation of all ship’s cargo handling gears.
  9. To avoid damage to the cargo - to ensure the proper handling, slinging, discharging, separation, ventilation, slinging, distribution of cargo. In the case of refrigerated cargoes - The proper control of temperature.
  10. To take adequate measures to prevent the pilferage of cargo.
  11. To maintain a daily check and record of cargo loaded or discharged including the vessel’s draught.
  12. To make proper and correct entries into the Mate’s Log Book, issue relevant Mate’s
  13. Receipts for cargo loaded, drawing up of cargo plans, hatch lists, cargo summaries, dangerous cargo lists etc. To maintain the Dangerous Cargo Register.
  14. To attempt a good distribution of cargo at loading and discharge ports, so as to obtain the fastest turn round of the vessel and minimize port stay.
  15. To ensure that all cargo is properly secured, hatches well battened down and cargo gears secured before the vessel proceeds to sea.
  16. To ensure that proper ventilation of cargo spaces is carried out to prevent cargo damage due to condensation/sweat. To check and record temperatures and CO2 concentrations in refrigerated cargo spaces.
  17. In the event of bad or adverse weather conditions, to ensure the water tightness of compartments, proper trimming of ventilators and the lashings of cargo etc.
  18. To ensure that all work on board is carried out in accordance with the “Code of Safe Working Practices”.
  19. To properly delegate duties to Junior Cargo Officers with adequate instructions for the proper loading/discharging and stowage of cargo and the overall safety of the vessel.


  1. Sight the log entries made in the previous watch and status of cargo work completed/being undertaken.
  2. Any shore personnel/technicians/repair team/inspection team onboard.
  3. Any critical/hazardous work being taken up on deck and engine room and whether proper permits/isolation/immobilization certificates in place.
  4. Ensure proper Gangway and deck watches being maintained.
  5. Smoking permitted only in safe, designated spaces.
  6. Entrances to spaces not being used (mast houses, lockers, stores, accommodation) are locked. Such entrances should be well illuminated so as to deter anyone from attempting to trespass.


  • Always check the identity, exact purpose and name of organization represented for every person who comes onboard.
  • Any surveyor other than FSI/PSC inspector comes onboard only on specific request from the agents of the company and needs to be escorted on ship.
  • On General Cargo /Container and Ro-RO ships, because of the number of stevedores who come onboard, it may be difficult to check each and every person who comes onboard. However, an attempt should be made that stevedores come in a single group headed by group foreman who presents list of stevedores with their names and photo identification.
  • Regular inspection on work carried out by shore staff to be done to ensure:
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- That work is being carried out properly.

- Safe working practices as per COSWP being followed.

- Shore staff is wearing PPE.

- All necessary Fire safety measures are at sight.

- If hot work being undertaken, then heat and sparks generated are not going to pose ignition hazard on other combustible material nearby.

  • No Garbage is thrown over the side.
  • Check over-side frequently to ensure that there is no oil floating near the ship.
  • Carry out ballasting/deballasting as per the loading plan and/or instructions from the Chief Officer.

Specific to General Cargo Ship

  1. Thoroughly understand the stowage plan i.e. stowage locations, nature, quantity, destinations, classification (DG Goods).
  2. Check dunnaging, separation, segregation and trimming of bulk cargo.
  3. All gear used for cargo work is as per the Chain Register.
  4. Regular inspections of each hold must be carried out to ensure:

-Dunnage properly laid out. First tier must be laid fore and aft to facilitate proper flow of water towards aft. Next to the transverse bulkheads at the fwd and aft ends of the hold, a gap of about 10 cms must be left to allow water to flow athwartships to bilge wells.

-Cargo being loaded is in good and sound condition. Torn or wet bags, damaged cartons, bales with bands broken etc should be rejected and reported to the Chief Officer.

-Cargo is being handled properly i.e. appropriate slings are used, no hooks utilized on cartons, fragile cargo carefully handled (also properly marked and labeled).

-Cargo work being undertaken in accordance with the loading plan and as per the instructions from Chief Officer. A running is to be maintained by the duty officer, updated immediately as and when the operations are unfolding.

-Cargo is being stowed correctly in the designated positions only. Heavy packages at the bottom and light ones at the top, minimum broken stowage, tight stow to prevent shift in bad weather.

Specific for Tankers

  1. Due to peculiar nature of cargo operations known as “Blind Conditions” of loading/discharging operations, whereby tanks are sealed off and all operations are monitored by instrumentation and control systems, it is not possible to visually assess the progress as is done on dry cargo ships. Hence the dangers of mal-operation or oversight are not apparent until it is too late.
  2. High rates of loading and discharging mean that a slight omission or lapse in operation may result in overflow of oil into the sea with disastrous ecological consequences and phenomenal fines and claims for the clean up.
  3. Whereas on dry cargo ships, the OOW only supervises the loading and discharging of cargo work, on tankers the entire cargo operations are carried out by the ship’s staff themselves.
  4. Time schedules for the loading and discharging of tankers are very tight putting severe pressure on the ship’s staff to perform at optimum levels.

Effective Cargo Watch keeping

  1. Entry into cargo tanks, ballast tanks or enclosed spaces in the hazardous zone must not be allowed unless all the safety precautions are taken.
  2. The ship is upright at all the times.
  3. Loading instrument; if on-line, needs to be checked for continuous updates and if this feature is not available then OOW to carry out hourly updates.
  4. Periodic checks as per ship/safety checklist to be carried out and recorded.
  5. Support level watch keepers should keep round the clock manifold and deck watch maintaining effective communication with OOW.
  6. Cargo loading/discharging operations as well as ballasting/deballasting, as instructed by C/O should be carried out in correct sequence of tanks.
  7. IG P/V Breaker liquid level to be checked once a watch, if necessary, topped up.
  8. Fwd and Aft drafts to be checked at regular intervals to ensure optimum trim by stern is maintained as per the plan. This is very important as too less trim by stern can result in reduced rate of discharge while too high stern trim can put undue stresses on the hull and may also result in overflowing of topped off cargo tanks.
  9. C/O to be informed of cargo work progress at regular intervals and immediately whenever any undue variations from the normal occurs.
  10. A record of each activity and its time of occurrence to be recorded, as soon as practicable in the CCR record book.
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Additional points when loading

  1. Sounding of High Pressure Alarm is an indication that venting system is not coping with the loading rate. C/O should be immediately informed so that corrective action is taken well in time.
  2. Tank radar gauging system in each tank being loaded to be checked against a reading of the UTI at least once a watch.
  3. Tank radar gauging system to be checked against a reading of the UTI, as soon as practicable, after commencement of loading in each tank.
  4. As the consequences of overflow are very severe, most tanker officers prefer use of UTI while topping off even the radar gauging system is working well.
  5. One of the last tanks to be loaded is clearly designated by the C/O as the oil spill/emergency tank. In case of possible overflow due to any cause, such as valve jamming, etc, the flow of oil to be immediately diverted to this tank while corrective action is taken. Keeping this in view, OOW and support level watch keepers should be familiar with the necessary lining up of valves to divert the oil flow to oil spill/emergency tank.
  6. Well before any tank becomes 85% full, the flow to the next tank which is to be loaded next should be tested by cracking open its inlet valve for a few minutes.
  7. As soon as each tank becomes 95% full, a high level alarm (visual flashing light and siren) gets activated on Accommodation front. Please note that this device is an additional safety feature only and must not stop OOW from executing his routine duty of ullage monitoring and topping off/changeover tanks.
  8. As soon as alarm sounds, OOW to divert the cargo flow to another tank. Topping off tank valve/s to be closed. Ullage level to be continuously monitored to ensure no increase in tank levels.

Additional points when discharging

  1. Ship’s overall efficiency is put to test, each time, during discharging i.e. efficiency of cargo pumps, ballast pumps, IG System, COW system, educator and stripping system, expertise and skills of ship’s staff etc.
  2. The pressure of IG in the supply pipeline to be monitored continuously. At a pressure of 200 mm Water Gauge (WG) the low pressure alarm (LPA) would sound. At 100 mm WG, the VLPA would sound and the cargo pumps would automatically trip and discharging would stop. Effective corrective action must be taken before hand to ensure this situation does not occur.
  3. The O2 content of the I G in the supply pipeline to be monitored frequently and recorded. This should be between 2 to 5%. The O2 content of the atmosphere in the cargo tanks to be monitored frequently and recorded.
  4. Where the nature of the cargo warrants it, the temperature of the oil cargo should be maintained, at the level specified by the shipper, by passing steam through the heating coils. The quantity of steam would have to be progressively reduced as the cargo level drops in each tank.
  5. COW (Crude Oil Washing) procedures should be carried out as per the COW manuals of the ship and C/O instructions.
  6. Eductor and stripping operation to be carried out as per C/O’s instructions.

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