Large Ships and Ferries ply America’s inland waters and the Great Lakes. Deck officers are responsible for  the safety of crew and passengers, cargo transfer operations, navigational voyage planning, emergency management, equipment upkeep and record-keeping.

Officers with Unlimited Inland Mate licenses are required aboard two primary types of vessels;  Ferries, such as those operated by Washington State, New York City, and the Delaware River and Bay Authority, and Freighters which carry ore and other bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes.

Ferry officers often work close to where they live, and usually go home every night after their shift.  Great Lakes officers engage in lengthier voyages, but generally have the winter off, when the Lakes are covered with ice.

As a Mate serving on an Inland vessel, you will stand navigational watches with a Helmsman or Quartermaster, plot the ship’s position, practice collision avoidance, consult navigational equipment, and direct the helmsman to change course when needed. Traditionally, Mates stand four hours on watch at a time, with eight hours off in between, seven days a week for the duration of your dispatch. Your duty on watch will depend on the ship’s schedule.

When not standing watch on the Bridge, Mates are typically responsible for the inspection and maintenance of all safety equipment including lifeboats and fire-fighting gear. 

At the dock, Ferry Officers coordinate the loading and unloading of vehicles, making sure they are secured safely and in the proper location.  Great Lakes Freighter Officers focus on the safe transfer of cargo, either loading or unloading. They monitor the mooring lines, the trim and list of the ship, operate ballast pumps, make rounds, communicate with dock crew and are the eyes and ears for the Captain.


Unlimited Inland Mates serve on large passenger ferries or freighters operating on the Great Lakes.  They typically serve as Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch for a minimum of eight hours per day.  Mates are responsible for keeping the vessel on course, following the Collision Avoidance Regulations, keeping a proper lookout, and notifying the Master when the situation requires.  Mates are typically responsible for maintenance of the ship’s safety and emergency response equipment.