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Things You Should Know About Chief Steward

Hey there, shipmate; ever wonder what life is like for the Chief Steward on those giant cargo ships? As head of the steward department, they’ve got a lot on their plate – and we don’t just mean the food! Overseeing the galley, managing the crew’s mess, assigning duties, even handling payroll – they’re like the ship’s very own restaurant manager at sea.

Get the inside scoop on keeping things running smooth behind the scenes. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the critical role they play in keeping crew morale high and bellies full during those long months away from port. Whether it’s menu planning, sanitation, or even mediating squabbles between crew, we’ll fill you in on what it takes to be a successful Chief Steward.

The Role and Responsibilities of a Chief Steward

As Chief Steward, you oversee the steward department and ensure high-quality catering services on board. Your main duty is managing the crew’s mess and galley. This includes creating menus, purchasing supplies, and supervising cooks and stewards. You’ll also handle crew complaints and requests regarding meals or service.

You’re responsible for cleanliness and hygiene throughout the catering areas. This means inspecting galleys and mess rooms regularly and enforcing strict hygiene standards. You may have to train new stewards on proper food handling and cleaning procedures.

On some ships, you may manage a bar, cafe or lounge. This requires stocking and accounting for food, beverages, and supplies. You’ll also schedule staff, handle customer service issues, and ensure the space meets health codes.

In any free time, you should focus on administrative tasks like budgeting, payroll, and staff performance reviews. You’ll also maintain records of purchases, inventories, and crew meals.

When arriving in port, you may do additional tasks like restocking supplies or facilitating crew changes. You represent the catering department in meetings with port agents, suppliers, and inspectors.

As Chief Steward, you have significant responsibilities, but the role can also be rewarding. You provide an essential service to the crew and help create a comfortable onboard community. With the right skills and experience, you can rise to this leadership position. If you enjoy hospitality and managing others, it may be the perfect career path in the merchant navy.

Key Skills and Qualifications Needed for a Chief Steward

As Chief Steward, you’ll need certain skills to excel at your job. Strong leadership and management abilities are a must, since you’ll be in charge of the steward department and responsible for ensuring high standards. You’ll need to motivate your team and handle any issues that arise.

Organizational Skills

Excellent organizational skills are essential. You’ll be managing meal schedules, staff rotations, inventory, and logistics. Staying on top of the many details and deadlines that come with the role requires diligent organization and planning.


The ability to adapt to changes is important. Schedules can change quickly due to weather conditions or operational requirements. You must be able to adjust plans and reallocate resources as needed to ensure your department continues functioning smoothly.


Dealing with crew members from diverse backgrounds calls for diplomacy and tact. As Chief Steward, you may need to resolve conflicts or address complaints, so strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate in a respectful manner are crucial.

Knowledge of Safety and Hygiene Standards

Keeping high standards of hygiene and enforcing proper food safety procedures are central to the Chief Steward role. You’ll need to have a thorough knowledge of regulations and best practices to ensure your galley and mess are operating safely, hygienically, and legally.

With a combination of soft skills, technical knowledge, and hands-on experience, a Chief Steward can excel in this vital role in the Merchant Navy. The job requires hard work and long hours, but for the right candidate, it can be a rewarding career at sea.

A Day in the Life of a Chief Steward on a Merchant Ship

Preparing for the Voyage

As Chief Steward, your day starts early ensuring provisions are loaded and the galley is prepped for the voyage ahead. You oversee the loading of food, beverages and supplies to feed the crew for the journey. The menu has to satisfy nutritional needs and account for dietary requirements, storage space and budget.

Setting Sail

Once the ship leaves port, you begin managing your department. The day-to-day involves supervising the galley staff, ensuring high standards of hygiene are met, and that crew are well-fed. You monitor inventory to avoid shortages, plan the menu, and order supplies.

Problem-Solving and Troubleshooting

No two days at sea are the same. You handle issues as they arise – equipment malfunctions, staffing problems or dealing with difficult crew members. The role requires leadership, the ability to motivate your team, resolve conflicts, and ensure the smooth running of catering operations.

Record-Keeping and Administration

There are administrative duties like managing budgets, payroll, staff performance reviews and keeping detailed records of supplies, costs and maintenance. You ensure health and safety standards are followed and catering regulations are met.

A Chief Steward leads a demanding role requiring exceptional organizational and interpersonal skills. But for those well-suited, it offers an adventurous career feeding crews sailing the high seas. The job satisfaction comes from overcoming daily challenges and ensuring the comfort of everyone on board.

Becoming a Chief Steward in the Merchant Navy: Charting Your Course

The journey to becoming a Chief Steward in the Merchant Navy demands dedication, experience, and a passion for leading efficient and comfortable onboard living experiences. Here’s a roadmap to navigate your way:

Qualifications and Training:

  • Minimum Age: 21 years old in most countries.
  • Basic Education: High school diploma or equivalent is typically required.
  • Essential Skillset:
    • Strong leadership and interpersonal skills.
    • Expertise in budgeting, inventory management, and procurement.
    • Understanding of international hospitality standards and cultural sensitivity.
    • Excellent communication and problem-solving abilities.
    • Knowledge of health and safety regulations onboard ships.

Experience Pathway:

  • Start as a Steward/Mess Attendant:
    • Onboard training programs or entry-level positions offer foundational experience.
    • Learn galley operations, food service regulations, and customer service best practices.
  • Progress through Steward Ranks:


  • Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) with Chief Steward Endorsement:
    • Issued by your country’s maritime administration (e.g., US Coast Guard) after meeting experience and training requirements.
    • May involve exams demonstrating maritime law, leadership, and specific regulations.

Job Advancement:

  • Gaining the Trust of Your Senior Steward:
    • Consistently demonstrate dedication, initiative, and leadership potential.
    • Seek mentorship and learn from their experience.
  • Networking and Applying for Chief Steward Positions:
    • Leverage professional connections and industry platforms to find opportunities.
    • Tailor your resume and application to highlight relevant skills and achievements.

Additional Tips:

  • Stay Updated: Attend industry conferences, workshops, and online courses to stay current with regulations and best practices.
  • Build Your Network: Connect with other Chief Stewards and industry professionals for guidance and opportunities.
  • Lifelong Learning: The industry evolves, so continuous learning is key. Explore certifications in areas like hospitality management, hygiene, and leadership.
  • Physical Fitness: Be prepared for long hours, physically demanding work, and adapting to challenging environments.

It’s a role with a lot of responsibility, managing the important catering operations onboard and leading your team. But it also comes with rewards like the chance to travel and a good salary. 

Just be ready for hard work, long hours, and maintaining high standards in a challenging environment. If you’re a people person who enjoys hospitality and can handle pressure, it could be an exciting career path on the open seas. Weigh the pros and cons and talk to current Chief Stewards to get the inside scoop. If you think you’ve got what it takes, why not go for it? The merchant navy could use talented leaders like you.

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