Duties of Ship Steward's Department

"She's a good feeder!"

During World War II voyages sometimes lasted as long as 12 months, so the skill and creativity of the galley in preparing 1 cold and 3 hot meals each day for 80 men affected the morale of the crew. The War Shipping Administration made special arrangements to provision ships.

The MAST Magazine, July 1944

steeard cutting foodCook, Baker and Messman see that the crew is happy through good food and a clean ship.

As an army travels on its stomach, so the good care and condition in which a merchant vessel most be kept depends largely on the food served to the crew.

Wholesome food and a well-balanced diet can keep a man on his toes and push his morale higher than any other factor. The ingenuity of the cooks, therefore, is an important contribution to a "happy ship."

To keep the crew in good spirits our modern merchant ships have more facilities and contain better-trained men than in previous years.

Aboard ship, the steward department is responsible for the maintenance of living and eating quarters. Meal preparations are usually made a day ahead of time and cooking a meal for the crew takes from two to three hours. The men usually arise at 0530 to start breakfast and have rest periods between meals. In evenings, after supper, a cold meal of sandwiches and coffee is prepared for the night watch.

In charge is the chief steward who supervises the maintenance and operation of the galley and living and eating quarters of the officers and crew. He orders the supplies for the department and plans the meals. It is also the chief steward's job to keep a record of all meals served on board.

Second in command is the chief cook. He assists the chief steward in planning the meals and supervises the preparation. The chief cook also prepare and cooks the main courses.

The second cook and baker assists the chief cook in preparing meals but his main job consists of doing all the flour and baking work. He mixes formulae and variations of sweet dough, makes sweet sauces and fruit sauces that are a delicacy in any chef's cook book. The delicious aroma of cookies, cakes, meringue topping and other baked goods is in the air when he’s on duty. The third cook also assists the chief cook in preparing the food. He helps cook vegetables and assists in keeping the galley and cooking equipment clean.

messman making coffeeThe "all-around man" is the messman. He may perform any of the following duties: setting tables, serving food or waiting on tables. Part of his job is also to clean the dishes and equipment, prepare coffee and beverages, make beds and clean quarters of officers. He is used wherever the chief steward wants him.

A well fed seaman is a hardworking seaman and fellows like the gent above go a long way toward making life pleasant on the bounding blue. To offset wartime emergencies in food preparation canned and dehydrated foods are used profusely. Powdered eggs and milk are used in baking cakes, bread and puddings. In equatorial climates seamen are given water that has been boiled with oatmeal or barley to prevent cramps resulting from drinking too much water. Abundant food stores and modern galleys have helped make American seamen the best fed and the happiest in the world.

The Messman

The messman's job is not an easy one - his duties are many and varied. He is coffee man, assistant cook, pantry man, waiter, dishwasher, bedroom steward, and porter. He must have in mind, however, that he is training to become a Chief Steward, a position far removed from that of messman in prestige, as well as in responsibility and honor. It is an interesting and highly skilled profession. There are Chief Stewards who are world famous for their ability in supervision and organization and also for their culinary specialties.

washing dishes aboard ship

The messman who applies himself, who does his work diligently and exerts his best efforts in his learning, has that future before him.

Advancements in the Steward's Department are given to those men who not only are capable of acting as efficient messmen but who are also of good conduct and strong character.

The purpose of this training is not to expend time, effort, and money in turning out men who will always be messmen, but to encourage every man in his studies, so that he may be advanced to a higher position after a few trips to sea.

The messman's duties, in general, consist of the maintenance of officer's quarters and mess-rooms, and the serving of meals. It is to his advantage to know how to wait on tables properly and to prepare salads. Waiting on the crew is another of the messman's duties and he must realize that they are entitled to the same courteous service as anyone aboard.

The messman's personal cleanliness is of great importance. The tidy messman has a healthy body, short fingernails, clean hands, and neat clothing. When serving on tables he does not use strong smelling hair tonics since they may affect a person's appetite.

messman carrying plateThings to Remember
A man carrying hot food must always be given the right of way. "One hand for the ship and one for yourself" should not be forgotten when carrying food through passageways because a sudden lurch of the ship may result in serious injury as well as loss of food.

Avoid loitering in the galley. Cooks and bakers are usually busy and therefore inclined to be temperamental. Refrain from unnecessary conversation. Whistling and loud talking are not permitted on a ship.

When serving in officer mess, the messman must, in addition to the common courtesies, treat officers with all the respect due their rank. The maintenance of discipline by the messman will aid him immeasurably when he advances to a position in which he will have to give orders. It is then that he will realize and appreciate the value of discipline and the inefficiency that results from the lack of it.

Messmen may be assigned to the officer messroom or saloon mess. Duties there are to maintain the saloon and to serve meals. The messman serves the Captain, Chief Mate, Second Mate, Third Mate, Chief Engineer, First Engineer, Second Engineer, Third Engineer, Junior Engineer, Deck or Engine Cadets, if any, Ship's Clerk, Radio Operators, Armed Guard Officer, and Chief Steward. The number of officers varies according to different types of vessels.

Utility or Storeroom Man

ships stores
The position "utility man" indicates the work to be performed. When he is assigned to the galley he must keep the utensils and galley clean. He may be assigned to take care of the pantry or to help the Chief Steward. It is essential that all factors bearing on proper stowage of provisions be carefully understood by assistants. Keeping quantities of provisions for long periods of time is largely dependent upon proper stowage. If stowed near heat or exposed to sun, light, or salt spray, vegetables will spoil quickly. Stowage conditions aboard ship present more difficulties than on shore. For that reason, particular attention must be given to provisions of all kinds.

The following factors govern the stowage of stores: safety, ventilation, orderliness, and cleanliness.

Safety - To be safely stowed, provisions should be protected from weather, dampness, heat, crushing, evaporation and vermin.

Ventilation - A poorly ventilated stowage space is apt to become warm, thereby exposing food to heat and dampness. A draft of air will cause evaporation of excess moisture, lower the temperature and remove odors.

Orderliness - Stores are kept in an orderly manner so that stowage appears neat and is saving in space. Orderly stowage expedites inventories. Particular care must be taken in stowage so that old stock may be used first.

Cleanliness - The cleanliness of ice boxes must be maintained. This factor cannot be overemphasized. When provisions are removed from chill boxes, refrigerators, vegetable lockers and fish boxes, these spaces should be thoroughly cleaned and put into shipshape condition to receive the next lot of stores. This is usually done just before arrival in port.

Room Steward

This man is a combination waiter, porter, and room man. His duties are keeping rooms clean, making bunks, and serving the wants of the officers.

In order to be able to perform his duties with ease and speed, he must prepare a schedule. A systematic method of cleaning will eliminate waste motion and the possibility of leaving anything undone.

A room steward must always be on the alert for unsanitary conditions and he must also take special precaution toward prevention of disease. Mattresses, bed springs, pillows, corners and connections of bunks should be examined very carefully and sprayed frequently. Toilets, bathrooms, and alley-ways also must be kept clean by the room steward.

MAST, July 1944
United States Maritime Service Training Manual. War Shipping Administration Training Organization, published for United States Maritime Service by Cornell Maritime Press, 1943, 1944

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