In the navy during the days of sail the master's mates were those professional petty officers who assisted in the navigation and handling of the ship, keeping watch with commissioned officers. The term mate developed, in merchant ships, to mean the officer next to the master who could deputize for him when necessary. Mates were part of the growing hierarchy of merchant service officers, chief mates, second mates, and so on down to junior fourth mates in ocean liners. While mate is the recognized term for a watchkeeping officer, and is used as such by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to identify that position, most companies prefer to call the first mate the first officer, the second mate the second officer, etc. In legal terms the mate (that is the first mate) is an important signatory in freight handling; the mate's receipt is a significant document. Mates, like masters, have to satisfy the stringent requirements of the IMO's Convention on Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and are required to meet equivalent international radar, radio, specialized vessel knowledge, rule of the road (see international regulations for preventing collisions at sea), and fitness parameters before certification by examination.
Subjects: Maritime History.