Maritime Labour Convention, 2006: Food and Catering: Ship’s Cooks and Catering Staff : How to Become a Ships Cook

Ships Cook

To be a ships cook is possibly one of the best chefs jobs it is possible to find, you will be paid to travel and see the world and gain both work and life experience that would be difficult to find in any other land locked catering operation, and from a culinary perspective there is no limit the dishes you can make as you buy food provisions in different ports around the world.

Of course, working at sea is a life choice and it is not suited to every individual, and it can mean many months away from home and loved ones.Having said this, I have yet to find a ships cook who would move to a land based catering environment by choice.

The Term Ships Cook, refers to a person who prepares and cooks food as a job on-board a ship, which is pretty obvious, but what might not be so clear is the minimum requirements in order to be a ship’s cook.

Cooking on land in a Hotel or Restaurant from a culinary point of view is not any different to cooking on a ship, dishes are the same, food is the same, but to a large degree that is where the similarity ends.

On a ship you work in a Galley not a kitchen and unlike a kitchen a galley can move up and down and side to side as a ship moves through the water, this means certain complexities and safety issues come into play that you would not come across on land.

On land if you put a plate on a table it will stay there until someone or something moves it, on a ship you can put a plate on a table and unless it has been secured in some way it will side off the table in certain weather conditions, and this is true of every single object on-board a ship, if it is not fixed it will at some stage move and fall.

When a ship is sailing or more to the point sailing into bad weather we have a term to describe what  we must do in advance, we say;- “Make all good seal like precautions”. This means make sure everything is secured and fastened down in all areas of the ship, and this also applies to the Ships cook who is responsible to ensure that provisions, equipment items on the stove and in the messroom are secured in such a way to avoid loss or damage or injury to anyone on-board.

And because of the special circumstances working and cooking on-board a ship present you will need suitable training.

To become a ship’s cook you will require the STCW95 which is an acronym for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.

The STCW95 consists of the following training elements;-

Personal Survival Techniques                          (STCW Code A-VI/1-1)
Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting                   (STCW Code A-VI/1-2)
Elementary First Aid                                          (STCW Code A-VI/1-3)
Personal Safety and Social Responsibility     (STCW Code A-VI/1-4)
Security Awareness
Seafarer Medical Fitness Certificate                (ENG 1) or equivalent

You will need a Ships Cook’s Ticket which comes in two parts

Part 1 of the Ships Cook’s Ticket
You will not need any formal qualifications for this course, but you must have served for at least 12 months at sea in the galley with the Merchant Navy or have two years’ suitable catering experience ashore.
Part 2 of the Ships Cook’s Ticket
This is an extension of the Part 1 course and includes kitchen organisation and costing.

It is the case that you may also need further certificates if you work on certain types of vessels or in the offshore industry and when working under different flag states and locations.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is an executive agency of the United Kingdom working to prevent the loss of lives at sea and is responsible for implementing British and International Maritime Law and Safety Policy. As seafarers, ships cooks and ships caterers, we also come under regulations set out by the MCA.

It is the MCA that issues British Seaman’s Discharge Books, Ships Cooks Tickets and legislates and approves the certification requirements needed to be a ship’s cook, this is set out in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006: Food and Catering: Ship’s Cooks and Catering Staff document which is published by the MCA.

We have attached a PDF copy below for purposes of analysis, review, quotation, illustration and education.


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Here is the direct link to the government web page;-

Click to access MSN_1846_MLC_Ships_Cooks.pdf