The officer of the deck (OOD) is an officer who reports directly to the commanding officer of a ship. A person in this position typically ensures safe operation and navigation of the ship, submits regular reports to the commanding officer, and trains the junior officer of the deck and conning officer for eventual promotion to the OOD position. An OOD also communicates regularly with the executive officer and navigator in order to confirm the safety of each change in the operation of the ship. The officer of the deck also works closely with a team that typically includes a petty officer of the watch, signalman of the watch, boatswain’s mate of the watch, and quartermaster of the watch.
Safe navigation of a ship depends on close teamwork between several personnel. The officer of the deck ensures regular communication across the crew so that the best decisions are made in regards to the navigation of the vessel. An OOD will make recommendations to, but ultimately also defer to, the commanding officer
With close communication, the officer of the deck keeps apprised of all vital operations of the ship. This includes the status of all mechanical functions, the location of the ship, and the proximity of the vessel to other ships. The OOD must also be aware of all potential personnel issues and ensure the safety of all officers and crew so that the ship can function properly.
An officer of the deck typically must remain in a specific location in the ship unless officially relieved by a replacement, which is usually the junior officer of the deck. While the ship is in port, the OOD tends to remain on the quarterdeck, as it is a sort of center of operations for the ship before it sets sail. The Officer of the Deck will move to the bridge, which is the primary command post for the ship, once the vessel is at sea. An OOD will generally remain on the bridge for most of the journey.
In order to ensure safe and consistent operation of the ship, the OOD must follow specific regulations when leaving an official post, such as the quarterdeck or bridge. Before an OOD can leave his or her posit, the replacement must be informed of all current operations of the ship. Then there must be a verbal exchange between the two officers in which the position is explicitly stated to have been relinquished by the OOD and accepted by the replacement until the officer returns.