Captain (nautical): Wikis


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A ship's master works with the harbour pilot and able seaman to navigate the Kristina Regina.A ship's master works with the harbour pilot and able seaman to navigate the Kristina Regina.
Other names : Ship's Captain, Ship's Master, and variants
Department : Senior Deck officer
Licensed : Yes
Duties : In charge of a merchant ship.
Requirements : master's license or extra master's license or commissioned officer
Watchstander : Maybe

The Captain or Master of a merchant vessel is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of the vessel.[1] A Ship's Captain, also called Shipmaster or Skipper, is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws, as well as company and flag state policies.

A Ship's Captain commands and manages all ship's personnel, and typically in charge of the ship's accounting, payrolls, and inventories. The Captain is responsible for compliance with immigration and customs regulations, maintaining the ship's certificates and documentation, compliance with the vessel's security plan, as mandated by the International Maritime Organization. The Captain is responsible for responding to and reporting in case of accidents and incidents, and in case of injuries and illness among the ship's crew and passengers.

A Ship's Captain must have a Master Mariner's license, issued by the ship's flag state. Various types of licenses exist, specifying the maximum vessel size (in gross tonnage) and in what geographic areas the captain can operate. An unlimited master's license allows the captain to operate any vessel worldwide. Restricted tonnage licenses include vessel categories down to 100 tons gross tonnage and below. Examples of licenses with restricted geographic scope include those issued by the United States Coast Guard for the Great Lakes, inland waters, and near coastal waters. A candidate for an unlimited master's licenses requires several years of seagoing experience as third mate, second mate, and chief mate.

A Shipmaster at sea, during navigation, may represent some official authorities like the public notary, police, and has the official power to use, in some particular case, like mutiny and pirates assault, deadly force addressed to defend the interests of flag state, owner, environment, cargo owners, crew, passengers and the safe navigation activities and laws. No other official authorities on board, during the navigation, are in power to override the Captain from his important office. All persons aboard, crew and passengers, conforming to the nautical and navigation laws, must remain under the command and authority of the Captain.


Master Mariner

Traditionally, a person holding an unrestricted master's license is called a Master Mariner and may use the postnominal title MM. The term unrestricted indicates that there is no restriction of size, power or geographic location on the license. It is the highest level of professional qualification amongst mariners. In England the term Master Mariner has been in use at least since the 13th century—reflecting the fact that in guild terms, such a person was a master craftsman in this specific profession. In the United States, it was introduced in the mid-19th century. Currently, a U.S. Master Mariner License is reserved for issue to those few who have attained the level of Unlimited Master, as well as Unlimited Chief Engineer, unlike the UK.

An unrestricted master's license is colloquially called a "Master's Ticket", "Master's Unlimited" or just a "Master's." In the UK the official name of a Master Mariner’s qualification has varied over the years. The conventions or acts governing the license have evolved alongside the shipping industry. The master's license is sometimes still referred to as a Class 1 or Master Foreign-Going certificate as it was named during the latter part of the 20th century. The UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency, inline with the amended STCW convention, currently title the license as Master Unlimited.

Captain's Seniority

In a few countries, some captains with particular and requested experiences in terms of navigation and in terms of command at sea, depending by application of different countries laws, will be named Senior Captain.


Magister Navis

The term Master came from old Latin language used during the imperial Roman age, from the old Roman term Magister Navis, that is, the nobleman (patrizio) designated as maximum authority on board the vessel.

Sailing Master

In the Royal Navy in the days of sail, "master" was often used as an abbreviation for the sailing master, the warrant officer responsible for the navigation and steering of the vessel. The position of sailing master was later commissioned and renamed the navigating officer. The navigating officer on a flagship, however, continued to be known as the master of the fleet until after the Second World War.


The captain ensures that the ship complies with local and international laws as well as company policies.[1] The captain is ultimately responsible for aspects of operation such as the safe navigation of the ship,[2] its cleanliness and seaworthiness,[3] safe handling of all cargo,[4] management of all personnel,[5] inventory of ship's cash and stores,[6] and maintaining the ship's certificates and documentation.[7]

One of a shipmaster's particularly important duties is to ensure compliance with the vessel's security plan, as required by the International Maritime Organization.[8] The plan, customized to meet the needs of each individual ship, spells out duties including conducting searches and inspections,[9] maintaining restricted spaces,[9] and responding to threats from terrorists, hijackers, pirates, and stowaways.[10] The security plan also covers topics such as refugees and asylum seekers, smuggling, and saboteurs.[11]

On ships without a purser, the captain is in charge of the ship's accounting.[12] This includes ensuring an adequate amount of cash on board,[13] coordinating the ship's payroll (including draws and advances),[14] and managing the ship's slop chest.[15]

On international voyages, the captain is responsible for satisfying requirements of the local immigration and customs officials.[16] Immigration issues can include situations such as embarking and debarking passengers,[17] handling crewmembers who desert the ship,[18] making crew-changes in port,[19] and making accommodations for foreign crewmembers.[20] Customs requirements can include the master providing a cargo declaration, a ship's stores declaration, a declaration of crewmembers' personal effects, crew lists and passenger lists.[21]

The captain has special responsibilities when the ship or its cargo are damaged, when the ship causes damage to other vessels or facilities, and in the case of injury or death of a crewmember or passenger. The master acts as a liaison to local investigators[22] and is responsible for providing complete and accurate logbooks, reports, statements and evidence to document an incident.[23] Specific examples of the ship causing external damage include collisions, allisions, grounding the vessel, and dragging anchor.[24] Some common causes of cargo damage include heavy weather, water damage, pilferage, and damage caused during loading/unloading by the stevedores.[25] Finally, the master is responsible to address any medical issues affecting the passengers and crew by providing medical care as possible, cooperating with shore-side medical personnel, and, as necessary, evacuating those who need more assistance than can be provided on-board the ship.[26]


United States

A ship's captain must have a number of qualifications, including a license.

To become a master (unlimited tonnage) in the United States, one must first accumulate at least 365 days of service while holding a chief mate's license. The chief mate's license, in turn, requires at least 365 days of service while holding a second mate's license, passing a battery of examinations, and approximately 13 weeks of classes. Similarly, one must have worked as a third mate for 365 days to have become a second mate. There are two methods to attain an unlimited third mate's license in the United States: to attend a specialized training institution, or to accumulate "sea time" and take a series of training classes and examinations.[27]

Training institutions that can lead to a third mate's license include the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (deck curriculum), the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and U.S. Naval Academy with qualification as an underway officer in charge of a navigational watch, any of the state maritime colleges, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, or a three-year apprentice mate training program approved by the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

A seaman may start the process of attaining a license after three years of service in the deck department on ocean steam or motor vessels, at least six months of which as able seaman, boatswain, or quartermaster. Then the seaman takes required training courses, and completes on-board assessments. Finally, the mariner can apply to the United States Coast Guard for a Third Mate's license.

A master of 1,600 ton vessels can, under certain circumstances, begin the application process for an unlimited third mate's license.

If approved the applicant must then successfully pass a comprehensive license examination before being issued the license. Hawsepiper is a maritime industry term used to refer to an officer who began his or her career as an unlicensed merchant seaman, as opposed to earning his Third Mate's license by attending a maritime college or academy. The term derives from a ship’s hawsepipe, the opening on the ship's bow through which the anchor chain passes. A mariner is said to have "climbed up the hawsepipe," a nautical metaphor for climbing up the ship's rank structure. Since the requirements of STCW '95 have been enacted, there have been complaints that the hawsepiper progression path has been made too difficult because of the cost in time and money to meet formal classroom training requirements. These critics assert that the newer requirements will eventually lead to a shortage of qualified mariners, especially in places like the United States.

Several merchant seamen's unions offer their membership the required training to for career advancement. Similarly, some employers offer financial assistance to pay for the training for their employees. Otherwise, the mariner is responsible for the cost of the required training.

Masters are forbidden by federal law from performing marriage ceremonies, and not allowed to permit a ceremony to be performed on board the ship when it is outside the United States, without the permission of local officials and the presence of a diplomatic or consular official of the United States.[28]


United States

As of 2007, captains of U.S.-flagged deep sea vessels make US$400 per day and up, or US$80,000 to US$120,000 per year.[29] Captains of smaller vessels in the inland and coastal trade earn between US$151 and US$275 per day, or US$55,000 to $68,000 per year.[29] Captains of large ferries average US$46,794 annually.[29]

In 2005, 3,393 mariners held active unlimited master's licenses.[30] 87 held near-coastal licenses with unlimited tonnage, 291 held unlimited tonnage master's licenses on inland and Great Lakes waters, while 1,044 held unlimited licenses upon inland waters only.[30] Some 47,163 active masters licenses that year had tonnage restrictions, well over half of those being for near-coastal vessels of up to 100 tons gross tonnage.[30]

As of 2006, some 34,000 people were employed as captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels in the United States.[31] The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 18% growth in this occupation, expecting demand for 40,000 shipmasters in 2016.[31]

United Kingdom

As of 2008, the U.K. Learning and Skills Council lists annual salaries for senior deck officers as ranging from £22,000 to over £50,000 per year.[32] The Council characterizes job opportunities for senior deck officers as "generally good" and expects a "considerable increase" in the job market over the next few years.[32]


A captain's emblem that features the "executive loop."

The traditional sleeve emblem for captains is four gold stripes (often called "rings") on the lower sleeve or shoulderboard. Many navies follow the precedent of the Royal Navy and have an "executive loop" on the top or inner ring. Often harbormasters have a fouled anchor or other local symbol on the gold rings.

Uniform is still worn aboard many ships, or aboard any vessels of traditional and organized navigation companies, and is required by company regulation on passenger and cruise vessels. It is not unusual for Ship's Officers to have to dress in uniform to go into the wardroom after a certain time of day and it may be expected for entry into the saloon for dinner. Uniform at sea may consist of navy blue trousers, black shoes, white navy regular shirt and epaulets denoting rank. Full uniform involving a navy blue or reefer jacket and hat may be required during particular activities other than at remembrance services, marriages, and so forth.

In the passenger-carrying trade a unified corporate image is often desired and it is useful for those unfamiliar with the vessel to be able to identify members of the crew and their function. In this case, captains on duty usually wear the four stripes and rings with the traditional emblem or design of their particular shipping company or vessel’s nationality. Some companies and countries use an "executive loop" similar to that of the Royal Navy. Captain and officers on British ships often wear the traditional diamond shape within the stripes. This loop represents the wake of a ship's propeller. It should be worn on the correct direction with the overlapping loop facing forward.

In the United States, and in others numerous maritime countries, Captains and Officers of some shipping companies still wear a uniform on board ship.

The Captain's uniform also consists of a navy white peaked cap, with a badge at the front: traditionally this would be the shipping line's house flag or company logo within a golden wreath of oak leaves. In the UK, Italy or in other historical maritime countries however many captains and officers wear the standard Merchant Navy cap badge instead, which is an anchor within a red oval, within a golden wreath of oak or laurel leaves, and topped by a Naval Crown in Latin corona navalis. On the visor of the captain's cap is one row of gold oak or laurel leaves (or "Scrambled Eggs") along the edge.

See also


  1. ^ a b Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.3.
  2. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.4.
  3. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.5.
  4. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.7.
  5. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.7-11.
  6. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.11-12.
  7. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.13-15.
  8. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.97.
  9. ^ a b Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.100-101.
  10. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.103-111.
  11. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.110-114.
  12. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.209.
  13. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.210-211.
  14. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.211-223.
  15. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.223-225.
  16. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.175-208.
  17. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.208.
  18. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.206-207.
  19. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.207.
  20. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.204, 206, 208.
  21. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.183-187.
  22. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.46-47.
  23. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.47-49.
  24. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.52-61.
  25. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.65-69.
  26. ^ Aragon and Messner, 2001, p.77-89.
  27. ^ U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 46, Part 10, Subpart 407
  28. ^ "Marriages on board". 32 Federal Register 700.716. 1998-07-01. Retrieved 2009-10-23.  
  29. ^ a b c Pelletier, 2007, p.160.
  30. ^ a b c Pelletier, 2007, p.45.
  31. ^ a b Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008-2009, p. 4.
  32. ^ a b Learning and Skills Council, 2008.


External links

Master Mariner Associations

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