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Captain (naval)

Captain is the name most often given in English-speaking navies to the rank corresponding to command of the largest ships. The NATO rank code is OF-5, equivalent to an army full colonel.

The equivalent rank in some navies translates as "ship captain" (e.g. French capitaine de vaisseau and Italian capitano di vascello), "captain of sea and war" (Portuguese capit o de mar e guerra), "captain at sea" (e.g. German Kapit n zur See, Dutch kapitein-ter-zee) or "captain of the first rank" (Russian - 1- ).


  • Role
  • Title
  • Commands
  • Captains in national navies
  • Notes
  • References


The command of a ship is often given to the naval rank equivalent to a commissioned officer between commander (OF-4) and commodore or rear admiral (OF-6).[1] The naval rank should not be confused with the army, air force or marine rank of captain, which has a NATO code of OF-2.


Any naval officer who commands a ship (titled commanding officer, or CO) is addressed by naval custom as "captain" while aboard in command. Officers with the rank of captain travelling aboard a vessel they do not command should be addressed by their rank and name (e.g., "Captain Smith"), but they should not be referred to as "the captain" to avoid confusion with the vessel's captain.[2] According to US Navy wardroom etiquette, an embarked Navy captain is addressed in that setting as "Commodore".

On large ships (e.g., aircraft carriers), the executive officer (XO) may be a captain in rank, in which case it would be proper to address him by rank. Often the XO prefers to be called XO to avoid confusion with the CO, who is also a captain in rank and the captain of the ship.[3]


Captains with sea commands generally command ships of cruiser size or larger, the more senior the officer, the larger the ship, but ship commanders do not normally hold a higher rank than captain. In the Royal Navy, a captain might command a destroyer flotilla with the appointment (not rank) of captain (D), while naval aviator and naval flight officer captains in the U.S. Navy command aircraft carriers, large-deck amphibious assault ships, carrier air wings, maritime patrol air wings and functional and specialized air wings and air groups.

Rear admirals will normally embark on large capital ships such as aircraft carriers, which will function as the flagship for their strike group or battle group, but a captain will retain command of the actual ship. Even when a senior officer who is in the ship's captain's chain of command is present, all orders are given through the captain as a courtesy. Many captains hold shore commands and staff positions afloat and ashore.

Captains in national navies

The following articles deal with the rank of captain as it is used in various navies.

  • Captain (Canada)
  • Captain (United Kingdom)
  • Captain (U.S. Navy)
  • Kapit n zur See (Germany)
  • Komandor (Poland)

Image:Generic-Navy-O7.svg|Captain insignia of the Royal Navy and captain (N) of the Royal Canadian Navy File:EgyptianNavyInsignia-Captain-shoulderboard.svg|Captain insignia of the Egyptian Navy Image:GR-Navy-OF5.svg|Ploiarchos (captain) insignia of Hellenic Navy Image:POL PMW pagon1 komandor.svg|Komandor insignia of the Polish Navy Image:SP Capitan Navio.gif|Capit n de nav o (ship-of-the-line captain) of the Armada Espa ola (Spanish Navy) Image:US Navy O6 insignia.svg|Insignia of a U.S. Navy captain Image:19 - kpt zs.GIF|German navy rank insignia of a Kapit n zur See (captain at sea) Image:Nl-marine-vloot-kapitein ter zee.svg|Royal Netherlands Navy kapitein-ter-zee



  1. The Polish Navy is, however, a notable exception with "naval captain" (Polish - kapitan marynarki) in the OF-2 rank of lieutenant or captain lieutenant and the OF-5 rank being a "commodore" (Polish - komandor).

Source: Wikipedia | The above article is available under the GNU FDL. | Edit this article

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