Captain (naval)
Captain is the name most often given in English-speaking navies
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 to the rank corresponding to command of the largest ships. The NATO rank code is OF-5, equivalent to an army full colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...


The equivalent rank in some navies translates as "ship captain
Ship-of-the-Line Captain
Ship-of-the-line captain is a rank that appears in several navies...

" (e.g. French - capitaine de vaisseau), "captain of sea and war
Captain of Sea and War
Captain of Sea and War is a rank in a small number of navies, notably those of Portugal and Brazil, which corresponds to the rank of Ship-of-the-line Captain, or the US and Commonwealth rank of full Captain....

" (Portuguese capitão de mar e guerra), "captain at sea
Captain at Sea
Captain at Sea, is a naval rank corresponding to command of a ship-of-the-line or capital ship....

" (e.g. German Kapitän zur See, Dutch Kapitein-ter-zee) or "captain of the first rank" (Russian - капитан 1-го ранга).


The command of a ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

 is often given to the naval rank equivalent to a commissioned officer between commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 (OF-4) and commodore
Commodore (rank)
Commodore is a military rank used in many navies that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. Non-English-speaking nations often use the rank of flotilla admiral or counter admiral as an equivalent .It is often regarded as a one-star rank with a NATO code of OF-6, but is not always...

 or rear admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

 (OF-6).The Polish Navy
Polish Navy
The Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - MW RP Polish Navy, is the branch of Republic of Poland Armed Forces responsible for naval operations...

 is, however, a notable exception with "naval captain" (Polish - kapitan marynarki) in the OF-2 rank of lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 or captain lieutenant
Captain Lieutenant
Captain lieutenant or captain-lieutenant is a military rank, used in a number of different navies worldwide.It is generally equivalent to the Commonwealth or US rank of lieutenant, and has the NATO rank code of OF-2, though this can vary....

 and the OF-5 rank being a "commander" (Polish - komandor).
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
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

, 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. According to US Navy wardroom etiquette, an embarked Navy captain is addressed in that setting as "Commodore," and a Marine captain as "Major."

On large ships (e.g., aircraft carriers), the executive officer
Executive officer
An executive officer is generally a person responsible for running an organization, although the exact nature of the role varies depending on the organization.-Administrative law:...

 (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..


Captains with sea commands generally command ships of cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

 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)
Captain (D)
In the Royal Navy, a Captain is an appointment of a commander of a destroyer flotilla....

, while naval aviator
United States Naval Aviator
A United States Naval Aviator is a qualified pilot in the United States Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard.-Naming Conventions:Most Naval Aviators are Unrestricted Line Officers; however, a small number of Limited Duty Officers and Chief Warrant Officers are also trained as Naval Aviators.Until 1981...

 and naval flight officer
Naval Flight Officer
A Naval Flight Officer is an aeronautically designated commissioned officer in the United States Navy or United States Marine Corps that specializes in airborne weapons and sensor systems. NFOs are not pilots per se, but they may perform many "co-pilot" functions, depending on the type of aircraft...

 captains in the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 command aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s, large-deck amphibious assault ships, carrier air wings, maritime patrol air wings and functional and specialized air wings and air groups.

Rear admiral
Rear Admiral
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks"...

s 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
    Captain (Royal Navy)
    Captain is a senior officer rank of the Royal Navy. It ranks above Commander and below Commodore and has a NATO ranking code of OF-5. The rank is equivalent to a Colonel in the British Army or Royal Marines and to a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force. The rank of Group Captain is based on the...

     (United Kingdom)
  • Captain (U.S. Navy)
  • Kapitän zur See (Germany)
  • Komandor (Poland)
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