The Master, as a shipboard manager, is in overall command of the vessel and personnel on board. Being the highest ranking person, his duties and responsibilities covers the whole ship.

Technically, the Master is the “owner’s representative”. He is responsible to relevant Company Managers for all matters pertaining to the safe and efficient operation of the vessel.

Master’s decision must always lead to the safety of the ship, her crew and the environment. That’s the basic. The company expects him to follow his good judgement regardless of any commercial considerations.

A Captain has the overriding authority, as well as the responsibility, to take any actions with respect to shipboard safety and pollution prevention. His decisions can be independent of shore intervention if necessary.

Why? Because he knows the ship and his situation better than someone ashore sitting behind a desk.

However, he may request and expect any and all necessary assistance, deemed appropriate, from the company.


You as the Master…?

Imagine yourself as a Captain of a merchant vessel. What do you expect your job to be?

Would you be someone having the most freedom while enjoying that huge salary among the seafarers on board?

This may be partly true. Having the biggest pay, around USD12,000.00, also equates to biggest responsibilities.

As a Master, you are responsible for implementing aboard ship, the company’s Safety Management System (SMS). You must ensure the strict compliance of company policies, procedures and instructions.

On the security side of the vessel, you also act as Ship Security Officer, as per requirement of ISPS Code.


A Master Mariner in his Chair controlling the ship using bridge equipment, machinery controls and monitors. Source Ibrahim Boran on Pexels

A Master Mariner in his Chair controlling the ship using bridge equipment, machinery controls and monitors.
Source Ibrahim Boran on Pexels


Responsibilities with DPA

You must be fully conversant with the Company’s Safety Management System.

Part of your job is to be fully aware of the identity of the Designated Person Ashore (DPA) of your vessel. Moreover, you must know which persons or parties to contact in case of emergency.

Ships continually experience near miss incidents.

You, as a Captain, is responsible for reporting and analyzing them including any accidents, non-conformities and/ or hazardous occurrences.

With advice and approval from company superintendents, you must recommend and apply corrective action to avoid its repetition.

Yes, its not the best job but it has the best pay. Being a Master Mariner needs email and communication skills too since your job is mostly correspondence.


In meeting these requirements, the Master is responsible for the following:

Responsibilities to Crew

a) Ensuring that all crew members are aware of, and instructed in, the Company’s policies, procedures and instructions.

b) Motivating the crew in observation of such policies while issuing appropriate orders and instructions.

c) Ensuring that safe working practices are in place to minimize risks to the crew, the vessel, environment and the cargo.

d) Master is responsible for the safety of the ship and everything in it. He must guarantee that all personnel under his command are suitably qualified and experienced. Furthermore, they must be properly familiarized with their duties and responsibilities especially during emergencies.

e) The Captain is given authority to promote deserving crew onboard. Thus, he conducts periodic evaluation of the deck crew including the Chief Engineer for their performance.

f) Ensuring discipline and harmony among crew members. Discussing with them their individual problems if they want to.


New Master Mariner given a medal

New Master Mariner given a medal.


Checklists and Record Keeping

g) Issuing “Night Orders” and ensuring that responsible officers duly acknowledge and implement them

h) Maintaining the deck log book while recording all events, accidents and incidents. He is duty-bound to take measures that minimize or avoid hazardous situations.

i) Together with the Officers, he is also responsible in overseeing drills, training for fire fighting, anti-pollution, flooding, abandon and other emergencies. These drills must be in accordance to international and national regulations and Company’s policies. Most importantly, it must be recorded in the appropriate log book.

j) Ensuring that pre-arrival and pre-departure checks are carried out. All navigational instruments, machineries, ballasting, anti-pollution and safety devices must be in satisfactory condition. The Master must maintain records in the appropriate record books.


Responsibilities to Ship

k) Aside from documentations, the Master must also conduct proper and timely maintenance of the vessel.  He must pay particular attention to the condition of the hull, all steel works and safety systems.

l) Safe navigation and operation of the vessel at all stages of the voyage, i.e. from beginning to end. Reviewing / approving the passage plan before the commencement of the voyage.

m) Ensuring that the vessel proceeds to sea in a seaworthy condition and that load line rules are adhered to.

n) Since the vessel goes out to sea for long time, the captain must keep the ship always adequately stored. The ship and crew must have enough provisions and supply including enough bunker for the voyage.

o) He must attend to stability information on board. Distribution of cargo and ballast, especially during loading, discharging and ballasting operations must be closely monitored. He must also ascertain the record keeping of vessel’s stresses and stability.


Master Mariner in the bridge during ship to ship transfer operation.

Master Mariner in the bridge during ship to ship transfer operation.


Responsibilities to Company and External Parties

p) Report to the company on the progress of implementation of the policies and procedures. Recommending appropriate improvements, if required.

q) He must adhere and follow all Flag State, International, Local and Classification Society Rules, Laws and Regulations. Thus, he must check that all ships certificates and publications are valid, advising the company for expiring dates.

r) Master’s duty extends beyond the ships. He must ensure effective communication and working relationships between vessel staffs and shore personnel. This include owners, authorities, surveyors and others having a legitimate business onboard.

s) He must ensure that the vessel performs to the satisfaction of the Owners and Charterers. Thus, he must give all possible assistance to the Charterers, their representatives and authorities.


Do you still want to become a Master Mariner?

The duties and responsibilities of a Master is overwhelming. Aside from that, the process of becoming a captain is also difficult.

However, Captains have the authority to delegate any of the foregoing responsibilities on a day to-day basis.

Thus, his duties are assigned to his Officers whom he considers suitably qualified and experienced. He still retains overall responsibility of the ship at all times.

His job is to “oversee” that everything listed above is followed correctly. That is why he is at the management position on board.

Masters on other merchant ships share this responsibility. The job order is generic. Only documents and the jobs involved are type specific for each ships.



Ship Master’s salary also ranges between USD8,500.00 to USD16,000.00 depending on the company, CBA and ship type.

Remember also that when you sail across high risk areas without armed guards on board and pirates successfully board your vessel, they will immediately look for you!

Is the salary still worth the risk?

That’s another topic someday.

If you want to fast track on becoming a ship master, try enrolling in maritime scholarship programs.

May the winds be in your favor.



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