Who drives the ship when the captain is not on the bridge?
Above: Captain Charles Teige at the bridge wing controls on Liberty of the Seas.
Below: Officers preparing to leave port on Liberty of the Seas.
The quartermaster at the wheel of Liberty of the Seas.
During a cruise, it is not uncommon to see the ship’s captain at receptions, walking around the ship or talking with passengers. This often causes passengers to wonder who is on the bridge driving the ship?
Actually, it is not the captain’s job to drive the ship. Rather, the captain is like the CEO of a company. He or she is ultimately in charge of everything onboard.
On most ships, three senior officers report directly to the captain The hotel director is in charge of all of the guest services including the accommodations, the dining, and the entertainment. Most of the crew is within the hotel director’s department.
The chief engineer is in charge of all things technical. This includes the engines and the power systems but also includes such things as the ship’s information technology and its waste disposal systems.
Second in command of the ship is the staff captain (also sometimes called deputy captain). This officer is in charge of the bridge and the navigation of the ship. He or she is also in charge of the sailors who maintain the ship and who do things like drive the ship’s tenders. On many ships the security operation also reports to the staff captain.
Most of the time when a ship is at sea, it is being driven by its computers on autopilot. This does not mean that the bridge is empty, however. Typically, two of the navigation officers who report to the staff captain are there to monitor the ship’s progress and to take over from the computer if circumstances so demand. Often, there is also a sailor surveying the horizon.
When the ship is entering or leaving port, the population of the bridge increases several fold. The captain, the staff captain and several of the navigation officers all have responsibilities, monitoring the ship’s systems.
A sailor acts as quartermaster and physically steers the ship. He follows orders given by whoever has the “con,” usually the captain. Sometimes, the pilot will give orders to the quartermaster.
When the ship is docking or undocking, the captain will take physical control of the ship, placing his hands on the controls. Sometimes, he or she will delegate this task to the staff captain or another senior navigation officer so that he or she will get some experience. However, in such instances, the officer acts under the captain’s close supervision.
Cruise ship FAQs - - Who drives the ship when the captain is not on the bridge?