The ship's master (short for licensed master mariner), or captain, is responsible for the overall operation and maintenance of the ship, including the crew. The crew is organized like this:
The master is the ultimate authority aboard ship. He/she controls the movement of the ship and is responsible for the safety of the ship and all personnel embarked. The master is employed by and reports to the operating company. In this regard, the master is equivalent to a vice president in charge of a major division of a company. Other responsibilities include:
- Provides lifeboat and emergency station assignments to the crew and all embarked military personnel.
- Operates and maintains the ship to Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping standards.
- Acts as disbursing officer for all embarked merchant marine officers and crew.
- Ensures the ship is operated within the terms of its insurance coverage and its time charter with the Navy.
The chief engineer is also a captain by rank in the merchant marine. His/her responsibilities include:
- Overseeing all propulsion and related auxiliary systems.
- Maintaining the cargo handling system.
- Periodic testing of cranes, ramps, hatches, elevators and other mechanics of the ship to ensure their operability.
- Inventory control and issuance of all ship's spare parts.
The chief mate aboard ships in the MPS program is generally required to be a licensed master mariner. As chief mate, he/she:
- Oversees all deck and cargo operations.
- Is equivalent to an executive officer on a naval combatant.
- Provides a safety and emergency training to the crew and all embarked personnel