Captain a Barge.

Mar 11, 2021News Updates Video, Working on the River

Ship captains and mates direct and navigate all kinds of ships.

Tow or master Captains are in command of their tow and barges. They oversee the loading and unloading of cargo. They set the course and speed of the vessel and steer it to avoid hazards and other vessels. They use equipment such as depth finders and radar to watch for hazards.


They gather information from lighthouses, buoys, and lights. Captains determine the ship’s position using:

  • Navigational aids
  • Charts
  • Observations

Ship captains direct the crew who steer the ship, operate the engines, and signal to other vessels. They direct those who perform maintenance or operate towing or dredging gear.

Captains check that proper procedures and safety practices are followed. They make sure that machinery and equipment are in working order. They often run safety drills with the crew.

Captains on larger tows have deck officers or mates as assistants. Captains interview, hire, and instruct mates. They assign mates to watches and living quarters.

Mates oversee operation of the vessel for part of the day when the captain is off duty.

Captains keep logs and records of the ship’s movements and cargo. They may purchase supplies while ships are docked.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.