Navy Turning Civilian Support Vessel Into Warship


It is just another diesel-electric plant like those installed on cruise ships and many others. It requires a bit more electrical knowledge and training than normally found on tugboats but a chief or 1st from modern drillship would probably feel right at home.

Your concerns highlight what we have discussed (and the CG continues to ignore) for years - that is is time to declare electric propulsion a mode just as steam, motor, or gas turbine is today. For example, if you want to sail on an electrically propelled ship powered by gas turbines you should have to have formal training and a license endorsed for gas turbine and electric.


The only electric propulsion USN ship I am aware of is the new Zumwalt, DDG-1000 class. She generates 78MW of power for propulsion, ship’s service and new weapons systems.

The USN ships that CODAD, COGAG or CODOG are gear-driven with engines clutchable to the reduction gear and controllable-reversible pitch propellers.


but they were not civilians back in that era…everyone was RN and the term master was more to reflect the skill level of the man filling the position. Obviously the modern merchant vessel “master” got his title from that period of time.

today, a civilian “master” on a ship is recognized by position as being the person in command when we refer to a civilian vessel but now you have a master on a warship who remains a civilian but is under the authority of a uniformed commanding officer. I don’t care if there are mechanisms that make this work but to me the master of a USS vessel is superfluous and should not hold that title unless he does in fact have final authority. I don’t know what a better job title would be for the position but I wouldn’t want the job if I was in my 50’s and the man I was reporting to was some Cdr. in his 40’s. On these mixed USS vessels mentioned here what is the usual rank of the CO?


Always an O-6 (captain).


Now you are aware of the USS Lewis B. Puller

“The ESD/ESB ships are powered by twin-screw, diesel-electric propulsion system integrating four MAN/B&W medium-speed diesel engines, 24MW diesel electric plant, and 2MW azimuthing bow thruster.”


Maybe that is why they named the ship after Chesty Puller instead of Smedley Butler.


Chesty Puller:


What about discipline? Do CIVMARs go to captain’s mast?


Captain’s mast currently only applies to enlisted personnel. CIVMARS are employed by the DOD but are still civilians.


So the CIVMARs are under the civilian master regarding discipline. What about reciving orders? How can a USN officer issue orders to a civilian if failing to obey such orders isn’t 5he final ultimate authority on the vessel?


Yes you certainly are qualified… considering the USS Ponce is the vessel the USS Lewis B. Puller was commissioned to relieve.


On an MSC ship a USN officer can issue all the orders he wants to a civilian but a civilian answers to the CG licensed master. As a CIVMAR I’ve never been issued orders by Navy personnel nor have I heard of it happening. They have separate chains of command. The Navy guys handled CIC and all the secret stuff and the civilians drove the ship under the command of a USCG licensed master. I was only an AB/Bosun Mate so I didn’t have anything to do with the decision making process but I don’t think the civilian captain has much of a say about where to take the ship unless there’s a navigation issue.


Frigates, destroyers and many other ships have CDR (O-5) for CO. If commissioned at age 22, they are likely between 38-43 years old. Larger ships have CAPT (O-6) as CO, and the age is likely 43-50. Mandatory retirement points mean you are unlikely to find a CO in his/her 50’s, unless a hawsepiper.


Ah, yes. Became a USN ship yesterday.


The topic at hand isn’t MSC ships but actual naval vessels with civilians as part of the crew.


Understood. I was never a CIVMAR on a USS ship so I defer to DeckApe.


Follow the chain-of-command. For civilian engineers it goes CO - CHENG - 1st AE… For deck it’s CO - Master - Chief mate… For USN it’s CO - XO…

A USN sailor isn’t in the master’s chain-of-command. A civilian sailor is only in the CO’s chain, not the XO or other officers or chiefs.

They don’t take orders from us. We don’t take orders from them. (Except the CO.)

But if I needed something done by the USN I’d go to the XO and ask him. He usually made it happen. If the XO needed something from the deck he’d come to me and ask and I’d usually make it happen. You know, civil, polite, professional.

Every now and then someone would take umbrage at something. “He told me to do something!” I won’t address stupid people with delicate feelings.


so the master is even cut out when it is an issue concerning machinery? the CHENG answers directly to the USN CO? How much weirder and more backward does this get? The master should be fully and ultimately responsible for the CIVMARS on the ship and what they are responsible for. He is no master at all in my view but a placeholder of a title and little more. And MSC gets men to take these jobs…PATHETIC!


For operations the CHENG answers to to CO. For administrative matters the CHENG answers to the master.

I have zero experience on drill ships but I always figured they had some unusual chain-of-command. I mean, the senior toolpusher doesn’t answer to the master for operations, right?


no he answers to the OIM/rig manager with regards to drilling matters. The way it is supposed to work is the OIM and master are equals with final authority for their individual areas of responsibility. OIM=drilling and all supporting operations and master=deck dept., engineering dept. and stewards dept. just like on any commercial ship.

the only time there is a breakdown is when the master and OIM as at odds and the company will only listen to the OIM and ignores the master entirely. Been there and used the t-shirt to soak up an oily mess afterwards