Captain at sea

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Not to be confused with Sea captain.
Naval officer ranks
Flag officers:

Admiral of the fleetFleet admiralGrand admiral
AdmiralGeneral admiral
Vice admiralSquadron vice-admiralLieutenant admiral
Rear admiralCounter admiralDivisional admiral
CommodoreFlotilla admiral

Senior officers:

CaptainCapt at seaCapt of sea and warShip-of-the-line Capt
CommanderFrigate captain
Lieutenant commanderCorvette captain

Junior officers:

Captain lieutenantLieutenantShip-of-the-line lieutenant
Frigate lieutenantLieutenant (junior grade)Sub-lieutenant
Corvette lieutenantEnsign

Captain at sea (German: Kapitän zur See; Dutch: kapitein-ter-zee) is a naval rank corresponding to command of a ship-of-the-line or capital ship.

The equivalent in other navies is ship-of-the-line captain or the naval rank of captain in the Commonwealth of Nations and USA.


Naval Ensign of Germany.svg
Kapitän zur See
MDS 53 Kapitän zur See Trp.svg MDJA 53 Kapitän zur See Trp Lu.svg MA OG5 53 Kapitän zur See.svg
shoulder board / cuff title / mounting loop
Rank insignia German officer rank
Rank group Commissioned officers
Navy Kapitän zur See
Army / Air Force Oberst
Army Colonel
Navy Captain (naval)

Kapitän zur See, short KptzS/KZS, (en: Captain at sea) was and is the highest staff officer rank in the Kaiserliche Marine and the German Navy, corresponding to command of a ship-of-the-line or capital ship. It is equivalent to Oberst in the Bundeswehr or to Flottenarzt/Oberstarzt, Flottenapotheker/Oberstapotheker and Oberstveterinär in the Zentraler Sanitätsdienst der Bundeswehr.

Its rank insignia, worn on the sleeves and shoulders, are one five-pointed star above four gold stripes (without the star when the executive curl are worn). It is grade A16 or B3 (when deployed to a higher position than CO of a ship) in the pay rules of the Federal Ministry of Defence. Holders of the rank commanded or command capital ships and heavy cruisers, naval schools, and the staff-officer sections of all training-schools - even the Gorch Fock is commanded by a captain at sea.

junior Rank
Bundeswehr Logo Marine with lettering.svg
German Navy officer rank
Kapitän zur See
senior Rank


In the Royal Netherlands Navy the rank of kapitein-ter-zee is the third grade of superior officer, equivalent to colonel in the land-forces. His insignia is made up of four bands and he commands a capital ship or a shore establishment (until recently, a kapitein-ter-zee commanded the Onderzeedienst and Mijnendienst, the Netherlands Navy's submarine and mine-laying training establishments). Smaller vessels such as destroyers and frigates are commanded by a kapitein-luitenant ter zee.

Until recently flagships of the Netherlands Navy (such as Tromp-class frigates) were also commanded by a kapitein-ter-zee. Currently De Zeven Provinciën-class frigates are commanded by a kapitein-luitenant-ter-zee.

See also[edit]

  • Flag of Belgium.svg - Kapitein-ter-zee/ Capitaine de vaisseau
  • Flag of Canada.svg - Ship-of-the-line captain/ Capitaine de vaisseau
  • Flag of Croatia.svg - kapetan bojnog broda
  • Flag of France.svg - Capitaine de vaisseau
  • Flag of Italy.svg - capitano di vascello
  • Flag of the Netherlands.svg - Kapitein ter zee
  • Flag of Portugal.svg - Capitão de Mar e Guerra
  • Flag of Spain.svg - Capitán de Navío