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Bridge Watchkeeping on a Ship

Basic Principles of Safety at sea while performing Navigational Watch as an officer on watch (OOW) in General:-

  1. Compare compasses, all repeaters must be synchronized with Master Gyro. (Including radar, ECDIS etc.)
  2. Keep proper look out by sight, hearing and all available means (Radar, ARPA, VHF, MF, HF, AIS, binoculars etc.) be alert have good perception of the environment (situational awareness.)
  3. Plot the vessel’s position as per position plotting interval decided by Master or as per company’s instructions.
  4. Keep sharp look out for suspicious boat, especially when plying in pirate infested area/ high risk area.
  5. Position must be double checked by mean of alternative means of position fixing, visual fixes to be taken if possible.
  6. Check UKC even though not in soundings, uncharted dangers may exist.
  7. Acquire all targets and assess the risk of collision. Check for presence of all the vessels in the vicinity and data pertaining to CPA, TCPA, range bearing, bow crossing range, bow crossing distance, visual bearing are of great use.
  8. Use long range scanning for early detection, use higher range to make land fall on radar.
  9. Abide by passage plan, alter course(s) as required, double check the plotted course prior to alteration with due regard of observation of hood seamanship.
  10. Abide by COLREGS, check the effectiveness of the action until other vessel is final past and clear.
  11. All the displays on bridge – tachometer, rudder angle indicator, ROTI, etc, also displays for course steered and course made good, speed through water and speed over ground.
  12. Ensure vessel is not proceeding towards no. go areas.
  13. Try out hand steering once in a watch.
  14. Adjust settings on radar, auto pilot etc, as and when required, adjust the dimmers of various displays as required.
  15. Establish compass error once a watch also after major alteration of course, sights must be taken as per Master’s / company’s instructions.
  16. If sole look out, then assess continuously if additional persons required on bridge.
  17. Reporting to be done to SRS / VTS.
  18. In case of selected ship (VOF), coded msg to be prepared and transmitted.
  19. Reset BNWAS as required.
  20. Abide by instructions pertaining to hold ventilation.
  21. Acknowledge all alarms on bridge as and when required.
  22. Read and sign the navigation & meteorological warnings received on EGC, Navtex, check if any information is relevant to own vessel.
  23. Receive the weather fax and mark as required.
  24. If any routine/ commercial message is received, inform the master accordingly (depending on the content / priority of the message.)
  25. Continuously assess the state of visibility.
  26. Keep eye on state of seas, swell, wind, temperature, relative humidity etc.
  27. Check barometric pressure and compare it against normal pressure of the area vessel is plying.
  28. Look out for distress signal and those in distress.
  29. Look out for dangers to navigation like ice, derelict etc and prepare danger message.
  30. Retard/ advance clocks / calendar as instructed.
  31. Keep track of ballast exchange if in progress.
  32. Keep eyes on crew working on the deck stop any kind of unsafe practices.
  33. Follow the permit system and keep track of those involved, stop any kind of unsafe practices.
  34. Follow instructions pertaining to removal of anchor lashings.
  35. Give notices to Master, E/R (for example 1 hr notice), anchor party, officers, helmsman, look out man as instructed.
  36. Test controls prior arrival as per instructions, make all preparations for arrival port.
  37. Display lights, shapes as required, appropriate flags to be kept ready / hoisted as per local and international rules.
  38. Abide by all instructions for safely board pilot.
  39. Comply with all kind of procedures / check lists as per company’s SMS and additional precautions as per risk assessment.
  40. Call the Master as and when required as per Master’s standing orders, bridge order book or whenever in doubt.

Navigational Watch as an Officer in Restricted Visibility / Congested waters:

  1. Inform the Master: During restricted visibility, it is important that the master is on the bridge. The OOW must constantly assess the state of visibility and inform the master immediately, once Master is on bridge hand over the con to him.
  2. Inform E/R & reduction of speed: OOW should notify the engine room, later on the tachometer must be checked to ensure RPM is being reduced, bring down the ship to maneuvering RPM, in order to comply with COLREGS rule no 19. (Power Driver v/l must have engines ready for immediate maneuver).
  3. Visual Observance: Check all the targets visually, especially smaller targets that may not be picked up by radar.
  4. Change in bridge watch keeping level: It is important that enough man power is present on the bridge, additional officers and rating should be called on the bridge, lookout(s) must be posted at different locations on the ship, Master can be consulted regarding the deployment of look outs, check for any sounding signal from other vessels in the vicinity.
  5. Whistle: Ensure that the whistle is working properly by trying out all the whistlers start blowing the whistle below entering restricted visibility, as the rules applies to vessels navigating in or near the area of restricted visibility.
  6. Navigation Lights: Switch on the navigation lights if not already done, ensure all these lights are burning properly.
  7. Radar & ARPA: Switch on other radar, switch on the ARPA and start acquiring the targets, check AIS targets and compare data of both ARPA and AIS, adjust A/C rain & A/C sea as required.
  8. Hand steering: Revert to hand steering, switch on other steering pump if not done earlier.
  9. Stop works on deck: Stop any job which may prevent sound signal of other vessels to be heard properly. No one to be allowed on main deck, this is to prevent injury to personnel working on open deck in case collision / allusion (physical contact with fixed or floating objects.)
  10. Open Bridge Doors: Ensure that the bridge doors are kept open and is without any obstruction for easy bridge wing access.
  11. VHF: Ensure VHF channel 16 is switched on and is audible enough for all the safety related messages.
  12. Keeping record: Keep record of all activities on the bridge.
  13. Follow All Procedures: Follow all the important procedures as per SMS manual including compliance of any check list for restricted visibility, company instructions for bridge manning level must be complied with.Resting periods must be taken care, all precautions as per risk assessment to be fulfilled.
  14. COLREG Rule -19: Always comply with COLREG Rule -19, if necessary; navigate with extreme caution till risk of collision is over keel.
Coastal and congested waters:- (Including above points)
  1. The largest scale chart on board, suitable for the area and corrected with the latest available information, shall be used. Fixes shall be taken at frequent intervals, and shall be carried out by more than one method whenever circumstances allow. When using ECDIS, appropriate usage code (scale) electronic navigational charts shall be used and the ship’s position shall be checked by an independent means of position fixing at appropriate intervals.
  2. The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall positively identify all relevant navigation marks.

Taking over a watch at sea in good weather:

  1. Be on watch about 15 min before, at night time it helps to adjust the night vision.
  2. Read and sign any orders from master in night order book/ bridge order book, check for any other verbal instructions by the Master / mate.
  3. Inspect all the charts likely to be used in the watch for the following:-
    • Check courses to be steered and distances marked on the chart, also check the courses and distances as per the passage plan for the voyage.
    • Ensure the largest scale chart to be used.
    • Check courses are plotted clear of dangers to surface navigation.
    • Check the no go areas, mark them if not done.
    • Check the unit of depth and that the courses are plotted clear of shallows in accordance with company’s UKC policy. Info regarding draft & display to be available on the bridge.
    • Check estimated time for next alteration of course.
    • Check wheel over positions, abort points & contingency anchorages.
    • Check info related to parallel indexing.
    • Check for land / island on the chart, check radar conspicuous objects, check for approx.. time for the land fall on the radar.
    • Check the nav marks and their characteristics, sector light etc, check general direction of buoyage system.
    • Check the charts to find info regarding geodetic datum, geodetic datum may be unknowns and so significant to surface navigation.
    • Check if any reporting to be done by SRS / VTS.
    • Check for any instructions marked by master regarding notices to E/R, removing anchor lashings etc.
    • Read all relevant notes on the chart:- local magnetic anomalies, correct, submarine exercise areas, firing zones, PSSA, Marpol special areas, information pertaining to offshore installations, sand waves etc.
    • Check the source data, very old survey may be unreliable for the soundings.
    • Check the T & P notices relevant to the chart.
    • Check if any low pressure marked on the chart (including forecast for that low.)
    • Check if clocks/ calendar to be advanced.
    • Refer to routeing chart for all the climatological info, check normal atmospheric pressure for the area where the vessel is navigating.
    • Check last position plotted and means of position fixing, always check the position plotting interval, it should be as per Master’s / company’s instructions.
    • Check tidal info by means of tide tables, tidal stream atlast & tidal diamonds.
  4. Ensure all the relevant publications are available for use.
  5. Read and sigh the navigation & meteorological warnings received on EGC, navtex, check if any information to relevant to own vessel.
  6. Check the updates related to piracy, especially when plying in pirate infested area/ high risk area.
  7. Check the weather fax received during previous watch, check if any information is relevant to own vessel, any weather fax to be received in the watch (time & freq. as per ALRS.)
  8. Check if any commercial message is received and if Master informed.
  9. Check the state of visibility. Check the manning level of the bridge is as per company’s instructions. Manning level may be there for weather conditions.
  10. Ensure watch keeping, ratings are fit for watch, if sole look out, OOW must know how to call them just in case.
  11. Understand the traffic situation, consult the outgoing OOW but must verify visually, also by means binoculars and radar, check ARPA info some targets may have to be acquired if not done by outgoing OOW, always check the manning level of the bridge is as per company’s instructions for traffic situation.
  12. Check CPA/ TCPA limits on ARPA, true vector/ relative vector.
  13. Check ARPA is sea stabilized or ground stabilized.
  14. Check gyro & magnetic courses steered by auto pilot/ auto pilot, course might have altered due to traffic.
  15. If set was allowed, ask when it was allowed, check difference between gyro course and course made good.
  16. Check the tachometer & note down RPM, if CPP check the pitch of the propeller, if on main eng. On UMS mode, the duty eng. Must be known (duty eng roster is sometimes available on bridge).
  17. Check BNWAS to know the dormant period, confirm who the backup officer is.
  18. Ensure VHF is switch on and level of volume is audible enough.
  19. In case of selected ship (VOF), find if coded msg to be prepared.
  20. Check GPS is on which geodetic datum, confirm cross track limits.
  21. Check various settings on ECDIS.
  22. Check VDR/ S-VDR remote module for any alarm.
  23. Check auto pilot for the settings.
  24. Check the radar picture & all settings and all the targets on PPI.
  25. Identify the shore lights, some of vessels may not be visually identified due to shore light.
  26. Check targets on AIS, check info reg. draft & no. of crew is correct.
  27. Adjust all the dimmers as required.
  28. Check smoke detector panel. (no circuits to be kept isolated).
  29. Check status of automatic fire doors / water tight doors (if fitted).
  30. Check if any permit has been issued.
  31. Should inquire as to where crew is working (hold, tank etc.)
  32. Check nav lights are burning, confirm that it is matching with the status of nav light on the sentinel.
  33. Confirm if the compressed air is available for ship’s whistle.
  34. Check that day light signaling lamp is working.
  35. Check operational condition of all nav & GMDSS equipment.
  36. Check if vessel is unusually trimmed or listed.
  37. Ask if any ballast exchange in progress and the planned sequence.
  38. Confirm if compass error established.
  39. Change echo sounder unit same as that on the chart. (if applicable)
  40. Master Gyro to be synchronized with all repeaters.
  41. If daytime check for any sign of visual damages to ship.
  42. Check wind, sea, swell etc.
  43. Check any deck cargo if loaded is missing.
  44. Check appropriate manual inputs for gyro if applicable.
  45. Once outgoing OOW has plotted the position, check the position & cross track error.
  46. Exchange courses, compass compasses.
  47. Check if any action to be taken to abide with COLREGS.
  48. Change settings on auto pilot if required.
  49. Change settings on radar if required.
  50. Comp checklist for taking over watch & relevant procedures in the SMS to be complied with.

P.S.:- Watch should not be taken over when course is being altered for traffic or in case of a way point.


Responsibility of the OOW in the following in circumstances:  Approaching a port

Responsibility of the OOW – Approaching a port:

  1. The Master and all navigational watchkeeping officers should, well before hand, thoroughly study the Sailing Directions (Often referred to as the Pilot Book) and the chart of the approaches to the port.
  2. The passage plan for arrival at the port should be prepared and kept handy so that the OOW would be able to monitor the navigation of the vessel at all times, even when the Master or the pilot is directing the process. This serves as a second check on the navigational safety of the ship.
  3. Communicate to the arrival port, by VHF, the ETA of the ship as and when instructed by the Master.
  4. Inform the Master at the time indicated by him.
  5. Give notice to the engine room at the time or charted position, as instructed by the Master. Inform Master when this has been done.
  6. Synchronise clocks of the bridge, the engine room and the auto-recorder of the bridge – ER telegraph.
  7. Call up a seaman to act as the bridge messenger.
  8. Change over to hand steering.
  9. Switch on the other steering motor also.
  10. Try out the steering system. After a long sea passage, it is necessary to try out the steering system about two hours before reaching confined waters. This done by:
  11. Changing over to hand steering and then putting the helm hardover to one side and then the other whilst using one steering motor.
  12. The same is then repeated while using the other steering motor.
  13. If the ship is fitted with electro-hydraulic steering system, it is necessary to try out the steering on the electric and the hydraulic systems separately.
  14. On ships fitted with a shaft generator, it would normally be necessary to inform the Engine Room before making sudden helm movements in order to prevent the generator from tripping off. If this happens, a diesel generator would automatically come on but, in the intervening couple of minutes, there would be no electric supply on the ship.
  15. Take in the log (retract log sensor).
  16. If daytime, keep flags ready – Red Ensign, courtesy flag, house flag, G, Q, H, etc.
  17. If night time, try out lights of Christmas Tree by switching them on momentarily.
  18. Try out pneumatic whistle and electric klaxon by giving a very short blast on each.
  19. Rig up the daylight signaling lamp and try it out on the mains and also the battery.
  20. Check communication system to the forward and aft stations and to the steering gear compartment.
  21. Have pilot ladder, life buoy with rope attached, heaving line and boat rope kept ready to be rigged (also flood light at night).
  22. Give adequate notice to the crew for coming on arrival stations.
  23. Electric power to be switched on to the windlass.
  24. Keep a record of all events and their timings in the Bridge Notebook. The important entries are to be copied into the Mates Logbook later on.
  25. Keep ‘Pilot information card’ ready for presentation to the pilot as soon as he enters the wheelhouse. This card contains the necessary information regarding the ship’s particulars, navigational equipment, etc. in a standard format as given in the ‘Bridge Procedure Guide’ published by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). This card is separate from, and in addition to, the ‘Wheel-house Poster’ displayed in the wheelhouse.
  26. After ringing Stand-By Below (SBB) on the telegraph, the Master would try out the engine by going astern. An entry, ‘Engine tried out astern’ should be made in the Bridge Notebook and later copied into the Ship’s Logbook.
  27. Anti-pilferage watches to be arranged on deck to commence before arrival port.
  28. While going alongside, the pump room blowers should be switched off. This is to prevent sparks from the funnels of tugs used from being drawn into the pump room.

Taking over an anchor watch:-

  1. Read instructions from Master or Chief Officer.
  2. Check position of own vessel to ensure she is not dragging anchor.
  3. Check UKC, maintain VHF watch for instruction.
  4. Check distance of all other vessel’s at anchorage. Look out for other vessel’s dragging.
  5. Look out for vessel’s approaching the anchorage area.
  6. Check the wind, sea, swell, continuously asses the visibility.
  7. Read & sign all met warning’s & nav warnings received during watch.
  8. Establish compass error.
  9. Check SAT-C for routine messages notify Master accordingly.
  10. If bunker barge expected, keep look out for the same, if bunker barge is already alongside, keep track of all timings, ensure no sheen is visible, if so inform master.
  11. Keep look out for bunker overflow.
  12. Abide by all ISPS procedures, do not let unauthorized vessel(s) be alongside own vessel.
  13. Ensure appropriate lights & shapes are displayed.
  14. Ensure appropriate flags are hoisted/ lowered.
  15. Keep eye on crew working on deck, stop any kind of unsafe practices, abide by all international & local regs.
  16. Some boats/ launches may be expected carrying stores, crew, port officials, surveyors, auditors, inspectors, ship chandler etc., ensures these boats are tended to safety.
  17. Test the controls as instructed.
  18. Try out m/eng as instructed.
  19. Keep track of vessel berthing/ unberthing intended berth.
  20. Receive instructions from VTS/ Ports Control & notify all parties as instructed.
  21. Follow Master’s standing orders, bridge orders, call Master & doubt.
  22. Abide by company’s sms procedures, checklists and all additional measures as per Risk assessments.

Taking over a Navigational watch at sea, in restricted visibility / Taking over a navigational watch at night, while underway at sea:

  1. Know your Ship inside-out: An efficient navigating officer must know each and every aspect of his or her ship in order to prevent any kind of accident. From dimensions to the characteristics of the ships, the officer should know how the ship will behave under different circumstances. For restricted visibility situation, it is important that the OOW know the stopping distance of the ship at any particular RPM in order to control the ship during emergencies.
  2. Inform the Master:- During restricted visibility, it is important that the master is on the bridge. The OOW must call or inform the master regarding the navigating condition. The officer should also inform the engine room and ask the duty engineer to man the engine room in case it is on “unmanned” mode.
  3. Appoint Adequate Man Power: It is important that enough man power is present on the bridge in order to keep a close watch on the ship’s course. Additional personnel must be appointed as “lookout” at different locations on the ship. If there is traffic in the area, the officer must inform the engine room to have enough manpower so that the engine is also ready for immediate maneuvering.
  4. Keep the Fog Horn Ready:- Ensure that the fog horn is working properly for the restricted area. If the horn is air operated, drain the line prior to opening the air to the horn.
  5. Reduce Speed: Reduce the speed of the ship depending on the visibility level. If the visibility is less, bring down the ship to maneuvering RPM.
  6. Ensure Navigation Equipment and Light Are Working Properly: Ensure that all important navigating equipment and navigation lights are working properly during restricted visibility. The OOW must ensure that the navigation charts are properly checked for correct routeing and a good radar watch is carried out.
  7. Stop All Other Works: Though it’s obvious, but never multi-task during restricted visibility even if there are more than sufficient people present on the bridge. Also stop all other deck work and order the crew to go to their respective rooms. This is to prevent injury to personnel working on open deck in case collision or grounding takes place.
  8. Open/Close Bridge Doors: Ensure that the bridge door is kept open and is without any obstruction for easy bridge wing access (Considering that the bridge wing is not enclosed). Also, in case of dust or sand storm, close all the bridge openings.
  9. Shut Ventilation: If the ship is passing through a sand storm, the ventilation fans and accommodation/ engine room ports must be closed to avoid sand particles from entering bridge, accommodation and engine room.
  10. Follow All Procedures: Follow all the important procedures for restricted visibility as mentioned in COLREG Rule -19.  Also monitor channel 16 in the radio and ensure that all important parameters of the ship such as latitude and longitude, time, speed etc. are noted in the log book.

Entries you need to make in the deck log book during a watch at sea.

  1. The position of the ship in Latitude and Longitude at different intervals.
  2. Time to be noted when Navigation marks are passed
  3. Time,  details and reason if there is any course alteration
  4. Meteorological and weather conditions including details of sea, swell etc along with the Beaufort scale that is prevalent
  5. Movement of the ship at sea including rolling, pitching, heaving etc
  6. Details of any abnormal condition
  7. Speed of the propulsion engine and speed of the ship in knots
  8. If involved in any kind of accidents like stranding, grounding etc. then details for the same
  9. Entry to be made if any physical contact with floating object or vessel is made
  10. Details of the distress signal received
  11. Entry for what kind of assistance is given to the distress signal sender
  12. If salvage operation is performed, complete details to be entered
  13. If there is an oil spill or other pollution accident, position of the ship, time and complete incident to be recorded
  14. Record of general watch routines performed including fire watch
  15. Time of arrival and departure and ETA.
  16. If berthing or anchoring is planned, time for the same to be noted.
  17. Heading and Compass error
  18. Drills and training carried out as well as inspections with regard to stowaways and security related measures
  19. Record of stores, fresh water etc received
  20. Also, any other entries as required by master, company, and administration should also be recorded in the log book without fail.

Additionally,

  • An original page should never be removed from the Log Book. This is because the Deck Log Book is used as official evidence in case of an unfortunate event
  • Only official designations and symbols to be used
  • If there is insufficient space in the Remarks section, insert a gummed paper strip instead of making the log book clumsy. This shouldn’t be necessary as there is ideal space to record everything in precise language

Control Testing:

Within twelve hours before departure of the ship from port, following systems to be checked and tested:

  • Main steering gear and system
  • Auxiliary steering gear and system
  • The remote control systems of steering gear
  • The steering position indicator on the navigation bridge
  • The emergency power supply to one of the steering unit
  • The rudder angle indicators showing actual position of the rudder
  • Power failure alarms for the remote steering gear control system
  • Power unit failure alarms for the steering gear unit
  • Automatic isolating arrangements and other automatic equipment

Following listed procedure must be included along with the check and tests described above:

  1. The full movement of the rudder as per the required capabilities of the steering gear system present onboard.
  2. A visual inspection of all the linkages and connection in the steering gear.
  3. The means of communication between the steering gear room and navigational bridge must always be operational

Other Important requirements related to steering gear are:

  • A block diagram displaying the steering system, the changeover procedure from remote to local steering and steering gear power unit indicating the emergency supply unit must be clearly mentioned.
  • This diagram must be pasted in Navigation Bridge and steering gear compartment
  • All officers and crew concerned with the operation and maintenance of steering gear system must be familiar with changeover procedure from one to other system
  • Emergency steering drills to be carried out inn not more than three months period.
  • Date and time for the tests, checks and drills carried out in steering gear system must be recorded.

Procedure for testing of controls prior departure from port:

Steering Gear – Testing and Drills: Within twelve hours before departure of the ship from port, following systems to be checked and tested:

  • Main steering gear and system.
  • Auxiliary steering gear and system.
  • The remote control systems of steering gear.
  • The steering position indicator on the navigation bridge.
  • The emergency power supply to one of the steering unit.
  • The rudder angle indicators showing actual position of the rudder.
  • Power failure alarms for the remote steering gear control system.
  • Power unit failure alarms for the steering gear unit.
  • Automatic isolating arrangements and other automatic equipment.

Following listed procedure must be included along with the check and tests described above:

  1. The full movement of the rudder as per the required capabilities of the steering gear system present onboard.
  2. A visual inspection of all the linkages and connection in the steering gear.
  3. The means of communication between the steering gear room and navigational bridge must always be operational.

Other Important requirements related to steering gear are:

  • A block diagram displaying the steering system, the changeover procedure from remote to local steering and steering gear power unit indicating the emergency supply unit must be clearly mentioned.
  • This diagram must be pasted in Navigation Bridge and steering gear compartment
  • All officers and crew concerned with the operation and maintenance of steering gear system must be familiar with changeover procedure from one to other system
  • Emergency steering drills to be carried out inn not more than three months period.
  • Date and time for the tests, checks and drills carried out in steering gear system must be recorded.

Procedure for embarking a Pilot:

Procedures for pilotage – Embarkation & disembarkation:-

  • Deck Officer will be designated, who shall be responsible for the safe embarkation and disembarkation of the pilot.
  • He shall be responsible for verifying the safe condition, safe access and appropriate rigging of the pilot ladder / combination ladder (accommodation ladder) per local requirement and ensure that a heaving line and lighted life buoy is available at the point of embarkation or disembarkation.
  • He shall stay in contact with the bridge and escort the pilot to and from the bridge.
  • The Master shall further assure the safety of the pilot during embarking or disembarking by providing a good lee to the pilot boat.

Various occasions when you should call Master on the bridge while keeping navigation watch:

The Officer on Watch (OOW) when on duty is in charge of the ship’s navigation and safety. While on the bridge, he is the representative of the ship’s master and must carry out all the orders as put forth by the latter.

While navigating the ship, the officer in charge has to take independent decisions to ensure a smooth passage of the ship. However, every shipping company provides a list of situations, wherein the officer on watch must call the ship’s master to the bridge to avoid any kind of danger for the ship.

These instructions are given in the shipboard operational procedures, and it is imperative for every OOW to follow them.

Below is the checklist of situations, wherein the officer on watch should call the ship’s master:-

  • Danger to the ship because of traffic or movement of other ships
  • Danger to ship or ship’s stability because of heavy weather
  • Malfunctioning of alarms or signalling equipment
  • On encountering restricted visibility
  • Difficulty in maintaining a proper course
  • Breakdown of propulsion system, steering gear, or machinery
  • Malfunctioning of radio equipment
  • During maneuvering
  • On sighting land or navigation mark that can turn out to be dangerous
  • Breakdown of essential navigational equipment
  • On encountering navigational hazards such as rocks, icebergs, or shipwrecks
  • Failure to sight land or navigation mark
  • Sudden change in sounding or readings at inappropriate time
  • On encountering suspicious ship or boat heading towards the ship
  • On receiving emergency or important message from nearby port or ship
  • On encountering any suspicious floating object in piracy affected area

Apart from the above mentioned situations, the officer in charge should always call the master in case of an emergency or when in doubt about a particular situation.

Once on the ship, the master would take the control of the ship. This has to be recorded in the ship’s logbook.


Take over a bridge watch, during night and while navigating in piracy prone areas:

  1. Be on watch about 15 min before, at night time it helps to adjust the night vision.
  2. Read and sign any orders from master in night order book / bridge order book.
  3. Inspect all the charts likely to be used in the watch for the following:-
    1. Check courses to be steered and distances marked on the chart, also check the courses and distances as per the passage plan for the voyage.
    2. Ensure the largest scale chart to be used.
    3. Check courses are plotted clear of dangers to surface navigation.
    4. Check the no go areas, mark them if not done.
    5. Check the unit of depth and that the courses are plotted clear of shallows in accordance with company’s UKC policy. Info regarding draft & display to be available on the bridge.
    6. Check estimated time for next alteration of course.
    7. Check wheel over positions, abort points & contingency anchorages.
    8. Check info related to parallel indexing.
    9. Check for land/ island on the chart, check radar conspicuous objects, check for approx time for the land fall on the radar.
    10. Check the nav marks and their characteristics, sector light etc, check general direction of buoyage system.
    11. Check the charts to find info regarding geodetic datum, geodetic datum may be unknown and so significant to surface navigation.
    12. Check if any reporting to be done to SRS/ VTS.
    13. Check for any instructions marked by master regarding notices to E/R, removing anchor lashings etc.
    14. Read all relevant notes on the chart:- local magnetic anomalies, current, submarine exercise areas, firing zones, PSSA, Marpol special areas, information pertaining to offshore installations, sand waves etc.
    15. Check the source data, very old survey may be unreliable for the soundings.
    16. Check the T & P notices relevant to the chart.
    17. Check if any low pressure marked on the chart. (including forecast for that low.)
    18. Check if clocks / calendar to be advanced.
    19. Refer to the routeing chart for all the climatological infos, check the normal atmospheric pressure for the area where the vessel is navigating.
    20. Check last position plotted and means of position fixing fixing, always check the position plotting interval, it should be as per Masters / company’s instructions.
    21. Check tidal info by means of tide tables, tidal stream atlast & tidal diamonds.
  4. Ensure all the relevant publications are available for use.
  5. Read and sign the navigation & meteorological warnings rcvd on EGC, navtex, check if any information to relevant to own vessel.
  6. Check the updates related to piracy, especially when plying in pirate infested area/ high risk area.
  7. Check the weather fax rcvd during previous watch, check if any information is relevant to own vessel, any weather fax to be recvd in the watch (time & freq as per ALRS.)
  8. Check if any commercial message is recvd and if Master informed.
  9. Check the state of visibility. Check the manning level of the bridge is as per company’s instructions. Manning level may be there for weather conditions.
  10. Ensure watch keeping ratings are fit for watch, if sole look out, OOW must know how to call them just in case.
  11. Understand the traffic situation, consult the outgoing OOW but must verify visually, also by means binoculars and radar, check ARPA info, some targets may have to be acquired if not done by outgoing OOW, always check the manning level of the bridge is as per company’s instructions for traffic situation.
  12. Check CPA/TCPA limits on ARPA, true vector / relative vector.
  13.  Check ARPA is sea stabilized or ground stabilized.
  14. Check gyro & magnetic courses steered by auto pilot / auto pilot, course might have altered due to traffic.
  15. If set was allowed, ask when it was allowed, check difference between gyro course and course made good.
  16. Check the tachometer & note down RPM, if CPP check the pitch of the propeller, if on main eng on UMS mode, the duty eng must be known, (duty eng roster is sometimes available on bridge)
  17. Check BNWAS to know the dormant period, confirm who is the back up officer.
  18. Ensure VHF is switched on and level of volume is audible enough.
  19. In case of selected ship (VOF), find if coded msg to be prepared.
  20. Check GPS is on which geodetic datum, confirm cross track limits.
  21. Check various settings on ECDIS.
  22. Check VDR/ S-VDR remote module for any alarm.
  23. Check auto pilot for the settings.
  24. Check the radar picture & all settings and all the targets on PPI.
  25. Identify the shore lights, some of vessels may not be visually identified due to shore light.
  26. Check targets on AIS, check info reg draft & no. of crew is correct.
  27. Adjust all the dimmers as required.
  28. Check smoke detector panel. (no circuits to be kept isolated)
  29. Check status of automatic fire doors / water tight doors (if fitted)
  30. Check if any permit has been issued.
  31. Should inquire as to where crew is working. (hold, tank etc).
  32. Check nav lights are burning, confirm that it is matching with the status of nav light on the sentinel.
  33. Confirm if the compressed air is available for ship’s whistle.
  34. Check that day light signaling lamp is working.
  35. Check operational condition of all nav & GMDSS equipment.
  36. Check if vessel is unusually trimmed or listed.
  37. Ask if any ballast exchange in progress and the planned sequence.
  38. Confirm if compass error established.
  39. Change echo sounder unit same as that on the chart. (if applicable)
  40. Master Gyro to be synchronized with all repeaters.
  41. If daytime check for any sign of visual damages to ship.
  42. Check wind, sea, swell etc.
  43. Check any deck cargo if loaded is missing.
  44. Check appropriate manual inputs for gyro is applicable.
  45. Once outgoing OOW has plotted the position, check the position & cross track error.
  46. Exchange courses, compare compasses.
  47. Check if any action to be taken to abide with COLREGS.
  48. Change settings an auto pilot if required.
  49. Change settings on radar if required.
  50. Comp c/list for taking over watch & relevant procedures in the SMS to be complied with.

PS:- Watch should not be taken over when course is being altered for traffic or in case of a way point.


Entries to be made in the radar Log at the end of your watch at sea:

  • A daily entry about the status of equipment.
  • Any problems picking up targets or interference, it is meant to track problems for the person who has to trouble shoot problems.
  • Maintenance of equipment.
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