I) Maintain a Safe Navigational Watch

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Maintain a Safe Navigational Watch

 
Keeping a Navigational Watch

Responsibilities regarding avoidance of Collision and Grounding

The officer of the watch is the eyes and the brain of a ship – in the absence of the Master who may not be available on the Bridge always – though he may be called.

This important aspect should not be forgotten by the OOW. He is the only person who would have to take a decision to avoid immediate danger and has to also take the step to call up the Master for taking over when he cannot handle the situation – this should not be looked upon as in competence rather a call well in time would be much appreciated rather than have a collision.

The OOW may not face many decision making instances everyday, and if the scenario does appear so, then the Master would be on hand to lend advise.

On normal navigation duties the OOW has to strictly follow the Rules of the Road (COLREG’s) and should not deviate from the spirit.

A casual attitude would be disastrous, in case of any doubt he should call the Master.

All actions to avoid a collision and stranding should be made as stated in the Rules, well in time. So that the OOW would be able to assess his action and have adequate time to take further actions if the action is not helpful.

The OOW should at all times have the Company’s Order book (for Navigation) as well as the Master’s standing orders open on the Chart table.

This may be looked upon as frivolous but in case of any doubt about a situation, these lines of instructions help in making a decision.

One of the most important thing is to remember that at all times the lives of many depend on him to make the correct decision. If the OOW feels he is unwell to perform his duties he has to bring the same to the Masters notice and asked to be relieved. Some cases when all the OOW and the Master are overworked, then he has to put in a special effort to rise above the situation. Rule Six and seven should be never forgotten and should be form the back bone of all navigating decisions.

Watch keeping at sea

The following principles shall be observed to ensure that safe watches are maintained at all times.

The master of every ship is bound to ensure that watch keeping arrangements are adequate for maintaining a safe navigational watch. Under the master’s general direction, the officers of the navigational watch are responsible for navigating the ship safely during their periods of duty, when they will be particularly concerned with avoiding collision and stranding.

Protection of marine environment

The master, officers and ratings shall be aware of the serious effects of operational or accidental pollution of the marine environment and shall take all possible precautions to prevent such pollution, particularly within the framework of relevant international and port regulations.

Principles to be observed in keeping a navigational watch

The officer in charge of the navigational watch is the master’s representative and is primarily responsible at all times for the safe navigation of the ship and for complying with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972.

Look-out

A proper look-out shall be maintained at all times in compliance with rule 5 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 and shall serve the purpose of:

1. maintaining a continuous state of vigilance by sight and hearing as well as by all other available means, with regard to any significant change in the operating environment;
2. fully appraising the situation and the risk of collision, stranding and other dangers to navigation; and
3. detecting ships or aircraft in distress, shipwrecked persons, wrecks, debris and other hazards to safe navigation.

The look-out must be able to give full attention to the keeping of a proper look-out and no other duties shall be undertaken or assigned which could interfere with that task.

The duties of the look-out and helmsperson are separate and the helmsperson shall not be considered to be the look-out while steering, except in small ships where an unobstructed all-round view is provided at the steering position and there is no impairment of night vision or other impediment to the keeping of a proper look-out. The officer in charge of the navigational watch may be the sole look-out in daylight provided that on each such occasion:

1. the situation has been carefully assessed and it has been established without doubt that it is safe to do so;
2. full account has been taken of all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

- state of weather,
- visibility,
- traffic density,
- proximity of dangers to navigation, and
- the attention necessary when navigating in or near traffic separation schemes; and

3. assistance is immediately available to be summoned to the bridge when any change in the situation so requires.

In determining that the composition of the navigational watch is adequate to ensure that a proper look-out can continuously be maintained, the master shall take into account all relevant factors, including those described in this section of the Code, as well as the following factors:

1. visibility, state of weather and sea;
2. traffic density, and other activities occurring in the area in which the vessel is navigating;
3. the attention necessary when navigating in or near traffic separation schemes or other routeing measures;
4. the additional workload caused by the nature of the ship’s functions, immediate operating requirements and anticipated manoeuvres;
5. the fitness for duty of any crew members on call who are assigned as members of the watch;
6. knowledge of and confidence in the professional competence of the ship’s officers and crew;
7. the experience of each officer of the navigational watch, and the familiarity of that officer with the ship’s equipment, procedures, and manoeuvring capability;
8. activities taking place on board the ship at any particular time, including radio communication activities and the availability of assistance to be summoned immediately to the bridge when necessary;
9. the operational status of bridge instrumentation and controls, including alarm systems;
10. rudder and propeller control and ship manoeuvring characteristics;
11. the size of the ship and the field of vision available from the conning position;
12. the configuration of the bridge, to the extent such configuration might inhibit a member of the watch from detecting by sight or hearing any external development; and
13. any other relevant standard, procedure or guidance relating to watch keeping arrangements and fitness for duty which has been adopted by the Organization.


Watch arrangements
The following shall be taken into account:

1. at no time shall the bridge be left unattended;
2. weather conditions, visibility and whether there is daylight or darkness;
3. proximity of navigational hazards which may make it necessary for the officer in charge of the watch to carry out additional navigational duties;
4. use and operational condition of navigational aids such as radar or electronic position-indicating devices and any other equipment affecting the safe navigation of the ship;
5. whether the ship is fitted with automatic steering;
6. whether there are radio duties to be performed;
7. unmanned machinery space (UMS) controls, alarms and indicators provided on the bridge, procedures for their use and limitations; and
8. any unusual demands on the navigational watch that may arise as a result of special operational circumstances.


Taking over the watch
The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall not hand over the watch to the relieving officer if there is reason to believe that the latter is not capable of carrying out the watch keeping duties effectively, in which case the master shall be notified.

The relieving officer shall ensure that the members of the relieving watch are fully capable of performing their duties, particularly as regards their adjustment to night vision. Relieving officers shall not take over the watch until their vision is fully adjusted to the light conditions.

Prior to taking over the watch relieving officers shall satisfy themselves as to the ship’s estimated or true position and confirm its intended track, course and speed, and UMS controls as appropriate and shall note any dangers to navigation expected to be encountered during their watch.

Relieving officers shall personally satisfy themselves regarding the:

1. standing orders and other special instructions of the master relating to navigation of the ship;
2. position, course, speed and draught of the ship;
3. prevailing and predicted tides, currents, weather, visibility and the effect of these factors upon course and speed;
4 procedures for the use of main engines to manoeuvre when the main engines are on bridge control; and
5 navigational situation, including but not limited to:
5.1 the operational condition of all navigational and safety equipment being used or likely to be used during the watch,
5.2 the errors of gyro and magnetic compasses,
5.3 the presence and movement of ships in sight or known to be in the vicinity,
5.4 the conditions and hazards likely to be encountered during the watch, and
5.5 the possible effects of heel, trim, water density and squat on under keel clearance.

If at any time the officer in charge of the navigational watch is to be relieved when a manoeuvre or other action to avoid any hazard is taking place, the relief of that officer shall be deferred until such action has been completed.

Performing the navigational watch
The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall:

1. keep the watch on the bridge;
2. in no circumstances leave the bridge until properly relieved;
3. continue to be responsible for the safe navigation of the ship, despite the presence of the master on the bridge, until informed specifically that the master has assumed that responsibility and this is mutually understood; and
4. notify the master when in any doubt as to what action to take in the interest of safety.

During the watch the course steered, position and speed shall be checked at sufficiently frequent intervals, using any available navigational aids necessary, to ensure that the ship follows the planned course.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall have full knowledge of the location and operation of all safety and navigational equipment on board the ship and shall be aware and take account of the operating limitations of such equipment.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall not be assigned or undertake any duties which would interfere with the safe navigation of the ship.

Officers of the navigational watch shall make the most effective use of all navigational equipment at their disposal.

When using radar, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall bear in mind the necessity to comply at all times with the provisions on the use of radar contained in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, in force.

In cases of need the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall not hesitate to use the helm, engines and sound signalling apparatus. However, timely notice of intended variations of engine speed shall be given where possible or effective use made of UMS engine controls provided on the bridge in accordance with the applicable procedures.

Officers of the navigational watch shall know the handling characteristics of their ship, including its stopping distances, and should appreciate that other ships may have different handling characteristics.

A proper record shall be kept during the watch of the movements and activities relating to the navigation of the ship.

It is of special importance that at all times the officer in charge of the navigational watch ensures that a proper look-out is maintained. In a ship with a separate chart room the officer in charge of the navigational watch may visit the chart room, when essential, for a short period for the necessary performance of navigational duties, but shall first ensure that it is safe to do so and that proper look-out is maintained.

Operational tests of shipboard navigational equipment shall be carried out at sea as frequently as practicable and as circumstances permit, in particular before hazardous conditions affecting navigation are expected. Whenever appropriate, these tests shall be recorded. Such tests shall also be carried out prior to port arrival and departure.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall make regular checks to ensure that:

1. the person steering the ship or the automatic pilot is steering the correct course;
2. the standard compass error is determined at least once a watch and, when possible, after any major alteration of course; the standard and gyro-compasses are frequently compared and repeaters are synchronized with their master compass;
3. the automatic pilot is tested manually at least once a watch;
4. the navigation and signal lights and other navigational equipment are functioning properly;
5. the radio equipment is functioning properly in accordance with paragraph 86 of this section; and
6. the UMS controls, alarms and indicators are functioning properly.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall bear in mind the necessity to comply at all times with the requirements in force of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, (SOLAS) 1974 (including latest amendments). The officer of the navigational watch shall take into account:

1. the need to station a person to steer the ship and to put the steering into manual control in good time to allow any potentially hazardous situation to be dealt with in a safe manner; and
2. that with a ship under automatic steering it is highly dangerous to allow a situation to develop to the point where the officer in charge of the navigational watch is without assistance and has to break the continuity of the look-out in order to take emergency action.

Officers of the navigational watch shall be thoroughly familiar with the use of all electronic navigational aids carried, including their capabilities and limitations, and shall use each of these aids when appropriate and shall bear in mind that the echo-sounder is a valuable navigational aid.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall use the radar whenever restricted visibility is encountered or expected, and at all times in congested waters having due regard to its limitations.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall ensure that range scales employed are changed at sufficiently frequent intervals so that echoes are detected as early as possible. It shall be borne in mind that small or poor echoes may escape detection.

Whenever radar is in use, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall select an appropriate range scale and observe the display carefully, and shall ensure that plotting or systematic analysis is commenced in ample time.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall notify the master immediately:

1. if restricted visibility is encountered or expected;
2. if the traffic conditions or the movements of other ships are causing concern;
3. if difficulty is experienced in maintaining course;
4. on failure to sight land, a navigation mark or to obtain soundings by the expected time;
5. if, unexpectedly, land or a navigation mark is sighted or a change in soundings occurs;
6. on breakdown of the engines, propulsion machinery remote control, steering gear or any essential navigational equipment, alarm or indicator;
7. if the radio equipment malfunctions;
8. in heavy weather, if in any doubt about the possibility of weather damage;
9. if the ship meets any hazard to navigation, such as ice or a derelict; and
10. in any other emergency or if in any doubt.

Despite the requirement to notify the master immediately in the foregoing circumstances, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall in addition not hesitate to take immediate action for the safety of the ship, where circumstances so require.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall give watchkeeping personnel all appropriate instructions and information which will ensure the keeping of a safe watch, including a proper look-out.

Watch keeping under different conditions and in different areas


Clear weather
The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall take frequent and accurate compass bearings of approaching ships as a means of early detection of risk of collision and bear in mind that such risk may sometimes exist even when an appreciable bearing change is evident, particularly when approaching a very large ship or a tow or when approaching a ship at close range. The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall also take early and positive action in compliance with the applicable International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 and subsequently check that such action is having the desired effect.

In clear weather, whenever possible, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall carry out radar practice.

Restricted visibility

When restricted visibility is encountered or expected, the first responsibility of the officer in charge of the navigational watch is to comply with the relevant rules of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 with particular regard to the sounding of fog signals, proceeding at a safe speed and having the engines ready for immediate manoeuvre. In addition, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall:

1. inform the master;
2. post a proper look-out;
3. exhibit navigation lights; and
4. operate and use the radar.


In hours of darkness

The master and the officer in charge of the navigational watch when arranging look-out duty shall have due regard to the bridge equipment and navigational aids available for use, their limitations; procedures and safeguards implemented.

Coastal and congested waters
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.

The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall positively identify all relevant navigation marks.

Navigation with pilot on board
Despite the duties and obligations of pilots, their presence on board does not relieve the master or officer in charge of the navigational watch from their duties and obligations for the safety of the ship. The master and the pilot shall exchange information regarding navigation procedures, local conditions and the ship’s characteristics. The master and/or the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall co-operate closely with the pilot and maintain an accurate check on the ship’s position and movement.

If in any doubt as to the pilot’s actions or intentions, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall seek clarification from the pilot and, if doubt still exists, shall notify the master immediately and take whatever action is necessary before the master arrives.

Ship at anchor
If the master considers it necessary, a continuous navigational watch shall be maintained at anchor. While at anchor, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall:

1. determine and plot the ship’s position on the appropriate chart as soon as practicable;
2. when circumstances permit, check at sufficiently frequent intervals whether the ship is remaining securely at anchor by taking bearings of fixed navigation marks or readily identifiable shore objects;
3. ensure that proper look-out is maintained;
4. ensure that inspection rounds of the ship are made periodically;
5. observe meteorological and tidal conditions and the state of the sea;
6. notify the master and undertake all necessary measures if the ship drags anchor;
7. ensure that the state of readiness of the main engines and other machinery is in accordance with the master’s instructions;
8. if visibility deteriorates, notify the master;
9. ensure that the ship exhibits the appropriate lights and shapes and that appropriate sound signals are made in accordance with all applicable regulations; and
10. take measures to protect the environment from pollution by the ship and comply with applicable pollution regulations.

 

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