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Watchkeeping, STCW

Q. What are the responsibilities of Master in respect of passage planning as provided in the STCW?
Prior to each voyage, the Master of every ship must ensure that the intended route from the port of departure to the first port of call is planned using adequate and appropriate charts and other nautical publications necessary for the intended voyage, containing accurate, complete and up-to-date information regarding those navigational limitations and hazards which are of a permanent or predictable nature. These being relevant to the safe navigation of the ship.

Q. Why must the Master verify the passage plan at earliest?
The passage plan is meant to be drawn from berth to berth. Even during the pilotage the duty officers must monitor the passage. The passage, therefore, must be verified by the Master, well before departing the port. When the route planning is verified taking into consideration all pertinent information, the planned route must be clearly displayed on appropriate charts, and must be continuously available to the officer in charge of the watch who shall verify each course to be followed prior to using it during the voyage.

Q. What if a deviation must be caused to ship?
If a decision is made, during a voyage, to change the next port of call of the planned route, or if it is necessary for the ship to deviate substantially from the planned route for other reasons, then an amended route must be planned prior to deviating substantially from the route originally planned.

Q. What are the Master’s duties in respect of ensuring the adequacy of watches?
The Master of every ship is bound to ensure that watchkeeping arrangements are adequate for maintaining a safe navigational watch. The watchkeeping should be such that no danger or accident is caused due lack of manpower, navigational aids, etc. Under the Master’s general direction, the officers must perform their duties towards safe navigation, particularly concerning the avoiding of collision and stranding.

Q. Can the helmsman be considered as lookout person?
The duties of the look-out and helmsperson are separate and the helmsperson must 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.

Q. In which situations the OOD may be the sole person on bridge?
The officer in charge of the navigational watch may be the sole look-out in daylight provided that on each such occasion the situation has been carefully assessed and it has been established without doubt that it is safe to do so. A full account must be taken of all relevant factors. It must be ensured that assistance is immediately available and the helmsman is summoned to the bridge when any change in the situation so requires. Thus, in the broad day light and no traffic conditions, the helmsman may be given some maintenance work on the navigation bridge deck, boat deck, etc.

Q. In determining that the composition of the navigational watch is adequate, to ensure that a proper look-out can continuously be maintained and a safe watch is maintained, what factors must be taken in account by the Master?
Following are amongst the factors to consider:

  1. visibility, state of weather and sea;
  2. traffic density, and other activities occurring in the area;
  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, anticipated maneuvers, etc;
  5. the fitness for duty of any crew members;
  6. knowledge of and confidence in the professional competence of the ship’s officers and crew;
  7. the experience 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 and 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; and
  13. any other relevant standard, procedure or guidance relating to watchkeeping.

Q. As a relieving officer of a navigational watch, what must the OOD, personally ensure?
As a relieving officer, the OOD must personally satisfy himself 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. various navigational situation, including:
    a. the operational condition of all navigational and safety;
    b. the errors of gyro and magnetic compasses;
    c. the presence and movement of ships in sight or known to be in the vicinity;
    d.the conditions and hazards likely to be encountered during the watch; and
    e. the possible effects of heel, trim, water density and squat on under keel clearance.

Q. What regular checks must be made by the officer in charge of the navigational watch?
The officer in charge of the navigational watch must make regular checks to ensure that:

  1. the helmsman 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; and
  6. the UMS controls, alarms and indicators are functioning properly.

Q. In which situations must the officer in charge of the navigational watch, notify the Master immediately?
The officer in charge of the navigational watch must 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;
  10. in the situations stipulated in the Master’s standing instructions; and
  11. in any other emergency or if in any doubt.

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