Navigation Watch As A First Time Officer Of Watch

In one of our previous article we talked about how to handle the mooring stations safely when you join a ship for the first time as a responsible officer, we got positive responses from our readers and were asked to pen down a similar article about how to handle the Navigation watch as a first time officer. So, here it goes:

When we join a ship as a first time officer, we are really anxious about how our Navigation watches will be. Many questions keeps arising. We feel the nervousness going down our spine when we take over the first independent navigation watch as a responsible officer.  However, if we keep few things in mind we can carry out the Navigation watch as a first time officer safely.

Let’s have a look at them:

  • One thing which is to be kept in mind is that what we study for exams, theoretically or for examination purpose is a different thing and what we will implement practically is completely different.

  • One of the first things which you should do is to make yourself familiar with the equipments on Bridge and also the type of alarms you will get on the bridge. This is very important as alarms keep coming. You should be aware of what action to take when a particular alarms goes off. Obviously this would take some time.

  • Always think about safety of the ship, crew and the environment.

  • Always be on your guard, stay alert, even when there is no traffic around, you never know what is coming up.

  • Keep fixing the ship’s position on the chart as required. Remember, the plotting frequency increases as the distance from any danger decreases.

  • Always try to take actions as per ROR.

  • Before you take over your first Navigation watch or during your first navigation watch, read and understand Master’s standing orders. These orders must be kept in mind, like what CPA is to be maintained etc. Master’s standing orders should always be the base of the actions you will take in any situation, with safety having the prime concern obviously.

  • Be confident of your actions.

  • Take actions well in time. Don’t try to act smart by waiting until a close situation develops. Taking an early action will never do any harm. However waiting for a longer period and landing in a close quarter situation will obviously be of no use and should be avoided as far as possible.

  • Never hesitate to call master if you are in doubt, a master will always tell you that. However, a common trend is that we think that what master will think about us, how he will react and many other thoughts crosses our minds. Remember, if you call master when you are in doubt he will trust you. He can have a peaceful sleep because he knows that if my officer has any doubt he will call me. However, if he finds that you are landed in a situation where you shouldn’t have and still haven’t called him, believe me, he will have trust issues.

  • Use Radars at maximum but do not over rely on them. There is no replacement for the look out. Sometimes, there might be small boats around which radars won’t be able to pick up at a reasonable range, in such cases a proper look out can really help.

  • Think before you take any action in any situation. Dig down on all the possibilities it can lead to. Ask yourself several questions before any action like whether you even need to take this action, are you stand on or give way, will this action help you to maintain a safe CPA.

  • Always remember being on course is not as important as the safety of the ship and crew. So if you need to make a big diversion for the safety of the ship and the crew, do not hesitate to take the required action. Be sure about your action.

  • Avoid using cell phones or any other thing which might distract you.

  • Keep an eye on weather, if there are sudden changes, record in the log book and do inform master.

  • If you notice something which according to you should not have been there, inform master immediately.

  • Make it a practise to reach on your watch 5-10 minutes earlier. This would give you time to understand what is going on, how is the traffic and all other necessary information that you will need.

  • Always assure that your look-out especially during night watches is alert. Small chats would keep him awake. It is your duty to assure that your look-out is performing his duties as required.

  • When you encounter restricted visibility make sure that you have informed master. In this situation, do not hesitate to call extra look out even during day time. Don’t let the thought that what captain will think about me cross your mind. If you need look out, call your AB right away. Remember if something happens, you will be answerable too. Then question will arise that why the watch level was not increased as required by your company’s regulations. So be on the safe side and follow your company regulations or the Bridge procedure manual of your company.

  • Do not hesitate to use ALDIS lamp at night to attract the attention of fishing boats but don’t misuse them. Don’t use it unnecessarily.

  • During your watch, if master takes over the Conn make sure you record this in the Bell book. Always remember that your duty is still not finished. So be alert and if you find that any action taken by the master could jeopardise the safety of the ship, do not hesitate to voice it out. Master might not react in a very nice way but remember VDR is recording everything. If there is an incident, you can always use it as an evidence if you have voiced out your concern.

These are some of the points which can help you to carry out your watch in a safe manner. There will be other measures too which might have been missed. If anything strikes in your mind, feel free to comment and share your opinions with all.

Ankit Chauhan

Sailing on High Seas as a Merchant Naval Officer since 2011, believe in sharing the knowledge he has gained over years.

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