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Ships navigational equipment check - guideline for deck officers

Collision at sea frequently reported because of substandard bridge procedures. Lack of checks and testing on bridge equipment can lead a ship to a dangerous situation. It is especially true while approaching or leaving a harbor or transiting through a traffic-congested area with limited sea room. To eliminate the potential threat of colliding with other vessels or ran aground during shallow water navigation, bridge watchkeeping officers need to be fully conversant with the use of all bridge equipment. These preparations may include many complexities, and this is the reason why a bunch of things should be considered and prepared carefully, to ensure a smooth voyage passage and safe navigation.

Container ship laden voyage
Oil Tanker Safety Guide
Prior assuming responsibility of keeping watch deck officers must be thoroughly familiar with the operation and utilisation of all Bridge and navigation equipment. It is particularly important that officers are aware of the limitations of the equipment and of the importance of not relying solely on one piece of equipment.

Bridge equipments
Fig: Bridge equipments

Periodic Checks on Navigational Equipment

All Bridge team Members must be aware that equipment breakdown can occur at any time. Whenever possible, information from one source must be checked against data from another piece of equipment. Therefore operational checks on navigational equipment should be undertaken when preparing for sea and before port entry. After lengthy ocean passages and before entering restricted coastal waters, it is vital to check that full engine and steering maneuverability is available. The OOW should undertake daily tests and checks on the bridge equipment, including the following: Checks on electronic equipment should both confirm that the piece of equipment is functioning properly and that it is successfully communicating to any bridge system to which it is connected. Built-in test facilities provide a useful check on the functional state of the equipment and should be used frequently. Electronic equipment systems should be checked to ensure that configuration setting - important for correct interfacing between pieces of equipment - has not changed. Information from electronic equipment should always be compared and verified against information from different independent sources.

Good practice also requires the OOW to check that orders are being correctly followed. Rudder angle and engine rpm indicators, for example, provide the OOW with an immediate check on whether helm and engine movement orders are being followed.

Emergency procedure for bridge equipment failure

The Shipboard Contingency Plan contains checklists for the failure of key items of equipment. In the event of failure of any piece of Bridge equipment, the Master is to be immediately advised. The Master will then issue clear instructions in the Masterís Bridge Order Book on procedures to be followed until the equipment can be restored to operation. Procedures to be followed could involve the following: Equipment that cannot be rectified by the shipís staff must be reported to the Management Office without delay.Close attention should be given to all navigational equipments on board cargo ships .

Bridge equipment periodic check items

Summarized below are some basic check items that need to be complied by watch officers during navigation at sea
  1. Trial of hand steering and comparison of ordered and actual rudder angles
  2. Confirmation of recording conditions of course recorder:
  3. Synchronisation of time (shall be set to UTC) & ship's heading
  4. Course keeping and steering conditions
  5. Remainder of recording paper and print quality
  6. Marking of date, ship's time every noon and upon arr/dep port
  7. Confirmation of appropriate navigation lights being lit
  8. Confirmation of appropriate VHF channel and optimum volume /squelch setting
  9. Confirmation of operation and recording conditions of GMDSS equipment
  10. Confirmation of operation for GPS, Chart plotter and ECDIS (correct position indicated and datum allowance made if any)
  11. Confirmation of operation and input data for AIS (navigation, draught, destination, time, power setting, etc)
  12. Confirmation of operation of fire detection equipment (zone isolation- check)
  13. Number of steering gear power units in use
  14. Measurement and recording of compass error (if unable to check, record reason in deck log book)
  15. Confirmation of synchronization of repeater compasses and master gyrocompass
  16. Comparison of gyro and magnetic compasses (upon alteration & hourly)
  17. Confirmation of operation of Speed Log
  18. Confirmation of "M0" operation, start/finish (Reported to OOW)
  19. Execution of alarm and lamp tests of main engine control console
  20. Cargo & bilge monitoring related equipment on bridge
  21. Confirmation of error of ship's clocks
  22. Testing of non-follow-up steering every noon
  23. Check of steering gear at least once a day
  24. Testing General alarm & Blowing of whistle at noon
  25. Confirmation of set conditions of auto-pilot (course keeping mode etc)
  26. Comparison of both GPS positions & their feed to other equipment

Confirmation of Radar:

Confirmation of ARPA:
Operation of echo-sounder (in sounding depths):
  1. Adjusted conditions, such as range in use, zero adjustment, gain adjustment and display output (UKC)
  2. Remainder of record paper
  3. If recording fuction set on, enter at starting/stopping: date, time & position and if applicable, range in use

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