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Cargo ships navigational watch procedure - safety check items

Navigation at sea is referred to as the voyage practices, monitoring and controlling the ship's movement from point "A" to point "B." Special consideration needs to be made for the safety of the vessel concerning prevailing weather conditions. Considering various hazards that a ship may be exposed to, sea shortest distance between two places may not always be preferable.

Rough weather puts extra strain ships' main engine, and it incurs additional fuel consumption. Therefore, a prudent shipmaster must apply his best judgment while selecting an optimal route across the ocean. Navigation at sea thus a challenging task, as it requires both knowledge and skills. It is especially true in modern-day GPS navigation- but it was also true during earlier practice celestial only navigation.

Container ship laden voyage
Oil Tanker Safety Guide
A ship's navigation bridge is the main workstation where speed and course are considered and controlled, preferably conceived for working in the seated position with optimum visibility and integrated presentation of information and operating equipment. It should be possible from this place to operate the ship safely, in particular when a fast sequence of action is required. In practice, navigational watch arrangement at sea involves many complexities.

Bridge equipments

Navigational watch at sea involves many complexities, and careful consideration will need to be made for a safe passage. Summarized below are some basic check items that need to be complied with. Bridge watch officers should also keep in mind ship specific manoeuvering characteristics.

Navigational watch check items
  1. Have you confirmed and signed instructions in the Master's order book?
  2. Have you checked the navigational warnings?
  3. Have you confirmed charts to be used while being on watch?
  4. Courses (confirm using a parallel ruler or triangular ruler)
  5. Next course alteration point and its estimated time
  6. Obstacles, shallows and navigable waters near the course line
  7. Setting of parallel indexes (danger line)
  8. Are the fire detecting systems in operation? Any zone isolation?
  9. Have you personally confirmed the position of the vessel?
  10. Are lights and shape signals indicated appropriately?
  11. Vision adjusted to darkness (at night)?
  12. Have you confirmed the condition around and on the vessel?
  13. Have you confirmed operational radar & ARPA conditions (tune, gain control, CPA/TCPA setting, clutter setting, speed input)?
  14. Have you confirmed correct display & position input of ECDIS / Chart Plotter (if fitted) incl. status of alarms if any?
  15. Are nautical instruments / equipment and steering gear working normally?
  16. Is VHF being used on the right channel and set to suitable volume / squelch?
  17. Course (true course, gyro course and magnetic course)
  18. Speed (speed over ground and log speed)
  19. Deviation from the course line / XTE (Cross Track Error)
  20. RPM of the Main engine
  21. Movement of other ships around the vessel & other targets
  22. Draft of the ship and predicted UKC
  23. Weather and sea conditions
  24. Engine Room status
  25. Instructions from the Master & any permit to work issued

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