2.1 General

2.1.1 The Officer of the Watch is the Master's representative, and his primary responsibility at all times s the safe navigation of the vessel Ile Is parti cularly advised, where possible, to arrange for another officer to check basic navigational decisions. He must at all times comply with the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

2.1.2 The Officer of the Watch should keep his watch on the bridge which he should in no circumstances leave until properly relieved. A prime res­ponsibility of the Officer of the Watch is to ensure the effectiveness of the navigating watch. It is of especial importance that at all times the Officer of the Watch ensures that en efficient lookout is maintained. In a vessel with a separate chart room, the Officer of the Watch may visit this, when essential, for a short period for the necessary performance of his naviga­tional duties, but he should previously satisfy himself that it is safe to do so and ensure that a good lookout is kept.

2.1.3 The Officer of the Watch continues to be responsible for the safe naviga­tion of the vessel despite the presence of the Master on the bridge until the Master informs him specifically that he has assumed responsibility.

2,1.4 The Officer of the Watch should not hesitate to use the sound signalling apparatus at his disposal, in accordance with the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

2.2 Keeping a Good Lookout

2.2.1 The Officer of the Watch is responsible for the maintenance of a con­tinuous and alert lookout. This is the most important consideration in the avoidance of casualties. The keeping of an efficient lookout requires to be interpreted in its fullest sense which includes the following:

  • an alert all-round visual and aural lookout to ensure a full grasp of the current situation including the presence of ships and land-marks in the vicinity;
  • close observation of the movements and compass bearing of approaching vessels;
  • identification of ship and shore lights;
  • the need to ensure that the course is steered accurately and that the wheel orders are correctly executed;
  • observation of the radar and echo sounder displays;
  • observation of changes in the weather, especially the visibility.

2.3 Main Engines (see Emergency Bridge Check List No. 1)

2.3.1. The Officer of the Watch should bear in mind that the engines are at his disposal. He should not hesitate to use them in case of need. However, timely notice of engine movements should be given when possible. Ile should also keep prominently in mind the manoeuvring capabilities of his ship, including its stopping distance.

2.3.2 Control of Main Engines

There are two aspects with which the Officer of the Watch is mainly concerned:

  • Control of Revolutions ahead and astern.
  • Condition and Readiness.

The Officer of the Watch should be familiar with the operation of the engine/propeller control mechanism. He should appreciate that the type of engine and configuration of the plant have implica­tions when changes in speed and direction are required. Direct drive diesel, diesel through gearbox/clutch, turbo electric and gas turbine engines have relatively quick responses to change provided the engines are on "stand-by". Geared turbines are not as res­ponsive, nor is their change from ahead/astern quickly achieved.

  • "Stand-by" or manoeuvring conditions.
  • "Full-away" condition. The engine-room staff adjust controls for revolutions required for the sea passage.

The Officer of the Watch should know the time taken to achieve an emergency and routine stop from "full-away". Sometimes the full speed at "stand-by" is different from that at "full-away". This difference should be known to the Officer of the Watch.

2.4 Changing over the Watch (see Routine Bridge Check List No. 7)

2.4.1 The relieving Officer of the Watch should ensure that members of his watch are fully capable of performing their duties and in particular that they are adjusted to night vision. He should not take over the Watch until his vision is fully adjusted to the light conditions and he has personally satisfied himself regarding:

  • standing orders and other special instructions relating to the navigation of the vessel;
  • the position, course, speed and draught of the vessel;
  • prevailing and predicted tides, currents, weather, visibility and the effect of these factors upon course and speed;
  • the navigational situation including:
  • the operational condition of all navigational and safety equipment;
  • errors of gyro and magnetic compasses;
  • the movement of vessels in the vicinity;
  • conditions and hazards likely to be encountered during the watch;
  • the possible effects of heel, trim, water density and squat on underkeel clearance.

2.4.2 If at the time the Officer of the Watch is to be relieved, a manoeuvre or other action to avoid any hazard is taking place, the relief of the officer should be deferred until such action is completed.

2.4.3 The Officer of the Watch should not hand over the watch to the relieving officer if' he has any reason to believe that the latter is under any disability which would preclude him from carrying out his duties effectively. If in doubt, the Officer of the Watch should inform the Master.

2.5 Periodic Checks of Navigational Equipment.

2.5.1 The Officer of the Watch should make regular checks to ensure that:

  • the helmsman or the automatic pilot is steering the correct course;
  • the standard compass error is established at least once a watch
  • the standard and gyro compasses are compared frequently and
  • the automatic pilot is tested in the manual position at least once a watch;
  • the navigation and signal lights and other navigational equipment are functioning properly.

and, when possible, after any major alteration of course;

repeaters synchronised;

2.6 Helmsman/Automatic Pilot

2.6.1 Officers of the Watch should bear in mind the need to station the helms-man and change over the steering to manual control in good time to allow any potentially hazardous situation to be dealt with in a safe manner. With a vessel under automatic steering it is highly dangerous to allow a situation to develop to the point where the Officer of the Watch is without assistance and has to break the continuity of the lookout in order to take emergency action. The change-over from automatic to manual steering and vice versa should be made by, or under the supervision, of a responsible officer.

2.7 Navigation in Coastal Waters.

2.7.1 The largest scale chart on board, suitable for the area and corrected with the latest available information, should be used. The Officer of the Watch should identify positively all relevant navigation marks. Fixes should be taken at intervals whose frequency must depend upon factors such as distance from nearest hazard, speed of ship, set experienced, etc. In cases such as a planned approach to an anchor berth or harbour entrance, fixing may be virtually continuous. Whenever circumstances allow, fixes should be checked using another fixing method.

2.8 Restricted Visibility (see Routine Bridge Check List No. 11 I.

2.8.1 When restricted visibility is encountered or suspected, the first responsi­bility of the Officer of the Watch is to comply with the 1972 Inter-national Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, with particular regard to the sounding of fog signals, use of safe speed and availability of engines for immediate manoeuvre. In addition, he should:

  • inform the Master;

post lookout(s), helmsman and, in congested waters, revert to hand steering immediately;

  • exhibit navigation lights;
  • operate and use the radar.

All the above action should, if possible, be taken in good time before visibility deteriorates.

2.9 Calling the Master

2.9.l The Officer of the Watch should notify the Master innnediately under the following circumstances:

  • if visibility is deteriorating;
  • if the movements of other vessels are causing concern;
  • if difficulty is experienced in maintaining course;
  • on failure to sight land or a navigation mark or to obtain soundings by the expected time;
  • if either land or a navigation mark is sighted or a marked change in soundings occurs unexpectedly;
  • on the breakdown of the engines, steering gear or any essential navigational equipment;
  • if in any doubt about the possibility of weather damage;
  • in any other situation in which he is in any doubt.

Despite the requirement to notify the Master immediately in the foregoing circumstances, the Officer of the Watch should not hesitate to take immediate action for the safety of the ship, where circumstances so require.

2.10 Navigation with Pilot Embarked (see Routine Bridge Check List No. 5 and "Suggested Master/ Pilot Information Exchange" from at Annex 2)

2.10.1 The presence of a pilot does not relieve the Officer of the Watch from his duties and obligations. He should co-operate closely with the pilot and maintain an accurate check on the vessel's position and movements. Alterations of course and/or changes in wheel and/or engine orders should he transmitted through the Officer of the Watch. If he is in any doubt as to the pilot's actions or intensions, the Officer of the Watch should seek clarification from the pilot and, if still in doubt, notify the Master im­mediately and take whatever action is necessary before the Master arrives.

2.11 The Watchkeeping Personnel

2.11.1 The Officer of the Watch should give the watchkeeping personnel all appropriate instructions and information which will ensure the keeping of a safe watch, including a proper lookout.

2.12 Search and Rescue (see Emergency Bridge Check List No. 11)

2.12.1 The Master of a ship at sea, on receiving a signal that a ship, or aircraft, or survival craft is in distress is bound, if reasonable and practicable, to "proceed with all speed to the assistance of the persons in distress". (SOLAS 1974 Chapter V, Regulation 10).

2.13 Helicopter Operations

2.13.1 Masters and Officers of the Watch of vessels likely to be engaged in helicopter transfer are recommended to make themselves familiar with the ICS Guide to Helicopter/Ship Operations.

2.14 Log Books

2.14.1 A proper record of the movements and activities of the vessel should be kept during the watch. Instruction for completion should be strictly observed.

2.15 Routine and Emergency Check Lists

2.15.1 The Officer of the Watch should be fully conversant with procedures summarised in Part 2 of this Guide, some of which have been referred to in Part 1. Whether the action taken under the various headings is "Routine" or "Emergency", the appropriate "Check List" should be consulted, when time permits, to ensure that all necessary actions are taken.

2.16 Ship at Anchor (see Routine Bridge Check List No. 10).

2.16.1 If the Master considers it necessary, a continuous navigational watch should be maintained. In such circumstances, the Officer of the Watch should: -‑

(a)determine and plot the ship's position on the appropriate chart as soon as practicable and, at sufficiently frequent intervals, check, by taking bearings or fixed navigational marks or readily identifi­able shore objects, whether the anchor is holding;

  • ensure that an efficient lookout is maintained;
  • ensure that an inspection of the vessel is made periodically;
  • observe weather, tidal and sea conditions;
  • notify the Master and undertake all necessary measures if the vessel drags;
  • ensure that the state of readiness of the main engines and other
  • notify the Master if visibility deteriorates and comply with the
  • ensure that the vessel exhibits the appropriate lights and shapes

machinery is in accordance with the Master's instructions;

1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea;

and that appropriate sound signals are made at all times.

2.17 Ship's Draught

2.17.1 The Master should ensure that the draught of the ship is readily available to the Officer of the Watch throughout the voyage. It should be displayed in the wheelhouse and adjusted as necessary to take account of changes which occur as the voyage progresses.

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