The officer in charge of the navigational watch is the master’s representative and is primarily responsible at all times for the safe navigation of the ship and for complying with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
Taking over the watch
The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall not hand over the watch to the relieving officer if there is reason to believe that the latter is not capable of carrying out the watchkeeping duties effectively, in which case the master shall be notified. The relieving officer shall ensure that the members of there watch are fully capable of performing their duties, particularly as regards their adjustment to night vision. Relieving officers shall not take over the watch until their vision is fully adjusted to the light conditions.
Prior to taking over the watch, relieving officers shall satisfy themselves as to the ship’s estimated or true position and confirm its intended track, course and speed and UMS controls as appropriate and shall note any dangers to navigation expected to be encountered during their watch.
Relieving officer shall personally satisfy themselves regarding the:
- Standing orders and other special instructions of the master relating to the navigation of the ship.
- Position, course, speed, and draught of the ship;
- Prevailing and predicted tides, currents, weather, visibility and the effect of these factors upon course and speed;
- Procedures for the use of main engines to maneuver when the main engines are on bridge control; and.
- Navigational situation including, but not limited to:
- The operational condition of all navigational and safety equipment being used or likely to be used during the watch,
- The errors of gyro and magnetic compasses,
- presence and movement of ships in sight or known to be in the vicinity,
- the conditions and hazards likely to be encountered during the watch, and
- Possible effects of heel, trim, water density & squat on under keel clearance.
- If at any time the officer in charge of the navigational watch is to be relieved when a manoeuvre or other action to avoid any hazard is taking place, the relief of that officer shall be deferred until such action has been completed.
- The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall:
- keep the watch on the bridge.
- In no circumstances leave the bridge until properly relieved; and
- continue to be responsible for the safe navigation of the ship, despite the presence of the master on the bridge, until informed specifically that the master has assumed that responsibility and this is mutually understood.
- During the watch the course steered, position and speed shall be checked at sufficiently frequent intervals, using any available navigational aids necessary, to ensure that the ship follows the planned course.
- The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall have full knowledge of the location and operation of all safety and navigational equipment on board the ship and shall be aware and take account of the operating limitations of such equipment.
- The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall not be assigned or undertake any duties which would interfere with the safe navigation of the ship.
- When using radar the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall bear in mind the necessity to comply at all times with the provisions on the use of radar contained in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972, as amended, in force.
- In cases of need, the officer in charge of the navigational watch shall not hesitate to use the helm, engines and sound signalling apparatus. However, timely notice of intended variations of engine speed shall be given where possible or effective use made of UMS engine controls provided on the bridge in accordance with the applicable procedures.
- Officers of the navigational watch shall know the handling characteristics of their ship, including its stopping distances, and should appreciate that other ships may have different handling characteristics.
- A proper record shall be kept during the watch of the movements and activities relating to the navigation of the ship.
- It is of special importance that at all times the office in charge of the navigational watch ensures that a proper lookout is maintained. In a ship with a separate chartroom, the officer in charge of the navigational watch may visit the chartroom, when essential, for a short period for the necessary performance of navigational duties, but shall first ensure that it is safe to do so and that proper lookout is maintained.
- Operational tests of shipboard navigational equipment shall be carried out at sea as frequently as practicable and as circumstances permit, in particular before hazardous conditions affecting navigation are expected. Whenever appropriate, these tests shall be recorded. Such tests shall also be carried out prior to port arrival and departure.
The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall make regular checks to ensure that:
- The person steering the ship or the automatic pilot is steering the correct course;
- 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;
- the automatic pilot is tested manually at least once a watch;
- the navigation and signal lights and other navigational equipment are functioning properly;
- the radio equipment is functioning properly.
- the UMS controls, alarms and indicators are functioning properly.
- The officer in charge of the navigational watch shall bear in mind the necessity to comply at all times with the requirements in force of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, (SOLAS) 19741.