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10 Main Duties on Navigational

Bridge Watch
BY MELKI KAMAGIE NAUTICAL EDUCATION

Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available
means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the
situation and of the risk of collision.

—COLREGS Rule 5

The safety of the crew, vessel, cargo and environment shall never be compromised during any phases of
navigation. All vessel personnel shall comply with all applicable rules and regulations and Master shall,
through random verification, ensure that all Officers of the Watch (OOW) as are in compliance.

Officer on Watch (OOW) is also the representative of the ship’s master and has the total responsibility of
safe and smooth navigation of the ship.

Below is the main duties of an officer on watch (OOW).

1. Compare the compasses

In case a gyro fails, the OOW must be aware of the error of the magnetic that might affect the course being
followed/to be followed. Also, a comparison of the repeaters is essential to know if the repeaters are aligned
with the master gyro and showing the correct reading which is needed when reading from the bridge or
when calculating the compass error.

2. Check soundings by the echo sounder

The under keel clearance (UKC) and the depth of water at any point is important to the safe navigation of
the ship. While a record is made of the depth if need be and if instructed by the Master to do so, it is also
necessary for the OOW to account for the errors of the echo sounder, basically, avoiding under or over
reading of the depth. This is especially crucial when in shallow waters as failure to understand the actual
depth can have damaging effects such as grounding of the vessel.

3. Ensure that the lookout is alert

Rule 5 of COLREGs puts special emphasis on lookout and states that “Every vessel shall at all times
maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing
circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.”
Again, the importance of this can be best explained when considering the vessel in restricted visibility (Rule
19 of COLREGS) wherein the role of the lookout man is most important.

4. Check the position

The OOW must check the position plotted by the outgoing OOW and not depend entirely on the displayed
information on the chart. The precious positions affect the future position and therefore, in order to maintain
maximum accuracy of the plot, this must be done.

5. Discussing with the previous OOW

The current OOW must discuss with previous OOW if there has been any unusual activity, any points where
the Master needs to be called or informed, any weather warnings or messages, any VHF marine radio
communication with other ships, etc. Also, the current OOW must ask the previous OOW if someone has
left any verbal instructions.

6. Read log entries

The OOW must read any log entries made by the outgoing OOW before he leaves the bridge. If there is any
doubt, he must ask the previous OOW of its explanation. Remember that the current bridge watch is under
the responsibility of the current OOW.

7. Draft

The ship’s draft must be displayed on bridge and updated when there are any changes. This is to be aware
of the UKC at all times.

8. Gyrocompass and its error

The gyrocompass is something that is used at every second of the bridge watch to plan, execute and monitor
the courses and any changes associated with it. The OOW must take precaution to ensure that it is done
accordingly after accounting for all errors. Needless to say, this is all under the Master’s purview and
jurisdiction eventually.

9. GMDSS

The GMDSS watch is crucial to the safety and must be maintained on the determined frequencies as per
regulations. Additionally, all Maritime Safety Information (MSI) broadcasted via Navtex (Navigational
Telex), Enhanced Group Calls (ECG) or the Marine VHF radio must be checked at all times. Read and
understand such a message to determine if it affects the ship is what the OOW must do.

10. Should not leave the bridge


The OOW should not leave the bridge unattended during his watch. However, in a ship with a separate
chartroom, the OOW may visit that room for short periods of time to carry out necessary navigation duties
after first ensuring that it is safe to do so.

Is that a complete list?

However, it is not an exhaustive list and the duties may change according to the requirements. So, the above
points are only some of the many important ones which are helpful for a smooth and efficient navigational
bridge watch. Moreover, all that is mentioned above is a generalised approach to the duties of the OOW on
bridge. The full extent of such duties cannot be covered entirely as the a lot of factors may be added as per
the type of the ship.

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ships-bridge

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December 13, 2018, from https://www.marineinsight.com/marine-navigation/8-important-points-for-efficiently-
taking-over-a-bridge-navigational-watch

I. (2013, October 06). What are the Primary Duties of Officer on Watch (OOW) on Ship’s Bridge? Retrieved
December 12, 2018, from https://deckofficer.ru/news/item/what-are-the-primary-duties-of-officer-on-watch-oow-
on-ship-s-bridge

M. P. (2018, March 17). NAVTEX On Ships: Working, Types Of Messages And Advantages. Retrieved December 13,
2018, from https://www.marineinsight.com/marine-navigation/navtex-on-ships

B. S. (2014, February 28). Everything You Need To Know About VHF Radios (But Were Afraid To Ask). Retrieved
December 13, 2018, from http://swizzlesportsmedia.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-vhf-radios-but-were-
afraid-to-ask/