Collisions and groundings (strandings), combined account for one half
of all tanker accidents. More than 80% of these cases are a result of
human error and where an equipment failure is involved, the mechanical
fault is nearly always compounded by human omission. The navigation
of a tanker is almost entirely in the hands of three or four officers.
Their success in bringing the ship safely to its discharge port is to
a large measure the result of the policies and practices of the owner
4.1.1 Owner's responsibility
Owners are responsible for establishing and maintaining the human standards
of the crew by maintaining an adequate manning level and by providing
seafarers who are properly educated, trained and experienced to competently
perform their duties. The control of national shipping authorities and
classification societies remains strongest in the area of construction
and weakest in the area of the human element. An owner should not believe
that having met the minimum requirements of national shipping authority,
his ship is adequately manned. Unless he takes a direct and detailed
interest in the training and qualifications of the men operating his
vessel, an owner cannot hope to minimise the kinds of incidents which
can be caused by their failings.
4.1.2 Basic requirements - IMO guidance
The ship must be provided with a set of basic navigation orders. These
orders should be read by every watch officer before taking his first
navigation watch of the voyage. If the owner has not provided navigation
'standing orders', the master should do so. A good place to start is
the IMO Operational guidance for officers in charge of a navigation
watch from the International convention on standards of training,
certification and watchkeeping for seafarers, 1978. In most cases
these IMO guidelines can serve without modification as standing orders.
They are repeated here for ease of reference:
1 This recommendation contains operational guidance
of general application for officers in charge of a navigation watch,
which masters are expected to supplement as appropriate. It is essential
that officers of the watch appreciate that the efficient performance
of their duties is necessary in the interests of the safety of life
and property at sea and the prevention of pollution of the marine environment.
2 The officer of the watch is the master's representative
and his primary responsibility at all times is the safe navigation of
the ship. He should at all times comply with the applicable regulations
for preventing collisions at sea (see also paragraphs 22 and 23).
3 It is of special importance that at all times the
officer of the watch ensures that an efficient look-out is maintained.
In a ship with a separate chart room the officer of the watch may visit
the chart room, 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 an efficient lookout
4 The officer of the watch should bear in mind that
the engines are at his disposal and he should not hesitate to use them
in case of need. However, timely notice of intended variations of engine
speed should be given where possible. He should also know the handling
characteristics of his ship, including its stopping distance, and should
appreciate that other ships may have different handling characteristics.
5 The officer of the watch should also bear in mind
that the sound signalling apparatus is at his disposal and he should
not hesitate to use it in accordance with the applicable regulations
for preventing collisions at sea.
Taking over the navigational watch
6 The relieving officer of the watch should ensure
that members of his watch are fully capable of performing their duties,
particularly as regards their adjustment to night vision.
7 The relieving officer 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 of the master relating
to 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 the course and speed.
Navigational situation, including but not limited to the following:
Operational condition of all navigational
and safety equipment being used or likely to be used during the watch.
Errors in gyro and magnetic compasses.
Presence and movement of ships in sight or
known to be in the vicinity.
Conditions and hazards likely to be encountered
during his watch.
Possible effects of heel, trim, water density
and squat on under-keel clearance.
8 If at any time the officer of the watch is to be
relieved while a manoeuvre or other action to avoid hazard is taking
place, the relief of the officer should be deferred until such action
has been completed.
Periodic checks of navigational equipment
9 Operational tests of shipboard navigational equipment
should be carried out at sea as frequently as practicable and as circumstances
permit, in particular when hazardous conditions affecting navigation
are expected; where appropriate these tests should be recorded.
10 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 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 synchronised
with their master compass.
The automatic pilot is tested manually at least once a watch.
The navigation signal lights and other navigational equipment are
11 The officer of the watch should bear in mind the
necessity to comply at all times with the requirements of regulation
19, chapter V of the International convention for the safety of
life at sea (SOLAS), 1974. He should take into account the need
to station the helmsman and to put the steering in manual control in
good time to allow any potentially hazardous situation to be dealt with
in a safe manner. With a ship 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 look-out 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 and recorded in the deck logbook.
Electronic navigational aids
12 The officer of the watch should be thoroughly familiar
with the use of the electronic navigational aids carried, including
their capabilities and limitations.
13 The echo-sounder is a valuable navigational aid
and should be used whenever appropriate
14 The officer of the watch should use the radar when
appropriate and whenever restricted visibility is encountered or expected,
and at all times in congested waters having due regard to
15 Whenever radar is in use, the officer of the watch
should select an appropriate range scale, observe the display carefully
and plot effectively.
16 The officer of the watch should ensure that range
scales employed are changed at sufficiently frequent intervals so that
echoes are detected as early as possible.
17 It should be borne in mind that small or poor echoes
may escape detection.
18 The officer of the watch should ensure that plotting
or systematic analysis is commenced in ample time.
19 In clear weather, whenever possible, the officer
of the watch should carry out radar practice.
Navigation in coastal waters
20 The largest scale chart on board, suitable for the
area and corrected with the latest available information, should be
used. Fixes should be taken at frequent intervals; whenever circumstances
allow, fixing should be carried out by more than one method.
21 The officer of the watch should positively identify
all relevant navigation marks.
22 The officer of the watch should take frequent and
accurate compass bearings of approaching ships as a means of early detection
of risk of collision; such risk may sometimes exist even when an appreciable
bearing change is evident, particularly when approaching a very large
ship or a tow or when approaching a ship at close range. He should also
take early and positive action in compliance with the applicable regulations
for preventing collisions at sea and subsequently check that such action
is having the desired effect.
23 When restricted visibility is encountered or expected,
the first responsibility of the officer of the watch is to comply with
the relevant rules of the applicable regulations for preventing collisions
at sea, with particular regard to the sounding of fog signals, proceeding
at a safe speed and having the engines ready for immediate manoeuvres.
In addition, he should:
Inform the master (see paragraph 24).
Post a proper look-out and helmsman and, in congested waters, revert
to hand steering immediately.
Exhibit navigation lights.
Operate and use the radar.
It is important that the officer of the watch should know the handling
characteristics of his ship, including its stopping distance and should
appreciate that other ships may have different handling characteristics.
Calling the master
24 The officer of the watch should notify the master
immediately in the following circumstances:
If restricted visibility is encountered or expected.
If the traffic conditions or the movements of other ships are causing
If any difficulty is experienced in maintaining course.
On failure to sight land, a navigation mark or to obtain soundings
by the expected time.
If, unexpectedly, land or a navigation mark is sighted or change in
On the breakdown of the engines, steering gear or any essential navigational
In heavy weather if in any doubt about the possibility of weather
If the ship meets any hazard to navigation, such as ice or derelicts.
In any other emergency or situation in which he is in any doubt.
Despite the requirements to notify the master immediately in the foregoing
circumstances, the officer of the watch should in addition not hesitate
to take immediate action for the safety of the ship, where circumstances
Navigation with pilot embarked
25 If the officer of the watch is in any doubt as to
the pilot's actions or intentions, he should seek clarification from
the pilot; if doubt still exists, he should notify the master immediately
and take whatever action is necessary before the master arrives.
26 The officer of the watch should give watchkeeping
personnel all appropriate instructions and information which will ensure
the keeping of a safe watch including the appropriate lookout.
Ship at anchor
27 If the master considers it necessary, a continuous
navigational watch should be maintained at anchor. In all circumstances,
while at anchor, the officer of the watch should:
Determine and plot the ship's position on the appropriate chart as
soon as practicable; when circumstances permit, check at sufficiently
frequent intervals whether the ship is remaining securely at anchor
by taking bearings of fixed navigation marks or readily identifiable
Ensure that an efficient look-out is maintained;
Ensure that inspection rounds of the ship are made periodically;
Observe meteorological and tidal conditions and the state of the sea;
Notify the master and undertake all necessary measures if the ship
Ensure the state of readiness of the main engines and other machinery
in accordance with the master's instructions.
If visibility deteriorates, notify the master and comply with the
applicable regulations for preventing collisions at sea.
Ensure that the ship exhibits the appropriate lights and shapes and
that appropriate sound signals are made at all times, as required.
Take measures to protect the environment from pollution by the ship
and comply with applicable pollution regulations.'
If the above IMO STCW guidelines are regularly and diligently observed,
the ship will have a better opportunity than most of safely reaching
4.1.3 Bridge watch organization
(Refer to section 1.9.4 for additional
direction on this subject.)
The lookout must be clearly instructed in his duties and be sufficiently
alert, competent and clothed to perform them. No other duties should
be assigned to the lookout. He must maintain a vigilant watch by sight
and hearing for anything unusual or hazardous to the ship, including
vessels, aircraft in distress, wrecks, persons, debris, discoloured
water, or sounds. The helmsman cannot be a lookout while hand steering.
The lookout should be located as low down and as far forward as the
prevailing weather permits.
4.1.5 Collision avoidance
In suitable weather the deck watch officer may be the only lookout.
With only one pair of eyes protecting the ship, the officer must be
especially vigilant. Maintaining a good, all-around lookout is the most
important contribution to avoiding collisions. Other important collision
prevention measures include:
Taking early and substantial action when required to do so to avoid
Using every available means to determine if risk of collision exists
Carefully evaluating all aspects of the situation before taking action.
Slowing or stopping the ship if necessary to reduce risk of collision.
The automatic radar plotting aid (ARPA), should be used to maximum
potential in assessing risk of collision and evaluating alternative
evasive measures, however, the indications of the ARPA should be verified
whenever possible by plotting or by visual bearings. Plotting should
begin as soon as targets appear on the radar display.
4.1.6 Reduced visibility
When reduced visibility is encountered, the watch officer must immediately
take the actions required by COLREGS 1972, owner's procedures and master's
standing orders. Additional precautions may include:
Verification that navigation lights are on.
The depth sounder is placed in operation.
Safety doors are closed.
Personnel are withdrawn from and prohibited from entering confined
Anchors are prepared for letting go (if water depth permits).
Only fog signals are sounded unless and until another vessel is sighted.
The vessel's position should be fixed hourly, using two independent
means of obtaining the position or line(s) of position (LOP). If the
fix is by LOP, then at least three lines must be used, officers should
take advantage of appropriate opportunities to make celestial observations
and plot the resulting lines of position.
Parallel indexing on the radar plotter should be used with suitable
shore radar targets to provide an accurate indication of the vessel's
track along a coast. The parallel indexed track should be verified by
cross bearings whenever possible. Best use should be made of the fathometer
to verify position fixes.
The master must regularly verify and firmly enforce the owner's requirements
for frequency and method of position fixing.
4.1.8 Log book entries
While under way, deck log book entries should include (but are not limited
Movements of the vessel in the sea, rolling, pitching, etc.
Weather observations and significant changes in the weather.
Details of abnormal events or conditions.
Time navigation marks passed abeam and distance off.
Courses steered and time of alterations in course.
Details of any accidents in navigation such as strandings.*
Details of any physical contact with other floating objects or vessels.*
Details of any salvage rendered, offered, or received.*
Deviations from the voyage plan and reasons therefore.
Distress messages or signals received, assistance given, or reasons
why assistance was not given.*
Any other event which may result in an investigation by authorities.*
Times of arrivals, departures, anchoring, mooring, or berthing.
Record of fire watch checks and inspections made.
Sighting of passing aircraft, with their characteristics and approximate
Entries marked with a star (*), should be prepared in draft and discussed
with the master before the logbook entry is made.