Navigation in coastal water

Navigation in coastal water

  • Plan ahead before taking over the watch.
  • Check the track, compass error and course.
  • Check compass error at least once a watch.
  • Make keeping a lookout the priority
  • Assess the risk of collision and take action if necessary.
  • Fix ships position at regular interval if practicable.
  • Fixed more frequently in confined water.
  • Call the master before a potentially dangerous situation becomes critical.
  • Observe the change in the weather.
  • Study the chart and expect to find new landmarks before they are seen.
  • Maintain situational awareness, particularly if the ship has to deviate widely to avoid traffic.
  • Be prepared to use engine if necessary to ensure adequate see room.
  • Be prepared to call a lookout to the bridge if necessary.
  • Be prepared to call helmsman to bridge if necessary.
  • Keep track of UKC
  • Be aware of ships draft and UKC
  • Be aware of the ship’s stability
  • Be aware of the E.R status


Bridge team may vary in composition depending upon the navigational situation and the human resource on the vessel. Following would be members of the bridge team at various stages of the passage.

  • Master
  • OOW
  • helmsman
  • Lookout
  • Additional officer
  • Pilot

When deciding the composition of the watch on bridge which may include appropriately qualified ratings, the following factors must take in account.

  1. The bridge must not be left unattended at any time.
  2. Daylight/darkness visibility and weather condition.
  3. Need of oow to carry out an additional duty in proximity to navigational hazard.
  4. Use of operational condition of aid such as radar or electronic position indicating device and any other equipment affecting the safe navigation of the Ship.
  5. ship fitted with operational autopilot.
  6. Need to perform radio duties.
  7. Any unusual demands on the navigational watch that may arise as a result of special operational circumstances.
  8. Unattended machinery space control, alarm, and indicator provided on the bridge procedure for their use & limitations.

The following example is a guide to watch composition in various conditions.

Open seaday officer on watch on the bridge, lookout on call in close proximity to bridge with a radio, master on call.
Open sea – night officer on watch and lookout on the bridge, master on call.

Coast, (light traffic) : OOW and lookout on bridge master on call.
Coast ( heavy traffic) : OOW , lookout, and helmsman on bridge master where required.

Congested water – master and third officer or chief officer and second officer lookout and helmsman on bridge( 6 hours watches if for a prolonged period)

restricted visibility – Master and 3rd officer or chief officer and second officer, lookout and helmsman on the bridge (6-hour watches if for a prolonged period)

Ocean passage

  • When an Ocean passage keeping a lookout must have priority.
  • Check the instruments being used to navigate the ship and monitor the position each watch.
  • Practice celestial navigation regularly
  • Monitor radio communication for routine messages and ensure that emergency channel are operational and being monitored.
  • Use any spare time productivity to plan ahead for the next phase of the voyage .
  • Always poster look out if a bridge task is likely to preoccupy your time.
  • Learn to break off tasks at frequent intervals so that it becomes a habit.
  • Avoid entertainment on the bridge it may provide a fatal distraction.
  • Monitor change in weather regularly and observe barometer.
  • Keep record up to date.
  • Always try to fix the ship’s position and be as up-to-date as possible on an ocean passage.
  • Call the master in accordance with his instruction, if the land is seen is early call the master immediately.
  • Use depth recorder and ensure it is set to the correct scale.
  • Positively identified lights, lighthouse and coast lines.
  • Having positively identified the ship’s position related to the land adjust course if appropriate.
  • Recalibrate electronic navigational aid if necessary.
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