#10 tips for safe navigation

  1. Look out!: One of the most important functions of a Navigator is to keep a lookout. It is specifically required by the Colregs in Rule 5, but is also a requirement in all safety management systems and a very good practice for any seafarer onboard.
  2. The eyes have it: Approximately 80% of the information received by the brain comes through our eyes. If there is ambiguity between the senses, the information collected by the eyes takes precedence.
  3. Night life: Avoid bright lights before and during night-time watches since it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to ensure good night vision. Motion is needed to attract our attention (especially at night) so lookouts must keep moving their eyes.
  4. It makes sense: A good lookout also makes use of all senses, hearing, feeling, and even smell. For example, vibration can often be an indication of shallow water and the clicking of a repeater can indicate rate of turn.
  5. By all available means: Rule 5 requires you to use sight and hearing but also radar, AIS, and VTS. All bridge team members should be encouraged and competent to use all available means to maintain a lookout.
  6. On the mark: The ideal way to assess risk of collision is to consult a compass repeater or even a hand-bearing compass. In the absence of such aids, you can still monitor the relative bearing and aspect of any approaching vessels in relation to window pillars or other marks.
  7. Sole responsibility: As a sole watchkeeper, you cannot expect to carry out any other duties while you are on watch other than being an effective combined lookout and OOW. Catching up on paperwork or essential maintenance is not acceptable under these circumstances.
  8. Look around: Keeping a good look out demands a 360° view. This means that all members of the bridge team must move around to ensure they routinely view all angles, including behind you. Even a radar can have blind spots.
  9. Distractions: On the bridge it is easy to become distracted and lose track of time. If you feel that you are becoming distracted by traffic or demanding navigation, don’t hesitate to call the Master or increase the bridge team. Never lose the capacity to keep a good lookout.
  10. Complacency: Many vessels collide in good visibility where either one or both vessels don’t see each other until it’s too late to avoid collision. If two vessels are approaching each other at 20 knots, it only takes 15 minutes to cover 10 miles!

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