Watchkeeping – do you need a ticket?
Watchkeeping and watchkeeper responsibilities!
This newsletter is about watchkeeping on Domestic Commercial Vessels (DCV) for vessels less than 35 metres operating within the EEZ.
Watchkeeping, do you need a ticket for being a watchkeeper on a DCV <35mtrs?
Whilst its best if the person on watch has a deck ticket it’s not a requirement. There’s no problem in a crew member who has been trained in watchkeeping procedures and the Master deems competent to stand a watch.
In fact, if a watchkeeper on a DCV had to have a ticket there is likely to be either less vessels operating or more marine incidents.
A watchkeeper may be the Master or another crew member deemed competent to undertake watchkeeping duties.
When a Master hands over watchkeeping duties to a crew member remember that the person on watch has been given control over the safety of the vessel and all persons onboard!
A person on watch is required to maintain a lookout using all available means which includes but is not limited to:
- The use of electronics; e.g. radar, sounders, etc.
Every SMS should have a watchkeeping procedure which includes:
- Recording the name and time of crew members on and off watch
- Masters Standing Orders
- Following the planned course
- Maintaining safe navigation
- Maintaining a radio watch
- Monitoring machinery, plant and all alarms
- Being aware of situations or conditions that do or have the potential to affect safety
- Recording events in the vessels Log Book
- Most importantly calling the Master if in doubt
Being on watch means not only when you’re working or steaming but also at anchor so ensure the above items are followed even when at anchor which is when a lot of incidents occur!
Develop a watchkeeping procedure and ensure it gets followed at all times. We strongly recommend developing a watchkeeping hand-over sheet which includes:
- Vessels current position, course and speed
- Position and number of potential hazard (if any)
- Other vessels in close proximity
- Special conditions affecting the vessels progress or operations (wind, tide, etc.)
- Navigational aids
- Each crew members operational duties if working
With some of our clients we have developed a sign over form which each item is ticked off during the hand-over process then signed by the watchkeeper going off duty and the one taking over.
Our other recommendation is when travelling at periods of restricted visibility (at night, dusk or dawn, fog, etc.) in waters that restrict your manoeuvrability by way of channel width or depth place a lookout on the bow and reduce speed!
One of the best gadgets to have is a Watch Alarm which you can set different intervals between alarms which are designed to ensure you remain awake.
Take Note: if you are getting tired or falling asleep when on watch WAKE SOMEONE UP do not try to battle through your watch and put the vessel and all persons onboard at risk!
Our other BIG tip is when on watch don’t just sit in the chair, get up, walk around and ensure you look behind you as well. A 360° lookout has saved may a vessel from a collision. Don’t always think that because you’re keeping a lookout the other vessels crew are doing the same!