“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Time before joining is critical. Insist on receiving the handover notes prior joining & make sure to give them a thorough read prior departure. Write down your doubts while going through them. Reading them on board is already too late.
COMPANY SMS: You will be surprised how little you knew about your own company prior reading the SMS. It provides you with important info. following but not limited to:
Bridge/Cargo watch keeping procedures
Filing system & upkeep of log books.
Work Permit system & Risk assessments.
Safety & environmental policy.
Checklists applicable to your ship type.
Drill routine & PPE matrix.
Company policy on social media, drug, alcohol & complaint procedures.
Routine checks on Safety & navigational equipment.
Rank responsibility & duty matrix.
Brush up Rules of road (ROR), Meteorology, MARPOL & SOLAS.
Relieve your anxiety by creating a mental image of the vessel with the help of company websites having GA plans/ship pictures, classification& flag websites providing ship specific info.
Once onboard, meet the captain & introduce yourself.
THE HANDOVER usually happens in a busy port with multiple operations going on simultaneously. 1st Clear the doubts you had while reading the handover notes. Follow the handover checklist, do not rely on memory & jot down all info. including location of important folders, forms & passwords. Undertake & prioritize bridge familiarization as per company checklist.
THE BRIDGE: Pay special attention to:
Change over procedure for bridge controls & equipment.
All controls on Engine console such as main engine safeties, crash astern procedures ,critical RPM etc.
ECDIS & RADAR
Equipment on backup power
Master & company’s standing orders.
Bridge watching keeping:
Always refer to past track & review course line over the entire duration of your watch & the next watch, to get an over view of what to expect & identify critical areas. So far as possible alter courses on hand steering. Always monitor ROT & for routine course alteration keep ROT between 5 to 10 degree in compliance with master’s standing order. Deviation obtained by Compass error calculation must be compared with deviation graph.
Always visually confirm status of Navigation lights esp. in hours of darkness. Note that it takes 4 to 5 minutes for eyes to adapt to night vision. Always check RADAR clutter & ECDIS safety settings prior take over.
Weather updates/barometric pressure changes should be promptly shared with Master and fellow duty officers. As a solo watch keeper always confirm positive communication with the lookout. Never hesitate to summon your lookout if required on bridge. Comply with company’s/Master’s standing order of Min. CPA/TCPA with other vessels. Over looking any checklist will be a fatal error!
Important paper work includes:
Port papers required prior departure &for next port.
Status of requisitions, stores (flags,LSA/FFA) received in last 30 days, present port& due in the next 30 days.
Planned maintenance system & filing systems on board.
Condition, last service status & defect of equipment. Date when the Lifeboat/rescue boat were last lowered & maneuvered in water.
At earliest opportunity compare your fire plan with actual location & quantity of LSA/FFA.
Always seek a copy of SEQ annexure (e.g. form E/red folder) to get detailed information related to safety equipment. Sometimes service certificates of safety equipment may have errors w.r.t. serial number & actual quantity, always cross check. Update muster list & fire plan folder.
Practice extreme caution & alertness during your watches. Any concern must be conveyed to the master. Under exceptional circumstances if master is unavailable call the chief mate. Do not hesitate to use the PA system. TEAM BRIEFING: is essential prior commencing the watch or mooring stations. Any particular areas of concern where you want alerts to be raised must be shared. Always take care of your crew esp. their welfare &breaks. But do not be a people pleaser. Be assertive when required.
IMPORTANT POINTS DURING CARGO WATCH
- Safe access & security of the ship is a priority, frequently check the gangway & ISPS log including security passes.
2) Any delays, defects, damages or interruptions during cargo work must be promptly reported to chief officer &record must be maintained.
3) Understand Local regulations/ berth restrictions if any w.r.t to air draft, UKCor precautions during cargo operations or environment.
4) Check the condition of flags, shapes /lights during your watch.
5) Keep an eye on ship surroundings& any visible oil sheen must be reported immediately to the master & pictures should be taken (even if it is not from own ship).
6) Must refer to tidal info. during the cargo watch.
7) Clearly understand the latest cargo plan & chief officer’s standing instructions including the watch composition.
8) Clearly understand the notices required for departure/arrival preparation including preparation of bridge equipment.
9) Do not try out the main engine without approval from master.
10) Weather related entries & all timings must not be made casually.
11) Keep all log books updated.
12) Never undertake signing of any paperwork casually, without prior consent from master/chief mate.
With this strong foundation, let the journey begin.