5 Tips To Avoid Navigational Accidents


Poor watchkeeping, over reliance on GPS, fatigue, commercial pressure and distractions remain as major causes of shipping accidents.

Mariners must always remain alert to their surroundings and have the ability and confidence to identify and mitigate risk. 

let’s identify a few basic seamanship and good navigation practices, which can save the day.


  1. Do not always rely on radar– At open seas, the captain saw a fishing boat in the immediate vicinity of the bow of his ship from his cabin. He ran to the bridge, turned on manual control and avoided a collision. In this case, the officer in charge of the watch did not notice the boat as he was steering only with radar and the target was not detected due to its size. During this time, the OOW was changing course to avoid a collision with another ship that was seen on radar. 

In this case, if the OOW had carefully looked out the bridge window, the situation could have been avoided. Thus, a proper visual look-out is a key for the safety of navigation.

  1. Watch the rudder angle- Watch the rudder angle while going through a busy Traffic. The captain had control of the vessel and the OOW was communicating with VTS. The AB reported that a fishing boat on the starboard side had started moving and was crossing the bow. The captain then checked the movement of the target on the radar and ordered the helmsman “starboard 20”. 

At this time the telephone bridge rang, and the captain answered it. At the end of the conversation, when he looked up, he noticed that the fishing boat still hadn’t moved away from the bow of the ship, and ordered: “Hard on starboard.” At this time, the bridge crew realized that although the helmsman was executing the order, he was actually steering the rudder in the opposite direction. 

When giving a command to the helmsman, the OOW or the Captain should check the outcome of the command in order to make sure that it is executed properly. It is always important to keep an eye on the Rudder angle indicator (RAI) to break this chain of errors.

  1. Do not always rely on safety management system- When approaching the port and after determining the location on the map, the navigator informed the captain that the ship was north of the proposed route and he should go south. Based on the feedback, the captain began to adjust the course, but the radar pattern of the landmarks and the navigator’s assessment did not match. So, the captain checked himself and realized that the Officer Of the Watch (OOW) had incorrectly indicated the latitude, the ship had just crossed the equator and was in the Southern Hemisphere.

With the increased use of ECDIS, the possibility of such errors is minimized. But what navigators still do not understand is the principle of tracking the position of the ship. They rely on the company’s Safety Management System (SMS) to guide them and then, regardless of their own situation.

  1. Carefully read buoys- When experienced chief officer boarded the ship to pick up the pilot through the buoyed canal. While entering the canal, a starboard buoy was seen directly ahead. Seeing the buoy directly ahead, the senior officer immediately ordered to keep to starboard, the captain canceled his order, straightened the ship again and returned it to its previous course.

This confusion can be minimized by remembering that “can port – cone to stbd” for ingoing and vice versa for outgoing.

  1. Change the course as early as possible to avoid collisions– low visibility conditions and in areas of heavy traffic, the AB on duty informed OOW of a target located directly ahead on the radar. The officer in charge took no action, as he assumed that the target was either a fishing boat that was receding as the ship approached it, or it was a false echo. This led to a collision with the detected target that turned out to be drifting.

In the above case, a course alteration, even for a “false echo”, would have been the best decision for the safety of the vessel. Safe navigation with radar is only possible when the navigator is confident in his understanding of the equipment and its limitations.

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Source: marine digital


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