When deciding the composition of the watch on the bridge, which may include appropriately qualified ratings, the following factors, inter alia, must be taken into account:
• the need to ensure that at no time should the bridge be left unattended;
• weather conditions, visibility and whether there is daylight or darkness;
• proximity of navigational hazards which may make it necessary for the OOW to carry out additional duties;
• use and operational condition of navigational aids such as radar or electronic position-indicating devices and any other equipment affecting the safe navigation of the ship;
• whether the ship is fitted with automatic steering;
• whether there are radio duties to be performed;
• unmanned machinery space (UMS) controls, alarms and indicators provided on the bridge, procedures for their use and limitations;
• any unusual demands on the navigational watch that may arise as a result of special operational circumstances.
Reassessing manning levels during the voyage
At any time on passage, it may become appropriate to review the manning levels of a navigational watch.
Changes to the operational status of the bridge equipment, the prevailing weather and traffic conditions, the nature of the waters in which the ship is navigating, fatigue levels and workload on the bridge are among the factors that should be taken into account.
A passage through restricted waters may, for example, necessitate a helmsman for manual steering, and calling the master or a back-up officer to support the bridge team.
Under the STCW Code, the OOW may be the sole look-out in daylight conditions (see section 188.8.131.52).
If sole look-out watchkeeping is to be practised on any ship, clear guidance should be given in the shipboard operational procedures manual, supported by master's standing orders as appropriate, and covering as a minimum:
• under what circumstances sole look-out watchkeeping can commence;
• how sole look-out watchkeeping should be supported;
• under what circumstances sole look-out watchkeeping must be suspended.
It is also recommended that before commencing sole look-out watchkeeping the master should be satisfied, on each occasion, that:
• the OOW has had sufficient rest prior to commencing watch;
• in the judgement of the OOW, the anticipated workload is well within his capacity to maintain a proper look-out and remain in full control of the prevailing circumstances;
• back-up assistance to the OOW has been clearly designated;
• the OOW knows who will provide that back-up assistance, in what circumstances back-up must be called, and how to call it quickly;
• designated back-up personnel are aware of response times, any limitations on their movements, and are able to hear alarm or communication calls from the bridge;
• all essential equipment and alarms on the bridge are fully functional.
The bridge team
All ship's personnel who have bridge navigational watch duties will be part of the bridge team. The master and pilot(s), as necessary, will support the team, which will comprise the OOW, a helmsman and look-out(s) as required.
The OOW is in charge of the bridge and the bridge team for that watch, until relieved.
It is important that the bridge team works together closely, both within a particular watch and across watches, since decisions made on one watch may have an impact on another watch.
The bridge team also has an important role in maintaining communications with the engine room and other operating areas on the ship.