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  • Double Watchkeeping

    I'm keen to get some debate going on the forums to hopefully get some of our more experienced members out of the woodwork and show that we're about officers AND cadets, not just officer cadets!

    So, I'm curious. What do you think about double watchkeeping? Does it improve safety or does it just add unnecessary complexity to the job of maintaining a safe watch? It has insurance benefits, but what do you think?

    My experience has been on cruise ships with a particular company (not all cruise ship operators are the same, many retain single watchkeeping), where at normal manning level we would have a senior OOW with at least a mate's ticket, a junior OOW with OOW ticket and one or two quartermasters depending on ship. The senior officer is the one in charge of the watch, but either officer may have the conn. They work together as "navigator" and "conavigator", with the conning officer concentrating on collision avoidance and the other on long-range radar observation and ancillary bridge tasks.

    For restricted visibility or heavy traffic, the manning level changes to include somebody with a master's ticket and then for manoeuvring there'll be an additional officer on top of that.

    So what do you think?
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  • #2
    An interesting topic and one which I'm sure will divide opinion.

    One thing is for certain within the Carnival Corp section of the cruise industry and that is that double watchkeeping is going to be the norm soon for all of the brands.

    Personally I can appreciate the pro's and con's for both. I began as a 4th Officer which traditionally within my company is an assistants role on the bridge (co-navigator as you put it). I was occasionally given the conn in this function and enjoyed having it but was always eager to feel the full responsibility of the OOW. I always knew at this stage that there was someone else there watching me and keeping me right.

    After a short while, presumably having been doing ok, the Captain agreed to me having 2 hours of my own in the afternoon (12-2). All of a sudden that other guy wasn't there anymore, it was just me, one QM and a few distant ships out the window. Of course I knew that the old man would have been watching me like a hawk from his office, but even so as situations developed and I took action to avoid them I got a great feeling of responsibility and that I was doing what I had spent 3 years qualifying to do.

    Eventually having demonstrated myself capable of doing it I was promoted to 3rd Officer and senior watchkeeper during the daytime, usually 8-12. The experience gained from my couple of hours as a 4th made me more confident to step into this role of now doing 8 hours a day instead of just 2. The next step for me is to become 2nd and to be the guy in charge through the night with a new 4th as my assistant who will be in the same position I was in a few years ago.

    What concerns me is that this new 4th Officer will not get that feeling that I had when I was gently introduced into senior watchkeeping until he/she is promoted to 2nd Officer many years on from that point. In fact he/she will have to go back to college to get their Mates licence having never been in charge of a watch themselves.

    Having said all of that I do understand why the corporations have had to make that change, and as you say, some have operated that way for years already, but I think there is something to be said for the gentle integration style described above!! *sitsonfence*
    @martynatsea

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    • #3
      Sounds like way too many people on the bridge for my liking, but coming from cargo ships, where solo (completely during daytime, no AB) watches are the norm, I guess it would. Is this overmanned bridge just for coastal? Or during sea passages as well?
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      • #4
        I see what Martynatsea is saying... but frankly, IMHO, if by the end of your cadetship you've not got the basic knowledge and CONFIDENCE in that knowledge too, then maybe you shouldn't have that ticket yet. That "gentle integration" should take place during a cadet's last sea phase, and in the first week or so of of their new job as an officer once qualified.

        I was given my first solo watch as a cadet, on a cruise ship. Admittedly we were crossing the Atlantic and there was sweet FA in the way of traffic, and I was under the strictest of instructions to call the Captain or C/O if anything appeared, let alone if it was on a collision course with us! The trust that was placed in me by giving me that watch though gave me a huge confidence boost (They don't think I'm totally incompetent, YAY!). I know from talking to people at college and people I have met since that on many cargo vessels cadets in their final phase are given the watch on their own as well.

        When I joined my first ship as a qualified officer, again this was a cruise ship, I had the Captain on the bridge for a couple of hours for the first watch, he then left me to it, having hammered it into me that if I needed him at any time I should call him immediately! The C/O hung around with me for a bit the next night, and by the 3rd or 4th night on the ship I was doing full watches on my own.

        Now, bear in mind that this wasn't the norm, I should have had a full weeks handover with the person I was taking over the job from before being let loose on my own, but due to staff shortages, I got chucked in at the deep end. I also called the Captain every night for a week - navigating waters just out of the Panama Canal and along the Costa Rican coast threw up many irregular lights, ships behaving like their watchkeepers were half asleep and about a million tiny fishing boats, it felt like a baptism of fire!

        However, if I'd had someone standing over my shoulder all the time, I'd never have had the confidence to start making decisions for my self, I'd always be checking with them first, letting them do the difficult bits and not getting that essential experience and the confidence that builds with it. When calling the Captain, his first question, after arriving on the bridge and having had the situation outlined to him, would be "so what are you going to do about it?" By that time I would have figured out the course of action I felt was appropriate, and 99% of the time, he just said, "Carry on", would hang about while I did whatever I'd said I was going to do and then pootle off again. He never took the Con off me.

        I wonder how the officers who have never had their own watch fare if/when they leave the cruise industry and go elsewhere...

        Now, on the other hand, driving a cruise ship with thousands of people on it is a huge responsibility, and the bridges are huge as well, with a multitude of panels of alarm systems etc. It's a lot to deal with on your own. Having someone else to do the watch with means that when the fire alarm goes off because someone's used too much hairspray in their cabin, someone is always there to deal with it, letting the navigator carry on navigating. You also have someone to talk to, which makes the long quiet hours of the night pass a little quicker (although, here's an idea, you could talk to your QM/AB, thereby fostering a stronger working relationship!). And of course, for some vessels it is an insurance requirement now. My personal feeling though, is that as a junior watchkeeper on a dual watch, you're not much more than a glorified cadet. *Awaits furious backlash*

        Size4riggerboots

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        • #5
          tlloyd1983
          Sounds like way too many people on the bridge for my liking, but coming from cargo ships, where solo (completely during daytime, no AB) watches are the norm, I guess it would. Is this overmanned bridge just for coastal? Or during sea passages as well?
          That is two licensed watchkeepers on the bridge all of the time that the ship is underway (I believe that in port the other officer is allowed to be off in the ship doing "rounds"). I say 'I believe' because my company is still catching up and at present we still use single watchkeepers by day although that is changing as I said above.

          size4riggerboots
          I see what Martynatsea is saying... but frankly, IMHO, if by the end of your cadetship you've not got the basic knowledge and CONFIDENCE in that knowledge too, then maybe you shouldn't have that ticket yet. That "gentle integration" should take place during a cadet's last sea phase, and in the first week or so of of their new job as an officer once qualified.
          I think that we actually agree with each other from reading your whole post (for the most part ). I was dying to be given the opportunity to have my own watch from the second I stepped onboard as a newly qualified officer so I'm sure I had the confidence. The reality though, certainly within my company was that just wasn't going to happen from day one. Thankfully I didn't have to wait long and that opportunity came and I grabbed it with both hands. Unfortunately though for todays new officers that opportunity is just never going to come, and that is where I think we agree that double watchkeeping is not necessarily a good thing.

          As for the 'gentle integration' happening in a cadets last sea phase I cannot see how that can work. I had the conn a lot in my last trip as a cadet but as we've said that is not the same as having the feeling of having your own watch. And without starting an argument here, I wouldn't have been left on the bridge alone because that's illegal.

          There have been times though when I have been very thankful for having that second person on the bridge with me, because as you say the multitude of alarms, the volume of phone calls from people who think that the bridge is the switchboard for the entire ship, etc, etc, are distractions which someone else can deal with.
          @martynatsea

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          • #6
            Originally posted by martynatsea View Post
            And without starting an argument here, I wouldn't have been left on the bridge alone because that's illegal.
            Oh indeed! However, it happens, a lot!!

            Size4riggerboots

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            • #7
              I also agree fully with what s4 is saying, she has beaten me too it!

              While as a cadet I was regularly given the con, there was always the duty officer lurking somewhere (usually through the back doing paperwork) and I had strict instructions to call him if anything appeared or if I had to do anything other than ?follow the red line?.

              Once qualified I, like s4, joined a cruise ship and while I should have had a 7 day handover due to various reasons this didn?t happen and I had a 2 day handover while the ship was alongside in Istanbul.

              That night heading out through the sea of Marmara I was on the bridge with the staff captain for the first hour before he disappeared telling me if I needed anything call him on radio - both him and the captain re-appeared at various points making perfectly clear that if I had any problems don?t hesitate to call them. - For those who have yet to experience Istanbul it?s very busy - it is a traffic lane but when you?re only doing 12 kts everything is over taking you - although I spent my first watch sitting on the right of the lane hoping nothing would drive into me.

              After that first night I was pretty much left to it, being on the 8-12 meant that captain and staff captain both regularly passed by to ?check up? and ask questions, but in full agreement with s4, being thrown in at the deep end (so to speak) by being on your own and make the decisions on your own certainly improved my confidence.

              Now on the point of having another officer with you - near the end of my first week just before mid night the fire alarm system went nuts and wouldn't acknowledge - as my 2 minutes were quickly being used up my solution to this was to pull the fuses - had I had another officer with me, who had some experience of that ship then chances are that wouldn't of been necessary.

              I have not been on a ship where just 1 person is permitted on the bridge (except in port), there is always at least 1 QM during the day and 2 QM?s at night and this in my opinion is plenty. Martyn makes the very valid point that it?s nice to have someone else to answer the phone / deal with the alarms - why not have your QM do this - you?ll probably find most of them have an oow licence and are more than capable of answering the phone and doing basic navigational stuff? Of course there is always the fact that if you?re busy you can just ignore the phone - or pick it up tell them your busy and hang up! (The three companies I have worked for have had a navigation ?condition red? policy which the OOW can set at any time - which restricts non emergency / engine room communications to the bridge.. this works well).

              To end with, due to several cadets qualifying and being hired we had a 4th officer (highly unusual for us) join my last ship for a few months and they were put on watch with me, on the 4-8. After the initial few days which was just like a normal hand over I left them too it. I was required to be on the bridge with them, but spent my time doing the passage plans for future cruises, occasionally assisting when something wen?t wrong - so my question is, what on earth do you guys on ships with 2 OOW?s actually do during your watch that requires 2 of you?
              ?Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn?t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.?

              ? Mark Twain
              myBlog | @alistairuk | flickr | youtube Views and opinions expressed are those of myself and not representative of any employer or other associated party.

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              • #8
                [disclosure]I've never sailed on a cruise ship, or with doubled watches.[/disclosure]

                From a seafarer's point of view, the junior OOW appears to be only a little more than a glorified cadet. Someone else is still calling all the shots. Acquaintances with experience of this have expressed great frustration at being directed by seniors of questionable ability/competence.

                From a ship operator's safety and liability perspective, it absolutely makes sense. It would be nice to see some statistics of prangs for ships with doubled watches vs OOW + AB vs lone watchkeepers.

                It is very easy to sit as OOW on a cargo ship with responsibility for 20 lives and criticise the practices of cruise ships where the OOW is responsible for thousands of lives.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Steve View Post
                  From a ship operator's safety and liability perspective, it absolutely makes sense. It would be nice to see some statistics of prangs for ships with doubled watches vs OOW + AB vs lone watchkeepers.
                  Steve makes a very valid point - it would be interesting to see how many collisions / groundings took place on vessels with 2 OOWs v's 1 OOW - obviously ignoring pilotage since generally it would be a senior if not captain on the bridge.
                  ?Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn?t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.?

                  ? Mark Twain
                  myBlog | @alistairuk | flickr | youtube Views and opinions expressed are those of myself and not representative of any employer or other associated party.

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                  • #10
                    The only time you may really need 2 oow's on the bridge is when the vessel is in close proximity to land, where you have one concentrate on position fixing and the other collision avoidance and driving the boat.

                    99% of the time of a open sea journey the vessel could probably be put on auto-track and have nobody on the bridge... it only for that 1% of the time where you have to make a minor course adjustment to avoid a vessel that the bridge needs manned... but obviously we can't predict when that will be.

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                    • #11
                      Large cruise ships without a doubt need two watchkeepers. The auxiliary responsibilities on the bridge are time consuming and a serious distraction, being able to deal with a fire alarm promptly for instance whilst confident that someone else is driving is very important. Managing overboard discharges, internal communications, paperwork etc is all a distraction. Cruise ships primarily operate near coastal, in and out of port on a daily basis with 4000+ pax. This is no place for big egos, cowboys and mistakes. We've all seen the results of that recently.

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                      • #12
                        AFAIK, my company (containers) now have duel watchkeeping for vessels over 8500 teu

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by AncientMariner View Post
                          This is no place for big egos, cowboys and mistakes
                          I those were the minimum requirements?

                          Anywho, double watchkeeping? Regular port runs, sure as those can be a wee bit busy. Long voyages? Best not as folks can get a wee bit complacent....
                          I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.....

                          All posts here represent my own opinion and not that of my employer.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pignutpilot View Post
                            The only time you may really need 2 oow's on the bridge is when the vessel is in close proximity to land, where you have one concentrate on position fixing and the other collision avoidance and driving the boat.

                            99% of the time of a open sea journey the vessel could probably be put on auto-track and have nobody on the bridge... it only for that 1% of the time where you have to make a minor course adjustment to avoid a vessel that the bridge needs manned... but obviously we can't predict when that will be.
                            Nobody on the bridge? If not for that pesky STCW requirement that the watch be kept on the bridge. Would be pretty tricky to carry the GMDSS equipment off the bridge too... I'd love to see a risk assessment for an unmanned bridge. Working in the short sea trade in NW Europe, congested waters are the norm on my companies vessels but there's only one Officer on the bridge and I can't see the need for two. If the increased workload due to reporting, frequency of position fixing or exceptionally heavy traffic become too much, the Captain and additional look-outs are available.

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                            • #15
                              I think double watch keeping is good, I work for princess cruises and have always preferred it. On passenger ships there can be a lot going on during the day/night and the alarm management or managing the phonecalls and usingthe heeling pumps the can be a problem for a single watch keeper at one time! However depending on who the senior officer your with is, for third officers it can be a problem getting the conn! I have sailed with good seniors and even when i was a cadet I was allowed to unofficially have the conn. As a third it is good to have someone their also which can help build confidence I'm certain situations. So I think it's a good practice!

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