A Guide On Watch keeping Duties Under Emergency

A seafarer must always be prepared to tackle emergency situations. To tackle any emergency with confidence special drills and training are conducted onboard ships. But still, people sometimes panic during his watch in an emergency.

Thus it’s important to know what should be done under certain events doing Watch keeping in Emergencies.

Action Required In Case of An Emergency – Watch Keeping Duties

A. Sight of Ice

1) All ice dangerous to navigation and should be reported to Master.
2) The Officer On Watch (OOW) should alter the course away from the immediate danger.
Actions to be taken :
1) Plot the position of the ice, observe and note description.
2) Estimate the size of the ice cake.
3) Take care when position fixing with fast ice.
4) Avoid totally if possible – unlike brash ice.
5) The engine room on immediate standby, if not already on this position.
6) Post extra lookouts and brief them regarding ice sighting and recognition.
7) Revert to manual steering.
8) Obtain the latest ice reports and compare them with chart limits.
9) Reduce speed and approach with extreme caution, if unavoidable.
10) Keep master informed of the progress.


(i). Simple Fires:
1. Sound fire alarms and inform the Bridge and Chief Engineer Officer about the location, intensity of the fire, and if ME to be stopped.
2. E/R air supply fans to be stopped and fan suction flaps to be closed so as to restrict the supply of fresh air/oxygen to the fire. At the same time start the Engine room exhaust fans to remove the smoke from the Engine room
3. Start an emergency fire pump.
4. Restrict and fight fire with available proper equipment. (i.e. either with water or by using suitable portable fire extinguishers).
5. Remote quick closing valves can be operated to cut off oil supply to the fire.
6. Check Engine room bilges and pump out as required.

(ii). Watch Keeping duties For severe fires:
CO2 or fixed foam has to be introduced. Chief Engineer Officer to be informed.
1. Start an Emergency Generator and put it on load.
2. As far as possible, shut off all machinery in the Engine room.
3. Take Engine room log book, Movement Book, and other important documents (if possible) from the Engine room.
4. Order immediate evacuation of the Engine room spaces and muster all the officers and Crew at the Muster Station.
5. Take headcount of Officers and Crew and inform the Master and/or CEO.
6. The chief engineer should operate the fixed fire extinguishing system.

  Watch keeping Duty After the fire has been extinguished:

1. Sufficient time (at least 16-20 hours) is given for the fire to completely extinguish itself.
2. Two persons donning SCBA must enter the E.R., preferably at the lowermost point (i.e. down through the emergency escape), to ascertain whether the fire has been extinguished.
3. Provided the fire has been extinguished, ventilate the Engine room.
4. Make damage assessment and restart machinery one by one.
5. All events to be noted down in the Engine room log book.

grounded ship Rena
Author: New Zealand Defence Force Year: 2011, License: Creative Commons Attribution License; CC-BY

C. Watch Keeping During Grounding of the Ship.

1. Change over to high sea suction.
2. Check all Engine room. and deck fuel tanks, particularly if they are D.B. tanks, at regular intervals, as well as all D.B. tanks in the vicinity of the Engine Room, for rupture of the outer plating and flooding.
3. Make an immediate visual inspection of ship side plating in way of E.R. and steering gear spaces to ascertain if there are any ruptures or leakages in the plating.
4. Continuously keep checking the state of E.R. bilges to make sure that they are no unseen leaks resulting in flooding of the bilges.
5. Run minimum essential machinery.
6. Monitor all parameters of running machinery.
7. Have enough power at hand to start any other machinery as required by the Bridge.
8. Check all self-closing cocks on sounding pipes are in proper position and in operating condition.
9. In consultation with the C.E./Master, plan and execute any damage control/flood control operations.
10. Maintain ‘stand by’ condition in E.R. throughout the period of grounding.
11. In consultation with the C.O./Master, plan and execute any ballasting/de-ballasting operations.

D. Watch Keeping during Collision with another Ship.

1. Depending upon the point of collision /impact & it’s the distance from the E.R., the M/E speed to be reduced or to be stopped as per instructions from the Bridge/C.E.
2. Sound all tanks, particularly D.B. tanks inside the E.R. for any flooding, and also check all ship-side plating welded joints to ensure that no leaks or loosening of joints have taken place because of the impact of the collision.
3. If required further, run minimum essential machinery and monitor all running machinery parameters closely.
4. Have enough reserve power to start any other machinery as required by the Bridge.
5. Sound all E.R. and deck fuel oil tanks and particularly, D.B. tanks at regular intervals to make sure that outer plating welds of these tanks have not given way due to shock and impact of the collision and caused a delayed or slow leaks inside the tanks.
6. Make sure that all self-closing devices on sounding pipes D.B. tanks are in closed and in proper operating condition.
7. Maintain stand by the condition in E.R. throughout this period of emergency and until at least temporary damage control measures have successfully been carried out.
8. Depending upon whether the point of impact is above or below the waterline, be ready to carry out ballasting or de-ballasting operations in consultation with the Master/C.E.
9. Transfer fuel oil if required, to a safer location to avoid potential oil spills.
10. Depending upon the location and gravity of the impact, make an attempt to carry out damage control measures and then only proceed further either to your destination or to the nearest safer port for further repairs.
11. Note all the events in the E.R. Log Book.

E. Watch keeping during Black Out.

1. Black Out means complete loss of power required for running the ship’s machinery. Therefore, all the running machinery including the M/E will automatically come to a stop in the event of a Black Out.
2. As soon as the Black Out occurs (i.e. either running generator engine stops due to some mechanical problems or the fault occurs due to some serious fault in the electrical systems), the emergency generator will come on load automatically, after some pre-determined time lag and emergency lighting in E.R. will come ON.
3. On older ships, if there is no provision for automatic starting of an emergency generator, the same may have to be started manually and put on load.
4. Inform the C.E. and then start the stand by generator and put it on load.
5. Ensure that there is no apparent damage to the main engine and related pumps and machinery due to sudden stoppage and then start the main engine-related pumps/machinery one by one.
6. Provided M/E parameters have not deviated from the normal range too much, open the main starting air valve and restart the M.E. slowly.
7. Only after ascertaining that the M.E. and related machinery are running normally, increase the M.E. speed slowly to Full Away speed and inform the Bridge accordingly.
8. Stop the emergency generator manually.
9. Now, restart the nonessential machinery (i.e. A/C plant for accommodation, dom. Fridge system, dom. F.w. system, sanitary s.w. system, galley power, etc.)
10. After all, machinery are running normally, inform the C.E.O.
11. Investigate the reasons for running generator tripping off, assess the damage if any, and repair the same and try out the generator engine and keep it ready for further use.
12. Note all the events in the E.R. Log Book.

Watch keeping on Ship in congested waters
Author: jgmorard Year: 2009; License: Creative Commons Attribution License License Shorthand: CC-BY

Watch keeping in Congested Waters and during Restricted Visibility.

  1. Start standby aux. engine.
  2. Change over to high sea suction (where the depth of water is less).
  3. Ship’s speed to brought down to safe (maneuvering) speed if desired so by the Master.
  4. The Chief Engineer to be informed of the situation.
  5. Start two (Both) steering pumps in order to have a better and speedy response to steering changes.
  6. Open-air to ship’s whistle.
  7. Record all the movements in the E/R log book or Movement Book.

The author and ShipFever do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader

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Arpit Singh

A full-time marine engineer and part-time blogger. He loves his job, playing soccer, multitasking, and helping for a cause. Just like being a part-time writer for this website.

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