All at Sea - The Navigator Issue 3

01 Jun 2013 The Navigator

In the last edition of The Navigator, we looked at the Colregs and asked how navigators can use them to avoid collision at sea. Now, we turn our attention to the important role that passage planning plays and asked the wider marine community for views on what makes for good - and bad - planning at sea.

It is important to think about what risks and situations are unacceptable in advance, rather than dealing with them when fatigued and unsure. Such planning may go some way to avoiding taking a chance in the first instance.
Richard Wild

Our Corporation has recently reviewed how we do passage planning, and a uniform formalised approach has now been adopted. The final plan is quite thorough. As much as possible is listed in ECDIS, either on the chart or in the form of waypoint notes. Checks are electronic and manual, or visual. Whilst berth-to-berth planning is done by the ship’s officers, the pilots may have their own views and ideas, and so it is of great advantage to incorporate this at the planning stage.
Christopher Rynd, FNI

Passage planning should include the possibility of diversions from the planned track. While on the one hand VTS like to fine you for not using special routes or lanes, it also happens quite often that they call to say that we should use an alternative track or stay out of the main channel due to heavy traffic and the small size of our ship. It is very annoying if you first have to dive to the bookshelf for some sailing directions just to find out if this new route is possible, or if you would need extra personnel on the bridge.
Baerbel Beuse

Vessel size should always be taken into account when planning passages. The sea is at times taken for granted on account of brute power or size of larger vessels, but it is the small vessels that call for a lot of deliberations, weather planning and reiterations of the fact that the passage may not go as planned.
Kamal Singh

In my passage planning days, we started with the largest scale charts and worked down to the smallest - eventually identifying all the relevant hazards. As part of that process, myself, the Master and the other officers developed a ‘feel’ for the route, the hazards, the waypoints and all manner of relevant information. Thus, when we came to actually carry out the voyage, we had a fairly good idea of what might be expected already in our heads. If a change was needed, we already knew the planned sea-area, so could re-assess fairly quickly and make good, well informed decisions. Assessing passage planning effectiveness - and attempting to minimise risk - must always begin with the navigator, their knowledge and their attitude.
Peter J McArthur


The next issue of The Navigator will look at the use of electronic navigational charts and ECDIS. 

If you would like to send us your response, comments or ideas, please contact the editor, Emma Ward at, or watch out for the LinkedIn discussion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Join the debate on LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter. A PDF of this publication can be downloaded here