A captain's pain points in everyday operations

I’m curious to understand what the main pain points are for bridge personnel in everyday operations. Could be everything from too many alarms, VHF communitcation, undetected targets/obstacles, poor position estimates on targets, separate AIS and radar tracks (poor association) and so on. I’m mostly interested in things related to navigation.

Search words: navigation, situational awareness, challenges, ecdis, ecs, ins, ai

When someone buys a new phone the software guides though the set-up.

On the ship each bridge, each brand of ECDIS, radar etc differs. Set-up should be simplified and standardized so it can be done without having to waste time digging though various manuals.

Don’t have time for that anymore.


Okay, I’ll play.
Manual position fixing on an ECDIS. As it stands right now I have to go to the bridge wing take the bearing, enter the bearing and Reference point into the ECDIS at least 3 times.

We should have a digital alidade that feeds directly into the ECDIS. Point it and click the button on each bearing, walk to the ECDIS and click on the 3 reference points and done. Better yet, AI that can determine the reference point.

To Kennebec’s point, MSC has been updating the Old tankers ECDIS and Radar to the same as the AKE’s. I was excited to have one system to use and then I find out the new tankers will have a 3rd ECDIS brand. What a waste.

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A dual purpose watch keeping alarm button that silences all equipment alarms and a display that tells you what is in an alarm state similar to the engine control room set up.
In one instance I can think of a fault in the telegraph unit in the main bridge console caused a particularly shrill alarm that was difficult to pinpoint where the alarm originated. After a excruciating period of time a search by C/Eng, electrician, and sundry others including myself located the offending item and silenced it. Fortunately it occurred on ocean passage.
Another instance occurred when a vessel blacked out on passage to Hamburg up the Elbe. To contact the authorities the master used a portable VHF on the bridge wings to escape the cacophony of various alarms in the wheelhouse.


IMO the equipment on the tanker was better than what we had on the AKE. really prefer Transas /Furuno over Sperry. I feel like life on the tanker was better. easier ops, more port time, a lot of time spent in Norfolk at NAVSTA. we did not get Ammo pay. however, that was offset by night diff. But east coast MSC is far worse than West, and I’d prefer the WC AKE mostly for that reason.

That would indeed be a Godsend. Alarms like that are particularly distracting when you are on an unfamiliar vessel.

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I would echo the point @Hogsnort has raised. Alarms on the bridge, while necessary, can be distracting and outright harmful. Occasionally there are alarms that cannot be silenced on the bridge. Those on the bridge should be aware of those and know how to deal with them.

A couple cases to illustrate…
The general alarm can be activated from the bridge. Everyone knows that as that is how most Fire & Boat drills commence. But there are other locations where the general alarm can be sounded. The engine room and outside the emergency generator room were locations on my old ship. On one occasion the Captain and I got together and decided I would report an engine room fire to the bridge and sound the general alarm from the ER. At the conclusion of afternoon coffee, I did just that. Rang up the bridge and said we had a fire. I then reached over rang the general alarm and left it locked it in place. It didn’t take long for chaos to rule on the bridge as that bell was deafening. Someone ultimately got a wrench and unscrewed it. The Captain eventually called and told me I had enough fun and to turn it off.

Some years later I was involved in new construction. When you have unattended engine rooms, there are a lot more alarms on the bridge. Not long after the ship was delivered and running there was an incident where the 3rd mate was going to give a talk about flares during a drill. He was rehearsing his spiel in his stateroom when he inadvertently set one off. The resulting smoke set off the smoke/fire alarm. If not acknowledged within something like 5 or 10 minutes the general alarm goes off. That is what happened. The smoke/fire detection panel was located in the cargo office on the 01 level, not the bridge. Having not yet fully learned the ship, the Captain started hitting every button on the bridge console in hopes of silencing the general alarm. Several of those buttons punched were the engine room emergency shutdowns. Yes, the lights did go out…


Man, I worked a hitch on an Ulstein built construction boat once that still had their alarm control system instead of my company’s proprietary one… it is exactly like what you’re asking for. It was an amazing dream come true to work with.

E/R shutdowns ive seen on the bridge are always covered with plastic or glass that you literally have to break to hit them. Deck officers have such shit understanding of engineering in general we should not even have the ability to shutdown the M/E without the Chief.

Of the two instances I have had to use the emergency shut down in my career, I was happy it was available for me to use.


Next step; stop alarms with a wave of your arm:


Well I sailed with the X-bow but this is on another level.

Generalisations are generally not very useful.

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Well, it wasn’t quite that amazing, but it was still a huge improvement on what I was used to.

And now I understand why companies need more ETO’s. That looks like an utter nightmare if it goes down.

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What do you mean? Just keep waving your arms. Eventually something will happen. :wink:


The outdated GMDSS system that bounces alarms among all the boats in port when a distress is sent from the other side of the world. And every 5 min for the next several hours because I can’t put a paper clip over the cancel button on the SSB line I can the sat terminal.


A great many vessels have excellent Furuno radars that all have the same controls and operate the same way. Most officers are very familiar with these Furuno radars. Only similar Furuno radars should be purchased and installed. I don’t care if Brand-X radars are half the cost. I don’t care if Brand-Z radars are twice as good. I don’t want any mongrel radars that most officers do not already know how to use.

Programming an AIS sucks. They are all terrible. Most officers know how to program the most commonly found Furuno AIS units. Yet fools buy these oddball no name garbage units to save 10 cents that no one knows how to program.

As someone else mentioned. Alarms are a major hazard. They can be a serious distraction at the wrong time that can cause a grounding or collision. Most of them sound too similar and are too difficult to find.
Some alarms, like gyro input failure, make just about every piece of equipment on the bridge start alarming.

Alarms should prohibited unless they feed a dedicated alarm screen and voice announcement that identifies what the alarm is, and that allows it to be silenced.


I wish that all the GDMSS and similar gear were installed in a separate radio room with something like a baby monitor for the radio room in the pilothouse that can simply be turned down.

In a couple instances I’ve built foam boxes over the GMDSS to tone it down to a tolerable level. Particularly, so that I cannot hear it when I’m in the bunk.

Not all of us are dumb enough to hit the e-shutdowns all Willy-Nilly :wink:

This is a popular interface for engine controls on the bridge. With the arrangement of “soft keys” adjacent to the “hard” keys, do you think there has ever been an unintentional shut down?