FITZGERALD Officer of the Deck Pleads Guilty At Court-Martial


Just to name a few. The lookout should inform the officer on watch when he observes any of the following:

  • Any kind of floating object
  • Navigation mark or lights
  • Any type of distress signal from other ships or ports
  • Land
  • Ice, irrespective of size or form
  • Any type of ship irrespective of its size
  • Sandbags or prominent navigational features
  • Problem with any of the ship’s navigation systems, including navigational lights
  • Any kind of hazards or derelicts that can be dangerous to the ship’s navigation

The main duties of a lookout are:

  • To give utmost attention through sight, hearing, and any other means in order to assess any change in the operating environment.

  • Continuously and carefully scanning the horizon by the step-by-step method, also scanning aft quarters.

  • Detecting and reporting on ships, shipwrecks, debris, shipwrecked person, and other navigational hazards

  • Reporting on possibilities of collision, stranding, and other dangers to navigation

The job of lookout is mostly carried out by Able Seaman (AB) or Ordinary seaman (OS) of the ship. However, lookout duties cannot be shared with other works.Today, the job of a lookout is of utmost importance on ships plying in piracy affected areas.

And you learn that people, also all of the 83 pages of the training manual for lookouts, who even never saw the sea in one or two minutes? I must say you are one very smart cookie as are your junior sailor pupils.


If there are 83 pages in a training manual for lookouts I’d chuck 'em out and just tell them and let them do it. Furthermore I’d sack the idiot who wrote those pages, probably just to bignote his mastery of the subject.

And my experience for that is several years in command of the RAN’s training establishment containing numerous schools from recruits to advanced in seamanship, engineering, supply, cookery, physical training, electrical and weapons engineering, communications, gunnery. If there was ever a document under my command containing 83 pages on such a basic and easy subject I’d have sacked the whole school. You can fit lookout duties on a page and I’d be worried about that.

Training effectiveness doesn’t improve by dumping truck loads of paperwork onto fully trained, seafaring instructors. My experience is that such paperwork is simply ignored. Cite the manual if you wish, but anybody who believes it improves results is on another planet.

As for your long list of things to look for, why not just say “if you see or hear anything, report it”. They’ll soon learn as the OOW refines their reporting to what he wants to know about.


Apparently one of my comments in this topic has upset someone and it has been hidden. I can view the hidden comment and I can see nothing in it whatsoever that could offend anyone. It was a long piece explaining my views on lookouts and my many years of experience in how to train them and get the best out of them.

Can whoever took offence or whoever moderated it contact me and tell me what’s wrong please?

The notice asks me to “see your messages” with a link, but there’s no messages. Perhaps that could be used.


From Stars & Stripes Article

"Coppock testified that she had been instructed by the commanding officer to maintain 20 knots, even as the ship traversed heavily trafficked waters and its main navigation radar stopped working fully about an hour before the collision.

Meanwhile, she said the “low confidence” she had in some of her fellow watch standers played into her decision not to be in closer communication with sailors in the Combat Information Center. Below deck, they are supposed to gather and communicate radar and other information to the bridge.

Coppock described an unspoken culture on the ship not to follow the standing orders to contact the commanding officer when the ship is within 6,000 yards of another ship “especially in that specific area.”

“We would have called him every five minutes,” she said.

She acknowledged losing situational awareness and not sounding the alarm to alert the crew ahead of the collision. Coppock said she was focused on something else and the rest of her crew froze."

In another thread, I commented about the F.E. Evans/Melbourne collision, and the “root cause” of that - That the OOD failed to follow both the CO’s standing and Night orders, which required the CO to be called when the formation course changed.

The OOD stated to investigators his interpretation of the orders was that since the change in station, from a sector screen to plane guard was planned, and since Flight Ops would require a formation course change (standard procedure), he was not obligated to notify the CO. This was a deliberate act, in violation of the CO’s orders.

So too is Coppock’s actions by not following the directives. Also, did she notify the CO the radar was inoperative and request to slow down? She got off lightly at the court-martial.

In my opinion, she’s guilty of criminal manslaughter, and should be dishonorably discharged. As to her allegation of the “unspoken culture”? More information should be forthcoming.


I think that some of the threads in this discussion are getting a little out of hand. The Navy that I trained in more than half a century ago had completely different social norms than those of today. Officers did not chat with ratings and commanding officers orders were written in stone. As junior officers we did long spells of watch keeping as juniors and carried out OOW manoeuvres every morning when in company at the standard manoeuvring interval of 500 yards. Away from other traffic one ship would be fully darkened and able to change course and speed and the other OOW would have to calculate the darkened ship’s course and speed and keep it in a box.
I think the major difference was that we were trained by people who had seen action in WW2.
As for the young lady court-martialled her actions will live with her for the rest of her life and I could not imagine a worst punishment.


I agree. Perhaps in today’s PC culture her easy treatment is much to do with her being a her.

Our navy stopped intakes of males for quite a while recently to bring in more females to meet political pressure.


Yes. I was there too, but for the chatty bit. We are Aussies after all and have developed a culture that Jack is as good as his master. Our soldiers and sailors have been noted as far more layback than our stuffy British heritage might suggest. We rejected aristocracy at the time of our earliest settlement and former convicts rose to positions of wealth and power and we’ve treasured that have-a-go mentality ever since. Australia was settled after harsh lessons learnt settling America and we grew up differently.

I recall one admiral, chief of navy, who smoked. As smoking indoors was banned by others he’d join the crowd of smokers loitering near the door to his building. He told me he’d get more reliable feedback from the crusty old chiefs and junior sailors gathered there than he did up the chain of command. He started keeping regular smoking times and would hold court with his sailors as he valued them and their counsel hugely … and they told better jokes.

P.S. At least one of our former chiefs of navy has risen from the lower deck, joining as a junior recruit.


My ancestors immigranted to New Zealand under sail more than 160 years ago and unlike you guys we paid our own way. We are not British and have our own way of doing things.


I didn’t realise you were a Kiwi, sorry. Most commenting here seem to be American. If I’m wrong please correct me. And we aren’t British either, but we acknowledge the benefits they bestowed on our fledgling nation.

I certainly appreciate that nations and navies develop differently from different roots.

My assessment of this disaster was a total lack of awareness from the OOW and totally foreign to all my experiences. I can’t believe such an officer could be let loose in charge of a watch in such predictably dense traffic. I simply cannot fathom the lack of communication between her and the numerous people there solely to support her.


For everyone on here complaining about how Jughead keep going on about how it is in AU, I have this to say. I agree 100% with this statement. We complain on here constantly about how our industry is suffering from increaasing paperwork burdens and meaningless safety documents that don’t actually increase workplace competence. Those of us here that are ‘actual’ professional mariners deal with watchstanding daily with far fewer lookouts. The Navy should be taking lessons on watchstanding and collision avoidance from us. Ultimately it’s up to the Officer of the Watch to have full situational awareness and be able to competently and confidently make judgments regarding safe navigation. In this case the OOW failed in her responsibilities towards those whose lives were entrusted to her and additionally the sytem(meaning the work-culture/top brass) failed in providing an adequately safe work environment to the lives entrusted to it.


I enjoyed hearing the Aussie and Kiwi perspectives.

The rest of y’all are some grouchy condescending jerks on this thread. Drink your coffee and lay below.


It is truly sad when the defense of a nation succumbs to social experimentation. . . . diversity is one thing, but diversity for the sake of diversity is failure.


Some more details in a USNI article this morning:

The first time I ever toured a Navy ship, as a kid, my Navy officer uncle showed me the CIC. When I asked him what “CIC” stood for, he replied, without missing a beat, “Christ, I’m Confused!” Sounds like that was certainly the case on the Fitzgerald!


Does it seem plausible to you that a modern Navy would send untrained recruits out to the ship and train them in basic duties by the officers having “chats” with them? No boot camp?


When I was in boot camp (1970) I think we did lookout, sound powered phone, semaphore, and knot tying all on the same day.

We also did firefighting and NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) and Damage Control all on the same day, even though it was already three years after the Forrestal fire. I understand that has changed drastically since.

They also showed us an M1 and an M1911, and we fired five shots each from a .22 bolt-action rifle (unscored) on an indoor range. Of course we were humping deactivated 1903 Springfield rifles everywhere we went just to give us something to hold in our hands.

The mantra in every case was “You’ll actually learn how on the boat.” It’s funny, they managed to keep us busy for twelve weeks but there wasn’t much substance to the training except for the being military and marching around and doing exercises and trying to stay awake standing guard on the barracks every night.


Yes, basic training, don’t recall the details. I recall taking a 40 foot boat and each of us had to steer, towing and being towed.

As far as shipboard, it was the BMOW, a E-3 leading seaman or E-4 BM that kept an eye on us in the wheel house. The only conversation with the officers was by protocol, similar on the merchant side to helm orders and response.


Must have been Coast Guard. We never got near a boat. :frowning:


Sometimes there is a simple solution it is called a training ship. We had one in my Navy full of NCO’s with years of experience and leather lungs who "chatted " to the trainees. The conversation was strictly one sided and the trainee came away well aware of their place in the world and their shortcomings.
The Union Steam Ship company in New Zealand sailed the 4 masted barque Pamir ( a sister ship to the Peking which many of you are familiar with ) between San Francisco and New Zealand from 1940 to 1948.
The Pamir was taken as a war prize and the company endeavoured to put as many cadets as they could to gain experience in a large sailing ship. The ship was handed back to Germany and was lost about 4 years later with a heavy loss of life.
I was also second mate of a tanker that was designated as a training vessel. The master was an extra master
With a second class steam ticket. The six engineer cadets and six deck cadets spent Sunday afternoon in a room on the same deck as the master where their correspondence work and knowledge were subjected to the masters critical scrutiny.
An extra master (ex.C) used to be the qualification to become a tutor in a Nautical College. It involved a years further study after gaining a Master foreign going certificate and now has been replaced by a university degree. Most extra masters also undertook the licensed compass adjuster course which was another 3 months at the end.
I also sailed with many of those who were trained by British shipping companies sailing on cadet ships carrying up to 60 cadets. Apart from the bosun all tasks were undertaken by cadets and the vessels were in normal trade.


That sounds to me like the way it ought to be done.

split this topic #43

4 posts were split to a new topic: Exams, Joining a New Ship