Navy OOD (Officer of the Deck) qualifications and experience


There is such thing as “information overload” and “instrument overreliance”, not to mention “paperwork overload” in the case of merchant ships.


The theory, in practice, doesn’t work very well. It sounds like non-professional watch-stander leading non-professional watch-standers, thus the accidents and mishaps. There is no substitute for a professional watch stander on the bridge and as stewards of a billion dollar investment by the taxpayer you would figure they could spend the extra couple grand and get one. The navy can’t get from point A to point B how in heck are they going to shoot down a ballistic missile?


Maybe they don’t hit many missiles but their record of hitting airliners is perfect.


Which Coast Gaurd Test is it they have to pass? I know the one my classmates, and I, had to pass took 4+ Years of studying, seatime, and assessments.


Coast Guard cuttermen have to take the Int’l and Inland Rules exam module. This has been in place since a collision between a cutter and a commercial vessel in the 80s. It requires some special arrangement to either allow the person to take a test at the REC, or for NMC to distribute the exam to another USCG office to give the exam. I’m not aware similar arrangements are in place for the Navy.


The Rules of the Road / COLREGs test that you have to get a 90%+ on, same as the USN bridge officers. I called it the Coast Guard test, but that was a bad way of putting it(was sans-caffeine at the time, apologies).

The theory, in practice, doesn’t work very well. It sounds like non-professional watch-stander leading non-professional watch-standers, thus the accidents and mishaps.

The watch standers under them are, for the most part, professional. The issue you run into is that the actual OOD is probably not a professional ship driver, as someone else pointed out above. They come onboard as ensigns, get their Conning Officer qual while also doing the engineering stuff + admin etc(though admin is the bane of all mariners everywhere, I believe), and then are expected to move up from Conn to JOOD or Junior Officer of the Deck, which is generally an officer who is working on their OOD but hasn’t proven themselves yet. Once the CO buys off on them being able to stand the watch, they get their OOD qual, and are now the lead officer on a bridge watchteam. They do that for a tour or two(generally speaking they’d be an OOD for ~4ish years, the back half of their first tour and most of their second tour). After that, they either get out of the Navy or move up to department head and start standing Combat watches instead of bridge watches.

There is such thing as “information overload” and “instrument overreliance”, not to mention “paperwork overload” in the case of merchant ships.

Very true, though the Navy tends to be rather pro-active on visual scanning, having extra lookouts on the bridge as well as a lookout aft at all times underway. I have seen situations where someone gets focused in on one sensor or the other, but hopefully someone else on the watch team keeps awareness elsewhere. Obviously, this has failed recently on at least two ships.


The system is a recipe for disaster, hence the Navy’s lackluster (being generous) reputation amongst the professional seagoing community and the seemingly continuous number of incidents. However you cut it the officers responsible are not qualified to safely manage the navaigation of a billion dollar asset which leads me to question its over all competence in other disciplines. That’s the bottom line. I’m very well acquainted with the quality of a USN bridge and believe me, I could remove the bridge crew of the Fitz and place 3 Chinese sailors there with better results. Let that sink in.


Oh absolutely, it’s the major downside of having all the SWOs being general officers instead of actually specialized in navigation / bridge watch, and the result of training being drastically cut down to save money. They’re not professional ship drivers by trade, it’s a side job to running their division on the ship. There ARE good ship drivers in there of course, but you’ll find a good batch of people like that anywhere.

Been lucky with my ships so far, have had pretty decent experiences and officers with one major, major exception(served under Captain Holly Graf, holy shit did she not know how to drive a ship).


Cant they just have PAO’s take over all those assinine shore billets and let ship drivers learn their trade. I mean, Senate liason officer? Geezus man…


At least they are getting a decently return on their investment. With all that money they saved they can buy a new toilet seat for the head on one of these ships they’re gonna fix.


So what about taking a look at the way things were during the days of sail? Have a CO and a separate “Sailing Master” that takes care of getting from A to B? It’d be a good pool for MSC to put CIVMARs on them to handle the “ship stuff” that apparently the current crop of COs and watchstanders can’t handle.


Most of the time the CO’s not on the bridge when these things happen(Antietam being an exception, as it was his decision making that caused the mishap).

Ships already have a designated Navigator, but they generally come from the general pool of officers, then receive more training. Interestingly, occasionally Coast Guard officers will fill the Navigator billet(now that I think about it, the CG Nav officer that my ship had once was probably one of the best ones I’ve seen in action yet).

Was thinking also that maybe making a QM warrant officer position might not be a bad idea, at least that way you get someone who’s career has been spent on the bridge up there to help train the new officers / make sure the bridge is running correctly.


Better than that, have the officers never stand OOD. As I outlined in the other thread, have 4 warrant officers like a merchant bridge. Three watch standers and the WO4 is the equivalent to a USMM Master. If the OOD is in doubt about navigation or COLREGS he calls the WO4, not the CO. Any voyage plan must be approved by the WO4 has well as the CO and the CO can’t make any changes without WO4 approval.


Any voyage plan must be approved by the WO4 has well as the CO and the CO can’t make any changes without WO4 approval

Would take a lot of coordination, tracks change all the time on a rather short notice. Not to mention when you’re in a screen around a carrier, or doing plane guard / UNREP etc. Though I’ll concede the CO is generally on the bridge anyway during those evolutions.

On the whole I tend to agree that maybe just have warrants be the bridge people, but I’m not sure the WO4 position would end up working. The CO’s tend to be pretty good ship drivers themselves(there are exceptions of course, Essex being the standout example when she hit the oiler), it’s just the junior officers that are up there without the CO looking over their shoulder that tend to end up with issues.


Changing heading or doing unreps isn’t changing a voyage plan. Besides, why would it take much coordination? Your destination changes from Jordan to Kuwait do you have the navigator draw a new voyage plan, the WO4 checks it over and approves it, then gives it to the CO.


True, but then the actual planning of a track isn’t really what’s getting us in trouble. The planning we’re doing pretty well with, it’s the execution we’re lacking in. I think it comes down to experience and workload / fatigue, which is why I agree with your only warrants on OOD idea.


I don’t think that is a fitting comment, unless by "Sailor " you mean the lowest deck rank on Chinese ships??

If you meant Chinese Masters and Mates, to compare them with USN watch standers would obviously be unfair. I’ll have you know that there are a lot of them sailing the oceans without more accidents than any other nationalities.

In fact Chinese are among the most numerous in terms of seafarers by nationality, not only on Chinese owned and operated vessels. They are serving on all kinds of ships, from the largest ULCCs to small but sophisticated Offshore vessels.

I have acted as Superintendent/Loadmaster and MSW on Chinese HLVs and never noticed any lack of knowledge or skills when it comes to their seamanship. (Language can be a struggle for them though)


You obviously need to reread his statement.


True. My main point was that the junior WOs should call the WO4 when they need help, not the CO. He would also likely be on the bridge in high traffic areas supervising, depending on who was on watch.


The junior WO and WO-4 posts above are interesting. Much has been addressed in earlier posts on various threads related to the Fitz and JSM incidents.

I believe we have already determined, in those other posts, that the pay and benefits for CWO-2, -3 and -4 are just not sufficient to compare with the pay that USMM mates are so used to. And one poster said he still expected to be on a 3-4 month on/3-4 month off rotation.

I will not question the possible merits of USMM deck officers on USN ships, but I will say that while the USN certainly needs to find some drastic cures for these systemic problems in the SWO community, paying USMM mates $80K-$100K (or more) a year for half-time work just isn’t likely to come up on the solutions list.