Safe navigation as a collateral duty


Here’s an example of how standing a safe navigational watch has become viewed as a collateral duty. I post this under Navy (vice MSC) because it’s the USN who is pushing this on their civilian wing of operations.

There has been an accelerating push towards implimentation of ‘OPTASK VI’ on MSC ships. That is where visual information gets sent from a ship to the shore during a situation to provide the shore folks better awareness of what’s going on. This isn’t a bad idea by itself.

Say a fishing vessel makes a provocative approach on an MSC ship in international waters. The watch thinks the fishing vessel might be a pirate boat. As it stands in the past, the ship would send a situation report to shore describing what happened and what they saw. Again, not bad by itself.

In practice the OPS officer and/or OPS chief would write the message and the master would sign off on it before radio sends it off.

Under OPTASK VI however the ship will be tasked to do more than send a message. They would also be tasked with taking photos and video, creating a story board (yes, a story board…) and sending it all off within an hour.

To meet this requirement two people will be trained in “basic photography/video, operating the laptop using Adobe Premiere/Photoshop, compressing video files for transmission, and transmitting files.” In addition they will create the story boards that go along with it.

It has been decided from headquarters that the two people responsible for creating this visual montage are to be… deck watch officers!

They were designated due to them having the best likelihood of understanding what happens around the area of the ship.

Now, one of my beefs with this tasking is that it has nothing to do with safely navigating a ship. It’s a collateral duty that will DISTRACT from safe navigation. Instead of figuring out how to safely navigate the ship during a situation the officer will be distracted by the requirements of taking pictures, making story boards and transmitting it all ashore within an hour.

Even if the off-watch officer is called up to the bridge during his rest time to perform this duty it still distracts from safe navigation by taking rest time away.

This is just one example where USN and MSC leadership has taken away from the primary purpose of deck officers - to stand and support a safe navigation watch - and corrupted it with non-watch related tasking.

Leadership sees deck officers of MSC the same way they see officers in USN: as general officers whose primary purpose isn’t to safely navigate a ship. Ammunition admin, force protection, fuel management, UNREP planning, and so on are now what most deck officers do.

These other tasks have taken over deck officers so completely that on a typical ammo ship only three of the nine licensed officers - the three junior third mates - stand a watch. The other six deck officers spend little to no time with navigation and watch.

Now USN/MSC is intent on corrupting the deck officers primary duties further.

Solutions? Sure there are many. The duties could be farmed out to other departments. Why Supply department doesn’t manage ammunition inventory? Keeping inventory of a pallet of toilet paper is little different from a pallet of bombs. The paperwork is almost the same. This would reduce the need for a second mate (two, actually) to maintain ammunition paperwork. Reduce manning by two second mates and hire two supply personnel, one of whom has a background with ammo from USN, USMC or Army experience. (This is just an example of a partial solution.)

The goal for MSC and USN should be for deck officers to focus on and train for safe navigation, not be distracted by other stuff. But as MSC is a subsidiary of USN this shared attitude of safe navigation as a collateral duty will continue.


Are you effing shitting me?!?! Pulling deck officers to do that?


How about having several, instead of one, Ops Chief, let them do this intel work.


Doesn’t look to me to be for providing better awareness ashore. It’s a social media program. See

Hence the storyboards.


I understand it has several purposes. Providing shore folks with a better understanding of what is happening is a big one. The information will also be useful (in a Machiavellian way) to allow shore folks the first opportunity to report a situation so they may shape public perception before crew releases via email, Facebook or other social media.

First reporters often set the tone for the press and perception to follow. A positive depiction will make bad events, well, less bad.

Lt. Lockhart: We have a new directive from M.A.F. on this. In the future, in place of “search and destroy,” substitute the phrase “sweep and clear.” Got it?


may shape public perception before crew releases via email, Facebook or other social media.

They shut off all the internet / email etc when an incident happens so the crew can’t leak it. At least on Navy ships, dunno about USNS.